A recent study by the Barna Research Group that concluded the reason the church is losing the younger generation is that “we have failed to equip them to live ‘in but not of’ the world” has prompted me to dust off a poem I wrote years ago and look at it with new relevance.
The Ins and Outs Of It
“In it not of it” the statement was made
As Christian One faced the world much afraid
“In it not of it” the call was made clear
But Christian One got something stuck in his ear
“Not in it or of it” was the thing that he heard
And knowing the world was painfully absurd
He welcomed the safety of pious retreat
And went to the potluck for something to eat
Now Christian Two, he knew what to do
He’d show those “fundies” a thing or two
How will the world ever give Christ a try
If we don’t get in there and identify
So “in it and of it” he said in his car
As he pulled in and stopped at a popular bar
I’ll tell them the truth as soon as I’m able
To get myself out from under this table
Now along comes Christian Three jogging for Jesus
In witnessing sweats made of four matching pieces
His earphones are playing a hot Christian tune
About how the Lord is coming back soon
“Not in it but of it,” he turns down the hill
And stops in for a bite at the Agape Grille
Like the gold on the chain of his “God loves you” bracelet
He can have the world without having to face it
While way up in heaven they lament these conditions
That come from changing a few prepositions
“Not in it or of it” Christian One thought
But who in the world will know that he’s not
“In it and of it” thought Christian Two
But who in the world will know that he knew
“Not in it but of it” thought Christian Three
But who in the world watches Christian TV?
And Jesus turns to Gabriel shaking His head
“‘In it not of it,’ wasn’t that what I said?”
As this poem indicates, we never showed the younger generation how to be “in but not of” the world because we never did it very well ourselves. We either stayed away or didn’t bring our faith to bear on the culture because it meant grappling with conflicting concepts. We modeled a life of faith that works in a Christian context but rapidly fades everywhere else.
The reason “in it not of it” has been, and continues to be, twisted around so many different ways is because few possess a worldview that engages the world without succumbing to it — without taking on its values and attributes, or as Jesus said, without becoming “of” it.
Why is it so hard to get this right? Because getting it right involves conflict. Being “in but not of” the world results in confrontation. It assumes living in a state of tension. Our human tendency is to want to relieve that tension by adopting or aligning ourselves more with one than the other.
Even when Christians talk about worldview, which sounds like engaging culture, something else is what is really going on. Worldview in practical Christian terms is simply our view of the world versus anyone else’s view of the world. Hardly ever does it seek to understand another person’s view, in order to be in the world, working alongside others with different views, or even engaging them in discussion. Most “Christian Worldview” courses, even at prestigious Christian colleges and universities, boil down to mostly a battle plan for defeating the world. In it we learn why our view is right and theirs is wrong. That’s not going to help me engage people in the marketplace in a loving and understanding way. That’s not going to create dialogue. Learning what is wrong with the Muslim religion is not going to help me dialogue with Muslims. Learning where they are right would be far more useful. True Christian worldview should teach us how to live with the conflict of being “in but not of” the world rather than lessening the conflict through making us largely irrelevant.
This is all very encouraging for what we are doing here at the Catch because it is one of our goals to represent a worldview that will actually help us live in the world. It will help us manage the conflict. That’s what we mean by a marketplace Christian. Take some time this weekend to review our Declarations of a Marketplace Christian and help us add to it. These are the concepts we reinforce daily through the Catch. This is why we are attracting millennials, because we are seeking to equip everyone to live “in but not of” the world.