In but not of the world


A recent study by the Barna Research Group that concluded the reason the church is losing the younger generation is that “we have failed to equip them to live ‘in but not of’ the world” has prompted me to dust off a poem I wrote years ago and look at it with new relevance.

The Ins and Outs Of It

“In it not of it” the statement was made

As Christian One faced the world much afraid

“In it not of it” the call was made clear

But Christian One got something stuck in his ear

“Not in it or of it” was the thing that he heard

And knowing the world was painfully absurd

He welcomed the safety of pious retreat

And went to the potluck for something to eat


Now Christian Two, he knew what to do

He’d show those “fundies” a thing or two

How will the world ever give Christ a try

If we don’t get in there and identify

So “in it and of it” he said in his car

As he pulled in and stopped at a popular bar

I’ll tell them the truth as soon as I’m able

To get myself out from under this table


Now along comes Christian Three jogging for Jesus

In witnessing sweats made of four matching pieces

His earphones are playing a hot Christian tune

About how the Lord is coming back soon

“Not in it but of it,” he turns down the hill

And stops in for a bite at the Agape Grille

Like the gold on the chain of his “God loves you” bracelet

He can have the world without having to face it


While way up in heaven they lament these conditions

That come from changing a few prepositions

“Not in it or of it” Christian One thought

But who in the world will know that he’s not

“In it and of it” thought Christian Two

But who in the world will know that he knew

“Not in it but of it” thought Christian Three

But who in the world watches Christian TV?


And Jesus turns to Gabriel shaking His head

“‘In it not of it,’ wasn’t that what I said?”


As this poem indicates, we never showed the younger generation how to be “in but not of” the world because we never did it very well ourselves. We either stayed away or didn’t bring our faith to bear on the culture because it meant grappling with conflicting concepts. We modeled a life of faith that works in a Christian context but rapidly fades everywhere else.

The reason “in it not of it” has been, and continues to be, twisted around so many different ways is because few possess a worldview that engages the world without succumbing to it — without taking on its values and attributes, or as Jesus said, without becoming “of” it.

Why is it so hard to get this right? Because getting it right involves conflict. Being “in but not of” the world results in confrontation. It assumes living in a state of tension. Our human tendency is to want to relieve that tension by adopting or aligning ourselves more with one than the other.

Even when Christians talk about worldview, which sounds like engaging culture, something else is what is really going on. Worldview in practical Christian terms is simply our view of the world versus anyone else’s view of the world. Hardly ever does it seek to understand another person’s view, in order to be in the world, working alongside others with different views, or even engaging them in discussion. Most “Christian Worldview” courses, even at prestigious Christian colleges and universities, boil down to mostly a battle plan for defeating the world. In it we learn why our view is right and theirs is wrong. That’s not going to help me engage people in the marketplace in a loving and understanding way. That’s not going to create dialogue. Learning what is wrong with the Muslim religion is not going to help me dialogue with Muslims. Learning where they are right would be far more useful. True Christian worldview should teach us how to live with the conflict of being “in but not of” the world rather than lessening the conflict through making us largely irrelevant.

This is all very encouraging for what we are doing here at the Catch because it is one of our goals to represent a worldview that will actually help us live in the world. It will help us manage the conflict. That’s what we mean by a marketplace Christian. Take some time this weekend to review our Declarations of a Marketplace Christian and help us add to it. These are the concepts we reinforce daily through the Catch. This is why we are attracting millennials, because we are seeking to equip everyone to live “in but not of” the world.

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5 Responses to In but not of the world

  1. Mark Seguin says:

    Loved this truth: “Learning what is wrong with the Muslim religion is not going to help me dialogue with Muslims.” As discussed by Dale C. in his great book “How to Win Friends…” tell anyone they’re wrong and now all they’ll do is defend their postilion, which doesn’t create good dialogue.

  2. Mark Seguin says:

    Good news about Miriam that she is safe – will continue to pray for her & her loved ones ❤

  3. Deborah says:

    John Fischer wow! Your music gave me hope and it was the catalyst to a journey to seek Jesus.
    I had the Naphtali piano music and played it until the pages fell out… sand “Lullabye” to my daughters and now to their children.
    People from every generation ache for something genuine and real.
    Jesus said “My sheep hear My voice…” and the Old Testament prophets told us that “He leads the blind in a way that they do not know in oaths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light.”
    This generation grew up with Harry Potter they do not need to be convinced of the spirit world!

  4. John Muys says:

    John you are right we need as Christians to live in the world and not conform to its pressures. There are many Christian values that will be seen as favourable to non believers, such as, unconditional love, forgiveness (70×7), if you can keep count, living out the ‘servant’ principal, being able to be trusted, having integrity, the list can go on. However we live in a world where same sex marriage, where human life from the womb to the grave is not protected, the importance of family life is devalued, there are many more Christian beliefs and values being destroyed in our Western Society. I thank God for men like Martin Luther King who had the courage to risk his all to challenge racial bigotry and hatred in the 60s. He, and men and women like him, have done much through I believe the power of God to bring change and racial healing to our world. I believe it is our responsibility to allow the Holy Spirit through us to bring healing and salvation to the community where we live to find the Lord and bring healing to our Land. That in my view is living IN the world and not OF it. Doing this may cost us our lives if not being ostracised from society. We are in a spiritual battle for the hearts and minds of mankind.

    John Muys

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