A new book recently released by Kregel Publications seeks to dispel evangelical fear of contemporary secular culture in America by outlining a biblical strategy for crossing barriers between the two groups and offering the healing hope of the gospel to the lost.
Matthew Raley, senior pastor of the Orland Evangelical Free Church in northern California, is the author of “The Diversity Culture: Creating Conversations of Faith with Buddhist Baristas, Agnostic Students, Aging Hippies, Political Activists, and Everyone in Between.”
In his book, Raley implores believers to follow the biblical example of Christ by stepping out of their “evangelical bubble,” ignoring stereotypes, and creating relationships with individuals who ascribe to the “diversity culture”?the dominant secular worldview in America characterized by “openness toward all beliefs and spiritual traditions.” This rapidly growing American ethic is described as eastern, urban, new age, and liberated.
“Evangelicals have spent decades in a cultural bubble, trying both to communicate with the outside and to make the inside safer,” Raley writes. “For decades they have seen the outside culture is headed for disaster. But the worse the outside culture has become, the more evangelicals have patched their bubble. Rather than interact meaningfully with people, rather than listen in depth to their painful experiences, evangelicals have continued to transmit ever more irrelevant messages from within their hermetically sealed environment.”
Written for ministers and laypeople alike, Raley purposed to write his book as much for healing a hurting world with the gospel as to mobilize the church to action.
“I constantly analyze how to minister to people across the boundaries of politics and status,” the author writes in his introduction to the book. “I have to. If I do not find ways to cross the boundaries, I worry that in twenty years my church won’t exist.”
To help evangelicals understand the rapidly growing secular culture, Raley outlines four barriers between evangelicals and the diversity culture taken directly from the New York Times “Most E-mailed” list of articles from 2006-2008. These barriers include:
?Stories and stereotypes repeated in the media;
?Mixed signals projected by evangelicals and the diversity culture;
?Attitudes of ‘street postmodernism’ employed by the diversity culture;
?Inability of evangelicals to engage the secular world effectively.
Raley also uses the Samaritan-Jewish impasse recorded in the Gospel of John as a paradigm for understanding similar tension between evangelicals and the diversity culture. Each chapter includes a commentary on John 4 and practical guidelines for imitating Christ’s communication methods as a way to heal broken relationships and share the good news.
But the book also offers a theology for healing hostilities with the gospel and four practical guidelines for demonstrating Christ to a skeptical, secular world.
“As long as [the diversity culture thinks] of Christian spirituality in terms of the group they know as evangelicals, they will not follow Christ,” Raley writes. “But if you show them the power of the risen Jesus in your testimony, the freedom you have found through the Scriptures, and the love you have stirred in members of Christ’s family?I think unbelievers will see the gospel for the first time.”
For more information about the book or to read Raley’s blog, visit tritoneline.com.