The church is also seen as being separate from the supernatural world and therefore lacking in spiritual vitality. During many of my teenage years I had a fascination with the spirit world, but didn’t see any spiritual life in the church or those who called themselves Christian.
There is also a perception that the church doesn’t encourage curiosity and questions and that Christianity doesn’t make sense and is not relevant to life. It’s like “come to Jesus and cut off your head!” Strange when you consider John 1:1 which says “In the beginning was the Word (Logos = logic), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” I know we can’t understand everything about God, but the Christian message is the most logical and simple message; even a child can understand it!
The solution to this perception is a revolution where we engage with the world in the same way that Jesus did – radical identification and radical difference. Jesus radically identified with people – and not just the “good” people. This was totally out of character for religious leaders of his day and the religious establishment was vicious to him as a result. This didn’t stop Jesus from mixing and mingling with the up-and-out and the down-and-out because, as he said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mark 2:17) He realized there was no impact without contact. The church is the salt of the earth, but to be truly effective, we need to get out of the shaker!
The flipside of this is radical difference. Jesus was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard, but he was neither. He was holy and blameless. He mixed with the people of the world but He didn’t compromise with the world. We would do well to follow His example.
Mark Metzger summarizes this succinctly: “Being salt and light demands two things: we practice purity in the midst of a fallen world and yet we live in proximity to this fallen world. If you don’t hold up both truths in tension, you invariably become useless and separated from the world God loves. For example, if you only practice purity apart from proximity to the culture, you inevitably become pietistic, separatist, and conceited. If you live in close proximity to the culture without also living in a holy manner, you become indistinguishable from fallen culture and useless in God’s Kingdom.” (Fine Tuning Tensions within Culture: The Art of being Salt and Light).
Jesus put it this way: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”