Too often the church takes on aspects of the surrounding culture and is damaged as a result. I believe this happens when we lose sight of the nature of Christianity. It my be a worn phrase, but still true that Christianity is a relationship and not a religion. This has been true of the worship of God since the beginning.
The Nation of Israel lost sight of this fact and fell into error. We read in 2 Kings 17:15:
“They despised his statutes and his covenant that he made with their fathers and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols and became false, and they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the Lord had commanded them that they should not do like them.” (ESV)
There is nothing wrong with taking aspects of the culture that can be redeemed by the gospel and using those to communicate eternal truth. There is nothing inherently “spiritual” in being 10 to 50 years behind the culture in musical taste. God does not like organs any more or less than guitars. Music in any style can be used as a medium to convey the good news of Jesus Christ.
Dress is another area that has often been a source of contention in the church. My normal Sunday dress consists of Converse All Stars, blue jeans, and some form of a button down shirt. In some churches, this would be considered irreverent. Yet, this is how much of the surrounding culture in my area dresses. We should not allow our dress to distract someone away from our message of hope.
Dress, music and many of the other battleground issues in the church do not constitute going after false idols. The problem of Israel was not that they emulated the surrounding nations in their cultural expressions of dress or music.
The problem was that they forgot the source of their blessing and national existence. They turned away from the God who brought them out of Egypt and made them a nation. They hedged their bet by also worshiping the gods of the Canaanites.
When we look to anything other than God for our existence and blessing then we are following in the steps of the Nation of Israel in following after false idols.
If we think that methods or programs will grow the church we are going after false idols. When we think that altering our message will grow the church, we are following after false idols. When we think that the beauty of our campus will grow the church, we are following after false idols.
Jesus told Peter that He would build the Church and this remains true today. In the end, if we want the church to be strong and to grow, it must be entirely focused on Jesus Christ and the message of salvation that can be found in his birth, ministry, death and resurrection. It is upon this rock, this confession, that the church will be built.
Too often the church seeks acceptance by becoming like the surrounding culture and ends up making inappropriate compromises. When we do this, we are trading what is of value for that which holds no value. It is like trading a bar of gold for a used Happy Meal toy.