News Articles

David Hankins advocates church as ‘counterculture’

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–The church should seek to transform culture by challenging it directly with a biblical worldview, rather than disconnect from or surrender to it, David Hankins said at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Preaching from 1 Peter 1, Hankins, vice president for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program, urged a Sept. 6 chapel audience to become “counterculture” by focusing on things of eternal value rather than becoming too settled in the temporal world.

“First of all, since you are strangers, don’t make this world your final home,” Hankins said. “[Peter] describes the situation of believers who have come to a settled conviction that they’ve been redeemed at a great price from this temporal world.

“And since this is our life and this is our hope, don’t plant your roots too deeply in this world. After all, we’re just passing through and our citizenship is in heaven. But while you are here, make a difference.”

Hankins identified three stances the modern-day church typically takes regarding culture:

— The church as “pro-culture” — that is, to be immersed in the culture so much that there is little difference between the two. Hankins noted that this is what the church did in the Holy Roman Empire.

— The church as anti-culture. Taking this approach, the church completely disconnects from culture, essentially forming its own subculture. Hankins said he witnessed this during his college days in the 1960s with the Jesus Movement.

— The church as countercultural. “This is what the New Testament means when it says to ‘be in the world but not of the world,'” he said. This is the tact the church should take, speaking prophetically to the world system, transforming and converting it to the kingdom of God, he said.

Hankins employed the illustration of a bus careening down the freeway. The anti-culture church would be in the back seat of the anti-culture bus and would allow it to leave the road — only to crash and burn down an embankment.

The pro-culture church would be seated in the middle of the bus, merely enjoying a pleasurable ride. It would meet with the same charred fate as the anti-culture vehicle.

The counterculture church, however, would be in the driver’s seat controlling the bus, he said.

“If we’re going to be the church as counterculture … we get in the driver’s seat and grab hold of that steering wheel and when the prevailing winds come against it, we pull on it,” he said. “We try to keep that bus of culture between the white lines, heading for the kingdom of God. That is our task.”

To take the reins of culture, Christians need a serious mentality, a separate morality and a servant modality, Hankins said.

Christians need to be thinking persons and need to avoid viewing ignorance on theological matters as a spiritual badge of honor, he said. Attacks on western Christianity in the form of Enlightenment skepticism, modernity and postmodernism have left the church in need of people who can “earnestly contend for the faith,” he said.

“If Christians do not take an active role in presenting their worldview, thought will be formed only by the elites within popular culture who are often employed to analyze issues such as euthanasia or abortion despite lacking any expertise in the given areas,” he said.

Hankins told of an experience he had while channel-surfing late one night. He came across a talk show on which euthanasia was to be discussed. The so-called “experts” speaking to the issue were a comedian and a Hollywood starlet.

“These folks were pontificating and dialoguing on the right to die,” he said. “And I thought, ‘Is this how we are going to teach the world, through the comics and starlets?’ Where is the voice of the church?

“We may not be able to do anything about the fact that we started out ignorant but we don’t have to stay ignorant. In fact, it’s our duty not to be ignorant.”

To truly make an impact on culture, Christians will have to differ morally from the popular society around them.

“If you are in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, you are to be holy in all you do,” he said. “The church has got to be holy and set apart, modeling a holy, eternal God, [and] not the way of the world.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: DAVID HANKINS.

    About the Author

  • Jeff Robinson

    Jeff Robinson is director of news and information at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

    Read All by Jeff Robinson ›