what does church look like? part five

September 14, 2004 | 11 Comments

I wonder why church’s like to keep calling themselves relevant. I see church websites or promo pieces all the time that describe how their message is relevant. I think the messsage of the church has to be more than relevant. To be relevant is a step down from what God has called the church to be. To be relevant makes it sound as if we want to tell people something that can somehow contribute to their life right now. Instead, isn’t the role of the church to redefine for people what life is. That seems to me to be a far greater purpose than to simply tell someone something that will be relevant to them when they get out of bed on Monday morning.

Sadly, I think the need for church to describe itself as relevant is because we’ve lost touch with both the culture and God’s purpose for the church in our world. At least when we describe ourselves as relevant, perhaps we’ve gotten one of them right in that we have gotten in touch with the culture. But we can’t settle for that.

Ephesians 3:10-11 describes how the eternal purpose of the church is to continue the work of Jesus and make known the manifold wisdom of God. This passage goes on to describe how even the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms become aware of the manifold wisdom of God because of the church. On page 70 of Mere Discipleship, Lee camp desribes it this way:

The church, by its very presence, by its very faithfulness, stands as an omen, exists as a judgment upon “the world”, the peoples and institutions and powers and systems that continue to walk according to the old order of rebellion against God’s way.

That is to say, the church is God’s way of pointing out to this world that they are missing out on life if they are not doing it his way. As NT Wright and Switchfoot (and in that order, I hope) have pointed out, God is showing us a new way to be human through the church. This is so much greater than simply being relevant…let’s not settle.

  • I heard a good quote… dont know who it is by, dont know here it is from, but here it goes.

    “Paul’s method of discipleship or resocialization was one of helping people learn that there was an alternate to contemporary social behavior and ethics, and helping people live out that alternative lifestyle consistantly.”

  • ConK

    Two thoughts:
    1) I agree that the church is focused on relevence simply because it has been accused (and rightly so) of being irrelevent for so long. We have lost our voice in the world. Relevant simply implies that Scripture and the community fo the church really do speak to “real” life as we know it.

    John, I agree that Christ came to redefine “life” as we know it; however, I think we must be relevant before a skeptical world will hear that message. They have to see Christ touch their reality before they will allow Him to change it.

    2) Thoughts on community. I really appreciate your thoughts. I am finally caught up on the blog. Thank you for not throwing out the church with the bathwater (so to speak). I am afraid of what will come with the emerging quest for community in that it seems that community seems to have become the purpose for which people live. The church does not exist for community. Instead, when we see each other through the eyes of Christ, understanding that we are all the same (sinners in need of grace) and are bound by a common purpose (to seek and save the lost), community arises. I believe that the lack of community that people feel is less about structure and more about Christians holding onto the world rather than being transformed by the grace of God.

    Just my thoughts…thanks for spanking me about reading and not writing. I usually keep my thoughts to myself.

  • Deano,
    I absolutely agree with your response in number 1. My point is simply that being relevant is not enough. Our goal is not to be relevant but to transform.

  • david the rambler

    i hope this doesn’t sound like double talk but i think it is important to note that we don’t need to try and be relevant… I think that we, as groups of disciples with personal struggling worshipful lifestyles based on sacrifice and grace, ARE naturally relevant (maybe a matter of embracing and letting out who we are).

    ‘truth is contemporary in any context or person’
    -ravi z.

  • david the rambler

    and (i just had an oh yeah moment)

    i think it is a good idea in our world to define ourselves for better commmunication (thank you e. rosenstock-huessy)

    im defining relevant as ‘able to be understood’

    im with you john on the idea that somehow we should inpire some sort of jealousy or at least inquisitiveness in the world as far as being a people who offer or show a better (the best) way to live, a more whole experience of life, a more complete perspective/pupose, and or a full-er story.

  • ConK

    A quote form Erwin McManus tonight – I almost had him call you on my cell phone tonight, John, except I wouldn’t have then been able to hear your voice of suprise on the other end. Anyway, I digress. “We need to love people more than we love our own idea of what church should be like.”

    I’ll leave that alone – it seems appropriate to our discussion.

  • Dean,

    I like that…

  • davidTR

    this seemed to fit right here when i read it..

    “he who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.” -dietrich bonhoeffer, life together

  • Very nice quote Dave, and no rambling either!

  • Brewster

    This article on postmodernism and romanticism is very interesting.