An irrelevant quest for relevancy
I’ve been thinking about this for a while… it’s called relevancy. My blog affords me an interesting place to view the rest of the world. The Tag Surfer is an incredible tool. The thing that worries me is that half the posts with the “Christianity” tag are atheists either making fun of Christians or saying that all Christians are idiots. I fear we have been swallowing a sugar-coated gospel. In Psalm 45, Jesus is described in view of an Earthly King by the words “Grace is poured upon your lips.” And yet, in Luke 5, the truth from his mouth is so blunt, that it incited rage in the hearers to the point that they wanted to throw him from a cliff. Not only is grace poured upon his lips, but a sword proceeds from his mouth(Revelation 19). I think the lesson here is that we don’t need to be abrasive with our language, but don’t water down the truth either. Don’t offend by using strong words, let the truth of your words offend on their own behalf.
The key to this, however, is that we need to be speaking truth. I feel that in its quest for relevancy, the church has made itself so far irrelevant from the world that the church is losing its power. The truth is that we need to be striving to live the Sermon on the Mount in our walks, but that idea is so foreign to the American Church that not even half of the beatitudes make it into the vocabulary of the parishoners.
Imagine a boat… we will call this boat “doctrine”. There are three groups of people that interact with this boat. The first group goes so hard after the boat that they fall overboard. The second group is so focused on who fell overboard, that they refuse to step off the dock. Then there is the last, and by far smallest, group… the group of people that get on the boat and get where they want to go. You have the so called “grumpy holiness” people… the ones who think you need to do everything perfect or God will smite thee, thou heathen. These are the people who fall overboard. Then you have the vast majority of the church who see the Sermon on the mount as optional… something for the really radical monk types to do. These are the people who refuse to step off the dock. Then you have the smallest group… the people who are actually trying to live the Sermon on the Mount, and realize God gives grace to the humble… where are these people? The church could do with another “Reformation” type movement of God… in fact, we are in desperate need of it.
I take great issue with people who are focused on social relevancy… not because I have a theological issue with strobe lights, loud music, or post-modern decoration. Rather, I take issue because the quest for social relevancy usually means you preach “how to live as a nice person” rather than how to live a God-endorsed life. If in your search for a bigger flock of followers you find yourself preaching morality without also dealing with what we do when we fail and how God really feels about us, then I dare say that you are no better than the motivational speaker down the street. If we preach it correctly, the way Jesus did, there is no more relevant message to the earth at this critical hour of history than the salvation of the eternal soul of man. John Wesley and Johnathon Edwards used to tell their lay preachers that they should preach “90% law, 10% grace”… right now, the American church preaches 40% grace, and 60% other stuff… other stuff like “Send me a thousand dollars and you will enter a year-long season of unprecedented blessing!” or “Lets just be nice.” The few who do preach the law, do it in a wrong spirit… When God gave the law to Moses, he was just as much Love as he is in 1st John 4. You want an interesting perspective on the law, read 1st John 4 and 1st Corinthians 13… read those until you believe that they are both true (and since the infinite God is love, all the characteristics in 1Cor 13 are infinite), then read the law. God is patient, kind, and wants what is best for others… then he tells Joshua to go kill every man, woman, and child because of their sin. I have nothing against changing your packaging or your presentation… but the second you change your message is the second you lose your relevancy.
This being said, what are the unmoveable pillars in the Christian faith… or better yet, what are the few things that we can’t debate without altering our entire faith structure? Simply enough, Jesus came to the earth, born of a virgin, fully God and fully man, He was crucified as a fulfillment of the prophecy of a Jewish Messiah and to forgive the sins of the world, three days later he rose again (fully God and fully Man), and now sits at the right hand of the Father until the appointed day when he will return to earth to put an end to evil and wickedness, so that we might dwell with the Father for eternity. As long as you don’t touch those pillars you can call yourself a Christian. If you begin moving those pillars, your house will come tumbling down. We need to return to the Simple Gospel. Matthew 5-7, and what the Bible actually says. Prosperity Doctrine? Who cares? If God is saving my eternal soul, then what do I care what my temporal circumstances are on this side of eternity? It’s like St. Paul said, “a momentary light affliction.” Anyway, enough of me.