This is right, and very similar to the argument James Davison Hunter makes in his book, To Change the World. The whole idea of “engaging the culture” in order to “transform the culture” will never work, because in order to change the culture, Christians would have to be accepted by the culture. And in order for that to happen, we have to be “cool.” And in order for that to happen, we have to compromise, which is exactly what has happened. As Andy Crouch rightly observed: “The rise of interest in cultural transformation has been accompanied by a rise in cultural transformation of a different sort—the transformation of the church into the culture’s image.”
Dean Abbott describes what happened when Evangelicals made it their goal to “engage the culture”:
What this plan never took into account is the dynamics of social status. Evangelicals sought to engage the culture by being relevant, by creating works of art , by offering good arguments for their positions. None of these addressed the real problem: that Christian belief simply isn’t cool, and that very few people want to lower their social status by identifying publicly with it.
Many evangelicals sensed something was going on. They responded as though the problem were a matter of style rather than content. They created churches calculated to prove evangelicals could be as hip as anyone else. The result was churches that had rocking worship bands, superb lighting, a million cool programs and no cultural impact.
The only lasting success to come from this trend was to make the hip pastor in a goatee and skinny jeans a universal object of derision. When the elites see him, they aren’t impressed. Rather than seeing someone so cool they want to emulate him, they see desperation. They see a low-status guy craving their approval, and they are rightly repulsed.
The fact is that the church’s mission is simple: Make disciples.