ARLINGTON?We are living in an age of opinion in which Christians must boldly proclaim truth, Ergun Caner told the attendees at the emPOWER Conference, sponsored by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, Feb. 10.
Caner is an associate professor of theology and history at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. He told the audience Christians are called upon, now more than ever, to provoke our culture.
Caner should know a little about provoking a culture. He was born into a Muslim family. His father was a mwazien, similar to a preacher in the Christian faith. When Caner was 16, he attended a Christian revival meeting, was saved, then ridiculed and beaten by his classmates and rejected by his father.
He endured, however, and has written books and speaks about Islam extensively throughout the United States.
Caner said our culture is chock full of protests. Every day hours of talk show guests spouting opinions permeate broadcast airwaves.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we don’t live in the age of technology; we live in the age of opinion, the flea market of ideas,” Caner said.
Caner reminded the group of more fiery days of pulpiteering when Christian pastors would demonstratively preach about the truths of Scripture.
“We [the church] now lecture and the shouting is taking place in the streets. Those that have opinions are taking it outside the church walls. It’s almost as if we have more prophets outside the church walls than inside.”
“Where, in the midst of the flea market of ideas, is the church? We have been tried and found wanting. We have been silenced,” Caner said.
There seems to be an all out attack on the church from the culture today, Caner said. The church is the only group that is socially acceptable to mock while speaking of homosexuality negatively is stigmatized.
“The church has been shoved into the closet from which the gays sprang.”
During his sermon, Caner spoke from 1 Corinthians 2, where Paul proclaimed, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Paul wanted the Corinthians to know there was nothing special about him, but something very special about his savior, Caner said.
First, for the church to confront the culture, it has to do so with an anchored faith. “It’s not about us, it’s about Jesus,” Caner said.
There was a time when the church viewed most things about the culture as wrong?sin. He said the church has allowed culture to turn the argument around. The culture begins pointing an accusatory finger at what it deems as hypocrisy in the church. However, Caner points out that the culture is also guilty of hypocrisy. Caner said we have to tell them, “I’m not perfect but I am redeemed.”
Also, the church tries to alter its approach to appease the accusing crowd, Caner lamented. “It’s not about your method. It’s about Jesus. It’s not about developing methods to get people to come to your church. More people are busy building crowds than they are building churches.”
“Methods without a message are meaningless,” Caner said.
“I started this week by being called a narrow-minded bigot,” Caner said, speaking of an interview where he spoke negatively about Islam. An interviewer asked Caner if he truly believed Muslims were bound for hell.
“I said, ‘Look you don’t have an argument with me. The book says there is no other name above Jesus by which a man can be saved,'” Caner said, quoting from Acts 4.
Second, Caner said the church must have an authentic faith. Paul told the Corinthians, “I came to you with weakness, with trembling, with fear.”
Caner said the church today needs to be “transparent” when witnessing. We have to show them we are humans, but that we serve a Christ that was both God and man.
Third, if the church is going to reach the culture, Caner said, “We’re going to have to do it with an audacious faith.”
“He has not called us to spiritual lethargy. He can do the amazing through us if we will just let him,” Caner said.