Worldliness was a serious concern of the authors of Scripture. Paul, in his letter to Titus, proclaims that grace "teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age." John, in his first letter, bluntly instructs, "do not love the world or anything in the world."
It is a serious concern of the church both past and present. Thomas a Kempis writes that "grace is precious, and may not be mingled with worldly concerns and pleasures." A popular radio preacher states, "worldliness is the sin of allowing one's appetites, ambitions, or conduct to be fashioned according to earthly values."
It is, dare I join such company, a concern of mine. I join with the Apostle Peter, as one "having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." I share the biblical concern that I, along with the church at large, would remain free from such worldly corruption.
Here, then, is the problem.
The moment we start talking about 'worldliness creeping into the church,' it seems we all want to talk about two things:
I won't deny that the church should be thinking, praying, and responding to these two issues, nor that they might very well be places where the attitudes of some christians are indeed being swayed by worldly opinions, but lets be honest, these two things ain't the problem. Not even close!
The place where worldliness is creeping into our church is the place where our culture has entered in without our knowledge, the places where we are so controlled by what our culture dictates that we just assume it is part and parcel with christianity. If we want to talk about worldliness creeping into the church we have got to talk about the unholy trinity of materialism, individualism, and consumerism.
We live in a culture saturated with the message that YOU are the most important thing on earth, and that you should celebrate this by exercising your right to have whatever you want. Indeed, in our culture, we have come to the place where the greatest sin would be to leave personal desire un-pursued! The mantra of Americana is to look deep within your heart, find your truest yearnings, and then do everything in your power to realize them. From billboards and junk mail, to banner ads and commercials, our culture screams, "Have it Your Way," and, "Make the Most of Now." We are told to buy it "Because You're Worth It," and that "Pleasure is the Path to Joy." It is, after all, one of the inalienable rights bestowed upon us by our founding documents as a nation, that of the 'pursuit of happiness.'
The sad reality is that a short search could produce church slogans that could fit right in with the slogans above! (I will refrain from posting some, because I don't want to offend anyone who might come across this.) Our christian culture is, in most places, built upon the same assumptions about the role of the individual, and individual desire, and individual fulfillment, as the culture around us. Our messages, explicit and implicit, our programming, our evangelistic strategies, our discipleship methods, and our definition of christian maturity, all are deeply tilted toward providing individualistic consumers of religious goods and services the fulfillment of their expectations in return for their giving and their attendance.
That, my friends, is the world creeping into the church.
18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
1 John 2:15-17