"What your congregation celebrates corporately is just as important as what your church affirms doctrinally. Celebrate the gospel, and cross-cultural ministry will bubble up in surprising ways. Celebrate your church’s preferential distinctions, and your congregation will become an insular group of like-minded individuals."In this article Wax gives us two fictitious examples of people having to leave their current churches when they move away to other cities, and how their churches' distinctives made it close to impossible for them to find new churches where they could feel "comfortable."
The question Wax asks in his article and which you need to ask yourself, especially if you are a pastor is: "What do [you] celebrate as a church?" Do you celebrate your distinctiveness in this world with all its churches, the fact that you are hip and cool and you know how to speak the language of the young people and what draws them to church? Or, maybe you are conservative in your church and you almost always sing from hymn books; and old, tried and tested is better than all this new stuff in modern churches? Maybe you have a really cool band in front and you see yourselves as an arty or trendy church. Or, perhaps you dress up to go to church because we have to look our best when we go to church.
Instead of celebrating your uniqueness as a church in its distinctive expression, do you celebrate the gospel that brings light to the world? Can you really answer this with honesty, or do you have all kinds of answers why your church is the way it is? As Wax asks again: "Do we ever lift up our church’s expression as 'what church should be' in a way that unites our congregation around a style rather than the gospel?"
Are your expressions of "freedom" more important to you than the gospel? How important is it to you to have the freedom of having your glass of wine in front of everyone, or to speak of having that beer, or having the "freedom" to smoke that stogie? Theologically I do not have a problem with any of these. However, in the culture that you live in, what does 1 Thes 5:22 mean to you? How does alcohol affect your society, for instance? Freedoms are only freedoms as long as those liberties do not negatively affect others.
In the end, what do you truly believe attracts people to the gospel? Is it the hip programs, or the music, or the way we are so cool at youth, or the open mindedness, or the mystic liturgy, the stain glass windows, or the ornateness of the art on the walls, or the beautiful old-style oak pulpit?
Is this your version of Romans 10:13-15?
"(13) For 'everyone who experiences our hipness will be saved.' (14) How then will they call on him if they have not seen our fun? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without our cool music that attracts them? (15) And how are they to be cool unless we give them hip ideas and cool stuff? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who attract the lost with cool music, hip clothes and general fun-ness!'"Is this how you see the gospel? Do you have to improve the gospel, to make it palatable to the world? In Rom 1:16, Paul informs us:
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes..."Do you believe that the gospel is the power of God for salvation, or do you have to improve on that power? Do you believe the Bible or not? To the opposite extent that you depend on your programs or distinctiveness to draw people to the gospel, you depend on the gospel to be the power of God for salvation.
Rather build a church around the gospel, than around cultural uniqueness which will change somewhere down the line!