This book is fantastic! At first glance, the title of this book doesn’t make sense. But is doesn’t take but a few seconds more to have the “Aha moment” when you realize what the title is driving at. In short, this is a book about false or what we might call professing Christians. The author breaks down this group into different types, which I found very insightful. For example, he discusses the Hypocrite, the False Teacher, and the Cultural Christian. The Hypocrite knows he is not really a Christian, but he uses Christian like things to earn some cultural or social advantage, like politicians who suddenly start quoting the Bible at campaign rallies once they get into the Bible belt. Their goal is to pander, and basically make people think they are one thing when they are not. The Hypocrite knows they’re doing this.
He then deals with the False Teacher who, well, teaches false things. This person is also aware that they have contrary beliefs but they seem to get some pleasure is leading people astray for some reason.
Enter the Cultural Christian. This is the type he spends most of the book dealing with. What make this type different than the first two is that the Cultural Christian is blissfully unaware that they’re not even saved; not even a real Christian. Yet, for reasons that the author goes into great detail about, they genuinely believe they are! He describes several types of Cultural Christians, like God-and-Country types and the Bible-belt in which God is often simply a kind of mascot.
He then addresses the Country Club Christian which is consumeristic about church, fickle, and non-committal, and always has “one foot out the door”. This type sees church involvement as a one-way commitment. As long as the church is doing what they want they stay. They’re also selectively generous, giving to only certain missions needs but never actually evangelizing themselves. They also lack spiritual self-awareness. This means that they think they’re spiritual yet they do not grow and become more like Jesus at all. He also included a discussion of Generational Catholics, which I won’t take time to elaborate on here since they are often the more overt examples of Unsaved Christians.
He describes these groups in great detail, and you can tell he has known many people like them. In fact, the author himself was a Cultural Christian. This is all part of his own testimony, which does add a good bit of authority to his statements.
Cultural Christianity, the author says, is “the most underrated mission field in America” and calls it a largely “unreached people group”. This is all absolutely true, and he even has an entire portion of the book with insights into witnessing to such people, including what some, for some reason, find controversial, which is first “getting them lost” as well as teaching repentance from sin. I still find it unfathomable that some Christians actually have a problem with teaching those things! He then discusses five primary barriers in the mind of the Cultural Christian that work to keep them lost. I won’t give them to you here, but they all make perfect sense and to many are counter-intuitive.
I highlighted a lot in this book, not because there is a ton of new information, but the way the author explains things and organizes the subject is extremely insightful. He uses a term that I think perfectly encapsulates the subject material of the book- “Moralisitic Therapeutic Deism”. It’s perfect. It describes people who believe in outward morals and even live out many of them, and it makes them feel better because they believes in such morals. And they believe such morals, God is pleased with. Outside of that, there is nothing Christian about them. It’s a very descriptive term.
The author makes great use of scripture throughout the book. It’s not some empty philosophical diatribe. There is real Biblical authority in his premises and he demonstrates that well. He discusses marks of genuine conversion, and encourages real, intellectual honesty for people with loved ones who have made professions of faith when they just don’t seem like real Christians.
The author also offers a number of helpful statistics throughout the book, which offer great support of his premises, but are also helpful to have a record of for your own information.
Interestingly, he also brings in a discussion of Local Church membership. Now, I have said before that the older I get and the more I study, the more convinced I am that one of the greatest evidences of someone’s salvation is their relationship to the Local Church. And he seems to bring in the same idea, but in his own words.
It was hard to narrow down which quotes I liked most since there were so many, so I’ll leave you with just one.
A troubling reality… is that convincing someone that they are saved seems to take precedence over making sure someone actually is saved. This must change. Somehow questioning someones salvation has become taboo in evangelical culture when it could possibly be the most loving thing we can do for one another.
He does offer a balance to this saying, “We are not on a witch hunt,” and “None of us is the Holy Spirit.” I appreciate balance.
The boldness needed to reach Cultural Christians is one that doesn’t fear social consequences.
He describes this as a unique type of boldness, different from the boldness required to go to foreign fields where persecution exists. This resonated with me because reaching Cultural Christians has been a large part of my ministry and I’m certainly not a person who cares much about social consequences. This quote made me feel like the Lord has brought exactly to the kind of ministry that he equipped my for.
Honestly and lovingly telling friends who claim Christianity that they might be missing the true Gospel might offend a Cultural Christian, but if the relationship is already in place and trust had been built, it is worth the awkwardness to tell the truth. Unsaved Christians are as separated from God as Atheists, Agnostics, and those of other religions who reject the name of Jesus Christ.
The book clearly presents the Gospel throughout. I think that every single Pastor should read this book. I want to be very emphatic about that. If, as a pastor, you read this review and thought, “Sounds like Lordship Salvation stuff to me”, or “I don’t see the purpose of a book like that”, then you are likely part of the problem the book addresses. You may be part of reason that Cultural Christianity persists. Worse yet, you may be one.