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« Stumbling Toward Faith: A Dialog with Author Renee Altson | Main | The Need for an Open Table »

September 17, 2004

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"Relevance" exists solely because the Holy Spirit has been diminished in our midst.

Consider this:

As these went their way, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John, "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in king's houses. But why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and much more than a prophet.
(Matthew 11:7-9)

What are seeking people going out to see when they show up in church? In their deepest hearts they are not going because the church meets in a Starbucks. They are not going because the teaching is on how to have a better marriage. They are going because they truly want to see a prophet! To be around transformed people who know God intimately! To actually meet Jesus in all His glory!

But what are we giving them instead? Why do we so often bait and switch when they come hoping to meet up with Jesus and instead we give them a supposedly relevant dog and pony show?

Relevance is only relevant when the Church in America has nothing else to give people.

I recently finished reading Kary Oberbrunner's book The Journey Toward Relevance. In it, he takes Lucas' last point to the nth degree -- the whole book is about being personally relevant -- what Kary calls being a "transformist" is contrasted with the ideas of "conformists" (those who love people so much they've lost sight of what it means to be the church and love God) and "separatists" (those who love God, but are afraid of being 'contaminated' by the culture around them -- so they stop loving people).

I may be way out on a limb here, and maybe this is something others have discussed, but what if it happened like this:

What if you took some people who love God and love people, and do so in relevant (read: approachable, yet meaningful and applicable) way. And then those folks start to gather and their gatherings naturally express who they are in the same way.

That would be a relevant church!

But I totally agree with Lucas and you and Kary here Chris: If the church tries to be something it is not, then everyone loses.

One of the things I value very highly is authenticity. I want to be the same person on Friday morning as I am on Tuesday afternoon as I am on Sunday morning. I try to never "dress up" or "dress down" -- I just dress! (weddings, funerals, job interviews, and court appearances aside). =O)

Once I was in San Diego with my pastor and we went to a youth club. At early 30s we were the oldest there by 10+ years. I was wearing baggy shorts and a T-shirt -- but the first thing I did when I got there was to untuck my shirt. And I immediately felt foolish for doing so. I was trying too hard to "fit in" and not simply being me.

When a church tries to "be someone" they are not, it is a disservice to everyone. It's like a hand trying to be a foot. It works OK for gymnasts, for a little while -- but it is not the way God made us!

I say if you are who you are, and you love God and do what He's doing, He'll bring you who He will bring you -- and you'll go after those you'll go after...naturally supernatural, as we like to say in the Vineyard.

...instead of trying to do some weird "kingdom marketing" (sadly attempting to justify it as 'being all things to all people').

We (the church and the world!) need more churches that embrace liturgy and hymnody and suits and ties. And we need more churches that embrace the polar opposites of those trappings. What we don't need is a suit-tie church trying to "dress-down" or a jeans-tshirt church trying to "dress up" to "market themselves" in an already consumeristic culture.

One more quick thing I should have made more clear:

I think we sometimes view "relevant" as meaning "selling out" to culture -- but that's what Kary's book calls being a conformist.

In the book he sort or redefines "relevance"

"Transformists" balance loving God (and being separate and holy and not 'of the world') with loving people (being 'in the world' and understanding culture and times/seasons).

Transformists (not separatists or conformists) are the truly "relevant' ones in our midst.

If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it!

Wow, Keith. I just put that book on my buy list. It sounds fascinating. Good thoughts, btw.
You're adding a lot here -- I'm lovin' it.

Thanks Chris!

Also -- DLE -- I forgot to respond to something you said:

"Relevance is only relevant when the Church in America has nothing else to give people."

that was a cool way of putting it! Thanks!

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