The local church feels uncomfortable because it’s counter cultural on so many fronts. In so many ways, it goes against the spirit of our age. But I think that is exactly why it’s important and beneficial for our wisdom. I’ll just give a couple of examples of how the local church is counter cultural and how it provides an alternative to things that are making us foolish in the world.
One way is that the local church is a community in an age of individualism. The individualistic orientation of our world says, Look within yourself, follow your heart, and you are the most trustworthy source of truth. That doesn’t lead to wisdom even though that’s the way of the world.
We need community in order to be wise. We need people who can be mirrors to us, who can point out our blind spots, who can sharpen us, and with whom we can grow. We need the accountability of community. It’s essential for our wisdom, and the church provides that. So, that’s one way that church is both counter cultural and difficult—because community is difficult, but it’s essential for our wisdom.
Another aspect of the church that’s beneficial for our wisdom is that it’s a God-oriented experience in a me-centered age. So, again, the orientation of today’s world is about me, me, me. Even the iPhone is all about tailoring things to me, my preferences, and opting out of things I don’t like. None of this is conducive to our wisdom.
With the God-centered orientation of church, the focus is not on me. I’m not the star of the show, God is. This contributes to our wisdom because, again, God is the source of wisdom. Putting the spotlight on him and being oriented around him is how we become wise. Church does that in its very form—in the rituals of worship, in gathering together, singing God’s praises, learning about God from his Word, and praying to God. All of those habits and rituals orient our hearts and minds around the source of wisdom: God.
Connection to History
Also, the continuity of the church across time—in an age of disconnection and focus on the present— is another way that we glean wisdom from the church. Part of what makes us unwise is the present-tense-focus of this world. We’re very disconnected from history, and we think that the problems we have now are totally unrelated to the problems before. We’re woefully ignorant of the past.
With the God-centered orientation of church, the focus is not on me. I’m not the star of the show, God is.
Sometimes Christians in churches today intentionally separate themselves from the past. That’s a really bad move because there’s so much wisdom in the continuity of Christianity. There’s remarkable consistency in church practices and beliefs across two thousand years of Christian history, so we need to avail ourselves of that. There’s a wealth of wisdom in church history—whether it’s the writings of theologians thousands of years ago or just Christians who are dealing with issues that we’re dealing with today like race or sexual identity.
Throughout the history of humanity, Christians have wrestled with the same things. In order to be wise, we need to look to the resources like our own Christian history.
These are just a few ways that the local church is a really helpful boon to our wisdom in an unwise age.