Those people are just a bunch of hypocrites. Those people are so hateful. That church is judgemental. People go for show and to be seen more than they go for any other reason. That preacher only cares about my money. I have enough time-consuming activities without going to church. Etc.
I use to think that the people outside of a church fellowship were in error and something had tainted their perspective...but wasn't really anything that should have offended them or caused their rather harsh feelings. I then started thinking more along the lines of these same people having great points but were myopic to think every church or every christian was like the ones they hated. I now think that people do what they do...good or bad...for a reason and it doesn't matter if someones perspective is very accurate...it is still their perspective and it is still based on their experience.
I say all of that, which is likely very elementary to most of us in "The Bible Belt", to ask the question...with "church" having such a huge influence on our local culture, are we not responsible for cleaning up the cultural messes we have made?
2 quick examples of ways in which we may work toward the redemption of our culture through the redemption of our churches...and ourselves.
I recently heard of a church who fired an employee because she had alcohol at her wedding reception. This immediately stinks to me. First, Jesus not only had wine at a wedding "reception" but he made wine for those at the wedding reception...why would an employee of a church claiming to follow in the steps of Jesus fire someone for a seemingly "Christ-like" event? The excuse given was...well, it could cause someone to stumble. What the hell? (I always mean that literally) Stumble over what?
The truth is that they wouldn't be stumbling over scripture or faith. They would be stumbling over the incredibly poor theology espoused on this culture by "christians" who are and were way more concerned with control, fear and false-piety than with the Word and Spirit of God. So it is insane for someone to essentially say...."we have been so full of unbiblical BS for so long that we have to keep up the act or else people will see us not following our own self-prescribed and self-invented rules...so don't drink, so you don't cause someone to stumble over the pile of crap we have placed in their path"....Lord redeem us so we can clean up the pile of crap we have made.
The second example that readily pops in my head is sexuality. In the same ways we have with alcohol, I submit to you that we have walked around like wounded puppies regarding sexuality rather than children of God...with spirits of power, love and a sound mind. That is to say...and again alcohol is no different, we have stood by while a creation of God has been redefined and hijacked by the world and have done nothing...that is nothing other than adopt the worldly definition of God's creation rather than God's definition of his creation. As we think about sex, how can we best realign our ideas, perceptions, theologies and behavior to best encompass the intent of God?
I think as we attempt to reconcile with God, the Light of God will shine through us and into a dark world. The world will recognize the light and will be attracted to it like a moth to flame. Keep in mind that they won't be attracted to piety, presumed righteousness or moral conduct. The world will be attracted to the same things we are...they are humans like us...they will love God's love and cherish God's mercy and crave God's grace and celebrate God's new creation in us. May we embrace the same.