Ask a Pastor Ep. 34 - Secular World

Welcome to Ask a Pastor, a podcast from Orchard Hill Church! Have you ever had a question about the Bible, Faith, or Christianity as a whole? Submit your question and one of our pastors will answer on the program. New episodes every Wednesday.

This episode our Senior Pastor, Dr. Kurt Bjorklund, talks with Director of Worship Arts, Dan Shields, about we, as Christians, should handle the influx of immoral issues being pushed in society by the media and politicians.

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Kurt Bjorklund: Hi, welcome to Ask A Pastor. This is some content that we deliver every Friday, Wednesday, depending on how you get it, at Orchard Hill. And so many of you have sent in questions, thank you for sending in all your questions.

Kurt Bjorklund: If you're newer to this content, you can find it on the Orchard Hill Church app, if you go to the app store of whatever platform you use, you can find that there and you can go back into all of the old episodes, they're all topically listed and you can find the content for what you want if you're not just a straight through listener. You can also do that on iTunes. If you listen on iTunes or any of the various places that this is delivered, if you like the content, subscribe to it, what it does is it helps other people find the content. If you're listening on Word FM on the radio on Fridays, welcome to you as well.

Kurt Bjorklund: We are going to jump into a topic. Today I'm joined by Dan Shields. Dan is our worship leader, he oversees the worship at all three of our campuses, The Strip District, Butler County, and Wexford. Primarily is on site at Wexford most weekends, but Dan, welcome.

Dan Shields: Thank you.

Kurt Bjorklund: And Dan's been part of our staff here since 1999, which puts him 20 years in, is that right?

Dan Shields: That's right. All the way back in the 20th century, yeah.

Kurt Bjorklund: That's amazing. So this first question is probably the only question we'll address here today, just depending on how things go, but this is a long question, so hang with us for a few moments. But I think it's important to hear the tenor and heart of the question, not just the specifics as well. Because we'll probably address that first and then come back to some specifics.

Kurt Bjorklund: So my question today is, how, as Christians, are we to handle the influx of moral issues being forced on society by TV, media, and liberal agendas? How are we to react when we hear about "drag queens" reading to their children in kindergarten, the push for 30+ gender designations, legal abortion including killing babies up to birth, putting an X on a birth certificate until a child decides which gender to identify with, homosexual behavior being acceptable, graphic sex ed being taught to children in children's schools, morning TV shows glorifying children who are transgender. Much more to list, but I think you get the point.

Kurt Bjorklund: An in-law of one of my family members is trying to turn her 12 year old son gay because she wants a gay son. Apparently it's cool these days. There seems to be quite a push to eliminate Christian values whenever possible to disparage Christians in any way. Christians are supposed to be non-judgmental, but the push for the above are considered to be normal is way too much. Most TV shows, movies include a gay or transgender character, which including children, which is portrayed as ordinary. We can avoid TV, movies, but the news shows are no better. Are we to stick our heads in the sand? Even in the workplace, the push to accept these issues is the norm.

Kurt Bjorklund: The older I get, the harder time I have dealing with this. Right is right, wrong is wrong, but not today. Everything's upside down. Politically correctness to me just means to accept what is morally corrupt. There is tolerance for anything except that which is moral or follows a traditional value. What is happening in our country, our world? Help, struggling with this, but I also realize it's biblical. Thank you.

Kurt Bjorklund: So, Dan, you're on.

Dan Shields: Nice short question there. That's a great question, though.

Kurt Bjorklund: How do you respond to all of that?

Dan Shields: Well, there's a couple of things. First of all, the question's a great question because it's a very important question. It captures some of the most important things that we as the church have to deal with. So what the question, I think in the overarching thing, is asking is this, in a society that's growing more and more pluralistic, more and more secularized, how does the church interact with that?

Dan Shields: So as a society moves further and further away from traditional Judeo-Christian values, how do we as, as the church, deal with that? Because if you think about it, if you think historically, this culture has really had sort of a homogeneous view of Judeo-Christian values throughout its early years. But we really are changing now as a culture. And you have to ask the question, so how do we, as the church, engage with the culture that's moving further and further away from those values?

Dan Shields: And I would even add the church seems, the culture seems to look at the church now, not with just apathy, but sometimes with antagonism. It seems like it's coming after the church. Before I jump into that, though, let me take a left turn, like a little bit of a rabbit trail on this thing. And I think this is important for us -

Kurt Bjorklund: You sure you want to use the term left turn instead of a right turn? Just want to be clear here.

Dan Shields: That's funny. So, here's something that I think we have to remember, I think that when I talk to people who say these sort of things, they basically are saying something that goes like this, things are getting really bad, so they'll list some things like what this person said in their question. Things are getting worse and worse all the time. And then they go from that observation into some sort of assumption, this country is falling apart at the seams, things are morally falling apart. And then sometimes they'll even take it in to like, especially Christians, will take it in to like a prediction, like this is the end. Our country is going downhill and it's going to be the end of this country. We're going to be under persecution. Jesus is coming back soon.

Kurt Bjorklund: That's what was embedded into that little idea, "I know it's biblical."

Dan Shields: Yeah, there's a little bit of that.

Kurt Bjorklund: When the person who wrote that, they said, I mean what they're saying is the Bible predicts that it's just going to get worse and worse and worse until Jesus comes back.

Dan Shields: So you hear that going from observation to assumption to like prophecy or prediction almost. Two things, one is Jesus is coming back. He was really clear about that. He's coming back. The second thing is, he is absolutely coming back sooner than he ever has been in the history of the church, right? We both would agree with that, everybody agrees with that.

Dan Shields: But because we see these certain things, does that mean that there's this predicative coming of Christ? I think we have to be cautious with that. And here's why I think this, if you just look at a little bit bigger picture historically, the church has been in much more dire situations than this. The church has seen much more degraded morality than we see in this country. In many ways, in this country, the church is in one of the best situations that it possibly could be. We can still speak openly, we have media, things like that.

Dan Shields: But if you just took a glimpse back through history, let's say the danger towards the church 'cause you feel that sort of ... people feel like there's an oppression towards the church and persecution is coming. Well, you know, you look back at Rome in the 400s, you've got the Gauls from the north attacking, you've got the Vandals from the south attacking. The church, it was going to eliminated. It was an extraordinary ... that's what brought us into the Dark Ages, it was a very dangerous time for the church.

Dan Shields: Or you look at the 1200s and the rise of Islam and you look at the Mongol hordes that were coming, they both wanted to eliminate the church.

Kurt Bjorklund: I would say read the book of Corinthians

Dan Shields: Oh, for morals? Right?

Kurt Bjorklund: And if you want to talk about a church that was a wash in a society without a moral compass, that was true of the book-

Dan Shields: If you would take your most hardened liberal today and put them in that society, they would blush. I mean it was much worse. Look at recent history, you look at the rise of Nazism, Fascism in Germany and Imperialism in Japan. Those both wanted to wipe or control the church.

Kurt Bjorklund: Let me push back on something there.

Dan Shields: Yeah, sure.

Kurt Bjorklund: You said put the most hardened liberal in that culture and they would blush?

Dan Shields: Yes.

Kurt Bjorklund: Let me just push back, because I don't like the distinction that liberals are against values and conservatives are for values.

Dan Shields: Absolutely, that's right.

Kurt Bjorklund: There are different things that are held up. Usually on the conservative side it's personal sexual ethics, it's family units, things of that nature. And on the left, there's a concern often for the poor or for justice issues. And I think we have to be careful when we paint liberal or conservative being pro-value or anti-value. They're different values, you can argue which one is more biblical.

Dan Shields: Yeah.

Kurt Bjorklund: I think there's some places in both sides where there's some challenges and some things that are to be sought after.

Dan Shields: Well, let me take a rabbit trail off of a rabbit trail already.

Kurt Bjorklund: Is this a right or a left turn?

Dan Shields: You decide. If you look at this country, for instance, and you say morals are getting much worse. First of all, I don't know that that's true. I was recently reading some T.S. Elliot stuff, he was a great poet of the last century, right around the 50s. And he was saying how horrible morals were and how we're losing all of our moral values and stuff like that. And this is in the 50s, the year that we look back as the Norman Rockwell era where everything was peachy keen.

Kurt Bjorklund: Right.

Dan Shields: But you know, if you look at this country 150 years ago, there was slavery. That's a very serious issue that this country and the church had to deal with. If you look at the turn of the last century, now I'm taking some issues on both sides of the political fence here, you can drive a half an hour away and you can go to the waterfront. You can see where the Pinkerton Uprising was, where there was a strike breaker, where these men came in, killed a lot of the strikers. Why were these people on strike? These people were on strike because they were working 12 hour days, 364 days a year in the steel mills. They only had the 4th of July off. Children as young as 12 years old were working in those steel mills 364 days a year and it was more dangerous to work in the steel mill than it was to join the army and go off to World War II. There was a higher casualty rate in the steel mill.

Dan Shields: Now, is that a moral/ethical issue? Absolutely. It's not sexual, but it's a moral/ethical issue that the church had to deal with and the society had to deal with. Or you look 50 years back, I couldn't drink from the same water fountain that somebody of a different color would drink from. You look today, and this is the reason why I'm saying some things are worse, some things are not, I don't work 12 hours a day, 364 days a year. Neither does my 15 year old son. And some of my absolutely most precious valued relationships are with people of a different color than me. My closest friends in the world are of different colors. That wouldn't have happened 50 years ago.

Dan Shields: So, some things are getting worse, some things are getting better. I think that's important that we make that moral distinction and say, things are bad in certain areas, but things are better in certain areas. And we have to take some of these things that this questioner asked, I think the best way to couch to them is, these are the moral dilemmas of this day. These are the moral challenges of this day that the church has to deal with.

Kurt Bjorklund: So, let's just take maybe one or two of these issues, 'cause there's a lot here and I don't think the question was intended to say, deal with everything. It was saying, help me understand how to interact when I feel like my culture is going farther and farther away from these biblical norms that I felt like used to be more standardized.

Kurt Bjorklund: Which, I think if I've heard you, you'd say one, the standards maybe weren't as standardized as you think are the norms. Which I would agree with, I think, again, if you look back over time, certainly the family unit in the 50s, 60s, may have appeared to be more intact, but if you watch Mad Men or something, you say, "Oh, there weren't a lot of morals in the 60s." Necessarily, now I don't know that that's a true depiction of anything, but if you watch that kind of a show as a depiction of it, certainly I don't remember the 60s, but you'd say, "That's not that different than how people live today," in terms of what's going on.

Kurt Bjorklund: But at the same time, that sense that things are getting worse and that my Christianity is more threatened. What would you say to somebody, and let's just take the issue of transgenderism. So somebody says, "Okay, transgenderism is making a rise and I don't like all the political correctness around it and I want to refer to a man who's biologically a man as a man and a woman who is biologically a woman as a woman rather than have to dance in political correctness. And I feel like somehow that's accommodating my culture if I do. I want to call Bruce Jenner Bruce, not Kaitlin, or whatever the name is today."

Kurt Bjorklund: How would you help somebody say, okay, as a person of faith, how do you navigate that? How do you walk in that?

Dan Shields: Well, let me deal with the bigger picture first and then I can tackle, if we have a little bit of time, some specifics.

Kurt Bjorklund: Is this a right or left? This is just bigger picture, all right. I'm with you.

Dan Shields: You'll have to decide. There was a guy named Francis Schaeffer back in the 70s, he was a teacher right up here at Grove City for a while. Brilliant man and he sort of had a perspective on the culture and where, again, this more pluralized and secular culture was leading and how the church would have to deal with it. He wrote a book that he called, How Then Shall We Live, I think was the title of it. It's a great book, really worthwhile read for any reader, almost prophetic in some ways.

Dan Shields: I don't remember all of the ends and outs of it, but one of the things that I do remember is he spoke about us as Christians being missionaries within our culture. And he was saying, you know, essentially we used to send missionaries into different cultures, in to Tanzania or Azerbaijan or something like that. And they would have to learn to be inculturated in those areas and then share the truth of the Gospel. And he's saying, but we, as a pluralistic society, we are those missionaries in our society right now.

Dan Shields: And I'd say there's three really big things that we need to really learn how to do as the church in this day and age. The first thing is to be able to speak with grace. And the second thing is to speak truth. And the third thing is to speak the language of the culture. So let me unfold these just shortly, if that's all right with you.

Dan Shields: So speaking grace, we are really to be people who are known for our love. That's what the Bible says. But I think, you know we know do these man on the street videos where we'll go out on the street and ask different questions and stuff. And sometimes we'll ask people, "What do you think about Christianity?" And Josh, who does our videos, does a great job with them. He gets an ear full a lot of times. But this is what you'd expect, right? What do you think of Christians? What big things come up first? They're hypocrites, they're judgmental, they're finger pointers, they're haters. But, you know, you look at the Bible and what the Bible says we should be, I mean, we should be some of the most winsome people on earth.

Kurt Bjorklund: But again, somebody would say, just taking the other side, they'd say, "Well, as soon as I say anything's wrong, I'm labeled that way. Even if I say it in the most loving way." So if I say it's wrong to do X, they'll say I'm a hater and that's just a discrediting thing.

Dan Shields: Well, you know, first of all, we have to earn the right to be heard. You can't just expect because you believe the Bible to be true, your argument cannot be, "The Bible said it, I believe it, and that settles it." Well that settles it for you and it should settle it for you, but for that person you're talking to, it might not.

Dan Shields: But listen to this, if you were a person who shows, this is just right out of the Bible, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, and that's what you were to the person you're in a relationship with all of the time, that person would see you in a light where maybe they would be open to some truths that you spoke. Or, you know, we're supposed to think on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, worthy of ... you know, if we spoke in those ways, we could make an impact on society that's a very positive impact because people's hearts would be opened up.

Dan Shields: And I would say this, maybe you want to deal with some of these really flash point topics, but maybe the best thing to do is to speak truth into a lot less flash point type of stuff. Talk about child raising and how important it is for a child to be respectful of their parents. Or talk about being honest in the workplace or something like that. And speak truth into things that are smaller.

Kurt Bjorklund: So grace.

Dan Shields: Grace is number one.

Kurt Bjorklund: Truth, you said ... so now truth-

Dan Shields: Okay, so truth.

Kurt Bjorklund: You just said, so speak truth to things that are less controversial is what I just heard you say.

Dan Shields: Well, as an inroad to speaking real truth.

Kurt Bjorklund: As an inroad.

Dan Shields: Because ultimately-

Kurt Bjorklund: So do you mean you don't speak to those controversial issues?

Dan Shields: Not at all.

Kurt Bjorklund: Or you just make sure that you're balanced in terms of speaking a lot of other truth that's more agreeable to our culture?

Dan Shields: I would definitely say that. Just like when you're talking to your child, you have to give them a lot of positives along with the negatives. It's a relationship. You have to build a relationship and a relationship is not just jamming somebody's viewpoint down, jamming your viewpoint down somebody's throat. But it's having a conversation. Listening. Being open. Letting them influence and impact you. But also, at all times, thinking how you can share truth.

Dan Shields: Now this is really important, I think, on truth. In order to speak truth, you do have to know truth. I think in the church there is some biblical illiteracy that makes it difficult for people to speak truth. They often know political arguments better than they know the truth of the Bible.

Dan Shields: So I think three things are really important on that. Number one, get to church and listen to a pastor who has all week long tried to sort together pieces of truth that impact your week from Monday to Saturday. Get there and hear how somebody speaks into a culture, because that's what your pastor's really doing. We do a great job of that here.

Dan Shields: I think reading some books is a really important thing. So, if you want to know about truth, you could read a book like, Know The Truth, by Bruce Millney, or you could read, The Reason For God, by Tim Keller, or Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis, or Basic Christianity, by John Stott, or a myriad of other books. That'll really ground you in ways that you know what the truth is.

Dan Shields: And I think the last thing, I don't know if this is an urban legend propagated by pastors for a good sermon illustration, but I've heard that if you're trying to discern counterfeit bills, the way that they train you on that is to learn what a real bill looks like. Well, that's an important thing to know what the truth is. I think the most important thing that we need to know is the Bible. For us to learn and read the Bible is an important thing and know what that truth is.

Kurt Bjorklund: That's great. So take the transgender issue and now be a missionary with grace, truth, and speaking in cultural terms. What does that mean to your theory and apply it to a flash point.

Dan Shields: Great, so let's say for instance, 'cause this one is a very difficult one and immediately, it's like throwing a match into gasoline. It's going to explode on you. So somebody, maybe they would say something like, "Well, I just don't understand why two people can't love each other and if somebody's born that way, why can't they love somebody else?"

Dan Shields: Well, a couple of things that I might start off with, just taking this as an example, one of the first things that I would say is, I don't think there's any reason why two people can't love each other. Pull the rug out from the argument a little bit. This isn't about people loving each other. People can, you know, I love lots of my male friends. There's no problem with that.

Dan Shields: And then you can also follow up with an empathy and say, you know, "That has got to be an incredibly difficult thing to deal with, when you have gender dysphoria, man, I can't imagine how hard that would be. And I really feel bad for people who have that. But you know, on the other side, they might be born with something like that," which I think there's some debate whether somebody's really born with that or not. But even if that's the case, I do know what that's like in my life in all kinds of other areas. I am born with all kinds of propensities. I am born with all kinds of desires that I in some ways would like to fill, but I know are wrong to do. I might want to steal something or might want to cheat on my wife, but I know those things are wrong, even though I'm sort of born that way.

Dan Shields: So, like for instance, my family has a history of alcoholism. I'm probably born with some of those same genes. Would it be right and okay for me to say, "Well, I'm just born this way, so it's okay if I drink too much alcohol and I come home and I beat my kids because I'm a naturally angry person." Nobody would think that. Of course that's wrong. You've got to be able to fight those things. Or you take something that's more volatile and you say, let's look at the issue with the Catholic priests. They've been abusing children. Now don't you think some of those people feel a natural draw, that they were born that way. They'd say, "This is the way I am." But just because you're born a certain way doesn't mean that you have to act out on it. That's part of being humans. That's our morality.

Kurt Bjorklund: So then when somebody says, "Well, why should you tell people what they should act out on or not?"

Dan Shields: Well, my response initially would at least be, just because you have certain feelings, it doesn't mean that you have to naturally act on those things. There's the act of volition between it where you make decisions. And you have to decide if things are morally right or wrong. So where do you get your morals from? How do you start to decide what is right? What is wrong? Where do morals come from? Just because you have desire doesn't mean that those things are necessarily right.

Dan Shields: I think if we can speak to a culture in a way that shows compassion, love, kindness, but also speaks truth, and then you could even follow that up and say, for me, I just trust the Bible to be true. And it does speak to issues with gender and issues with sexuality. It speaks into my life things that I might not like all that much, but I try to live my life in a way that lives in accordance with the Bible. I don't do it well all the time, but I really try to live that out.

Kurt Bjorklund: Let's just hit one more thing that's kind of in here. I appreciate those comments, Dan, thank you. The insinuation that the questioner makes, that political correctness is a negative. Political correctness, is that part of speaking to culture? Or is that an accommodation to culture? How do you see that?

Dan Shields: Well, you know, language is important, first of all. So there is some hurtful, hateful language. I think it's wise to look at your language. We, as Christians, are supposed to watch our language. You know, you just did a whole series on the book of James. It talks about controlling the tongue, that's no small issue.

Dan Shields: Language is important, but you can also misuse language in a different way. If you would, for instance, I didn't know you were going to ask this question, so again, left turn, but if you read something like 1984 by George Orwell, one of the things that the state controlled media did is they started to change language. So they actually insidiously got in and started changing the meaning of words. Well, we've had that in our culture. It's not necessarily a positive thing. So there is positives in being cautious with language, but when you start to change the meaning of language, you have to be very cautious and there are agendas out there that are insidious agendas that will try to do that in a negative way.

Kurt Bjorklund: Well sometimes people of faith or of a certain political persuasion will think that any use of political correct language is an accommodation and almost see it as a badge of honor to use words that are incendiary. And certainly you don't want to let people co-opt the meaning of words necessarily, but I think whenever you can speak in a way that somebody is ... that allows them to not lose the ability to hear you at your first speaking because you've used politically correct language, it's probably a good thing. It becomes a negative thing when it seeds an entire argument.

Dan Shields: Absolutely.

Kurt Bjorklund: And so to me, I would say using politically correct language is part of being able to speak to culture, as long as the way that you use it doesn't necessarily seed an entire argument.

Dan Shields: That's right. As much as you can connect with somebody from a different viewpoint on things that are true, that only helps you because you want to be able to listen to them and say, "I never thought about that. That's really interesting. That's a really good point." And you want to be able to take some of their vantage points and grow from them. But you also want to be able to speak that truth into them. And if you do it in a really caustic way, we have to be able to disagree without being disagreeable.

Kurt Bjorklund: That's right.

Dan Shields: So, if we can connect with people, that really does make an impact and a change. Again, just like a missionary in a foreign culture, speaking the language. If I go to Brazil, I need to be able to speak Portuguese.

Kurt Bjorklund: Right. Well, good. Dan, thank you for being here today. Thank you for that question, and again, we hear the heart of it of saying I feel like I'm losing my country and my faith is being attacked. And I think the encouragement here today is to say see yourself as a missionary to that culture and to that world.

Kurt Bjorklund: So, thank you. Have a great day.