I made the observation in my book Return of the First Church that the early church was a counter-culture movement whereas the modern auditorium church is now merely a sub-culture of the world around it.
A sub-culture is a small self-insulated group within a larger society, and has it's own beliefs, terminology, world view, and often its own manner of dress. Back in high school days sub-cultures at your school may have included the athletes and cheerleaders in one culture, the gangs in another, the skaters, the nerds, and so on each in their respective cultures. Each sub-culture in that school was unique, yet existed in the larger society of high school, all moving in the same direction - towards graduation. Sub-cultures generally move in the same direction as society as a whole.
The sub-culture mentality is why churches have fallen into the error of thinking if they had the quality of the world in their facilities, if their 'worship' resembled the world's rock concert, if they had professional elements of a concert, they would attract new people to their auditorium church. They look like the world, sound like it, talk like it, in an effort to be relevant. They are moving in the same direction as the world. They are a sub-culture.
A counter-culture is a way of life with values that are opposed to the prevailing society. A counter-culture is moving in the opposite direction of local culture and the world.
Most of what Jesus said was counter-culture. Consider Matthew 5:43-48: "You have heard it said to love your neighbors but hate your enemies. But I say to you to love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who persecute you so that you may be like your Father in heaven."
That is counter-culture. He commands a way of life and values directly opposed to the prevailing society and culture around Him. That was powerful. Life-changing. Opposite of all that culture and society believed. Love your enemies. Pray for them. Do good to them. That is counter-culture.
That is where the power of the body of Christ lies, within its place as a counter-culture.
Blame God for this one; The Counter-culture
God is the one who started the early church at Pentecost, and He birthed it to be counter-culture because it (we) adhere to the teachings of Jesus. God had moved out of the temple and into human beings and that was exactly opposite of the whole religious culture of the day. The synagogue system was run by aristocratic elites who said God lived in the building, while the church was run by uneducated fishermen who said God lives in people.
The Jewish elites were centralized to the temple system, which directed all money, power, and attention to themselves. The church was decentralized as God moved out of the temple and into human beings, giving them the freedom to meet together with other living temples as they chose, to give to one another, to support one another and their leaders at will. All this and more was exactly opposite of the existing temple system which dictated what the people heard, how they gave, how they were to include the temple in their lives, and how to interact with one another - Having Christ in people as living temples was and remains a counter-culture.
The reason behind the reason persecution happens
If we can lay aside for a moment what we all understand as the spiritual reason for persecution - we all know the devil hates God and God's people so he stirs people to persecute us - to look at it from cultural perspective, we will see something.
What made the rulers of Babylon persecute Daniel?
What made the rulers of Babylon persecute the 3 Hebrew men to the point they put them in the furnace?
What made the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem persecute the early church?
What made the Roman Caesars persecute the Christians?
What made Nazi Germany persecute the Jews and Christians? (Not only did about 6 million Jews die in the camps, but another roughly 5 million Christians and political prisoners died there as well.)
What made the USSR persecute Jews and Christians?
Why are Christians being persecuted today in nations dominated by religions other than Christianity?
The answer is simple: They were different.
The deeper answer beyond that: Not only were they different, but they refused to be the same.
The still deeper answer beyond that: They insisted on their own identity rather than how the State identified them. (Using an emotional crutch, traitors, rebels, mentally ill, dangerous to society, etc)
In each example they were hated because they were counter-culture. A counter-culture refuses to conform to the expectations of society. A counter-culture moves in the opposite direction as the common culture of the day.
In nations considered culturally Christian, the Father and our Lord are making it so the body of Christ is a counter-culture once again. And we'll pick it up there next week. For those who have ears to hear, you'll recognize this is prophetic....until next week,
www.cwowi.org and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org