Silo Christianity is when believers draw lines that separate themselves from those in the culture who need the gospel. Their primary methods of talking to those on the other side of the fence are criticism and condemnation.
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Unlike Jesus, they do not enter the darkness of their culture, carrying the transformative light of the gospel. Their method is “disconnected evangelism” at best, a method that looks more like the culture than Christ.
The culture refuses to enter our world to engage and understand us, choosing instead to critique us out of their ignorance. Rather than rising above the culture’s methods with the transcendent gospel, we imitate them by retaliating with a similar kind of critical spirit.
Some of these silo Christians believe if they enter the culture, they will become like them. They equate being with sinners the same as becoming like them. This belief comes from a misguided understanding of the origin of sin.
Silo Christians believe sin is in the things of the world rather than in the heart. The idea is if you separate from “worldly” items, you will separate from sin. This worldview is contrary to what James taught. He placed the genesis of evil in the heart, not in the things of the world.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully grown, brings forth death. – James 1:14-15
If the culture lures you, it is because your heart is drawing you rather than the world drawing you. Gospel-motivated Christians are not afraid to enter and engage the world because they know the problem with sin is not in the world but inside our hearts.
The reason a person separates from certain things in the world is that his heart likes those things. His heart is not captivated by the gospel as it pertains to that thing.
For example, if a person desires alcohol because of the feelings he receives from alcohol, he should separate himself from people and situations that tempt his sinful heart with alcohol. This reality is why a man should not look at provocative images of women. The typical man’s heart will seek those images.
A person separates from people, things, and situations because the gospel does not yet govern his heart in a specific area. Jesus entered His culture because the gospel captivated Him, not His culture. Your job is to become more like Christ so you can have a more significant impact on your sphere of influence as you enter and engage.
Some things do not tempt you, which frees you to do more than living in a silo. Each Christian should have a friend or two that he can talk with about these things. Here are five questions to guide you in those discussions.
- Do you enter your culture to engage or are you primarily a silo Christian who critiques and condemns?
- What areas do you still struggle, thus, being around certain things and people tempt your heart to sin?
- Do you see your temptation primarily as a heart problem rather than a problem inside your culture?
- What are you doing to appropriate God’s grace to this heart temptation so God can release you into your culture?
- Who are your friends that you can talk to about these things?
There are ways you can enter your culture that is safe. Gospel Christians are always looking for those entry points. With a governed heart and close network of friends, the problem of entering and engaging the culture is not a problem but an opportunity to cross the barriers that separate us from those who need our Jesus.
Sharing Christ with our culture is a privilege. Being with them is the best way to do it. Sharing Christ from a fortified, detached silo is a bad idea. Jesus came to us, entered our world, and understood us. He was just as sympathetic as He was direct.
There was a time in my life where I did not engage my culture that way. I dropped Bible tracts from my lofty silo, hoping they would miraculously land in the hand of the pagans. My primary evangelistic method sounded like, “I will spend time with you after you become like me.”
A better kind of cultural engagement was vividly played out on Thanksgiving day a few years ago when I was camping out overnight with two intoxicated ladies before black Friday. The first few hours of our night on the cold sidewalk was just us. I was a pastor at the time.
One of the things I disliked most about being a pastor was answering the “what do you do for a living” question. Each time I told a questioner I was a pastor, the conversation took a hypocritical turn.
At that point, the person awkwardly changed to their “religious understanding” of what a Christian should be. It was awkward and not what I wanted. I wanted them to be who they were not who they thought I thought they should be. Whenever a person changes who they are into something they are not, you can’t communicate to them the way you need to because they are not real.
This tension was the problem on the sidewalk that night. I knew the inevitable question would come: “What do you do for a living?” After an hour or two, it came. I knew if I told them I was a pastor, it would probably activate their “fear of pastor disorder” (FOPD).
Before popping the question, my lady friends were “liquor’ed up” and quite articulate in the English language, especially with cursing. Here’s how that part of our dialogue went that night. One of them asked the “what do you do” question.
- I avoided.
- They insisted.
- I said, “I’m a heart surgeon.”
- She said, “You must not be a good one if you’re sitting out here looking for a deal.”
- (I was so impressed with her winsome and snappy response, especially since it was alcoholic induced.)
- She continued to press me for a more precise answer.
- I obliged. I said I was a pastor.
- She said, “Damn, I’ve been cussing all afternoon!”
Everything changed at that moment. It was no longer authentic me communicating with authentic her. She morphed into another person, the representative she put forth, hoping it would be more acceptable to me.
Honestly, I liked the real person. I was not interested in her hypocritical representative. That was not the person who needed Jesus, which is why I appealed to her to not stop cursing. If she was going to transform into another kind of person, I wanted Jesus to do it, not because of her perceived peer-pressure from me.
- She obliged.
- Both of them did, as they started cursing again.
- It was a good night.
We got back on track, and I told them about Jesus. They were weepy. I got their email addresses and sent them some information about our church, along with a kind note, thanking them for our delightful conversation.
I wish I could tell you that God saved them. I do not know about that. What I do know is I entered their world, engaged them according to who they were, and dropped some excellent seed that was well watered on the sidewalk that night.
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. – 1 Corinthians 3:6
Call to Action
You’re going to have the opportunity to engage people that you don’t regularly engage. Some of those people will be your relatives. Will you cross the line to meet them where they are rather than where you wished they were?
- Will you take the time to enter their world to understand why they are the way they are?
- Before you tell them the story of Jesus, will you learn their story so you can connect His story to theirs practically rather than artificially from your silo?
It’s easier to drop some Christian knowledge on people in a detached way. You can even soothe your conscience that you did the Lord’s work. It’s a better, God-honoring thing when you enter the prison of their darkness, learn them, love them, and customize God’s Word to the person you’re with whom you’re speaking. God is a personal God who enters the lives of the lost.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. – Philippians 2:5-7
Also published on Medium.