Thursday, October 13, 2005

Redefining Relevance

I have been reading farther in the book I posted about earlier, A Matrix of Meanings, and I am getting to a point were I am having a hard time agreeing with him. Here is my reasoning.

First of, the church will never be relevant if it is trying to reach a "post modern" crowed, because post modernism died like 10 years ago. This generation, my generation, has grown tired of the "noise" of post-modernism. We no longer want everything all at once from every direction; we want something solid, something real. You are seeing a movement in young churches doing back to their roots, the truly relevant churches, turning back to TRUE Orthodoxy. We are using more hymns then we use to, we are exploring church history and embracing some forgotten traditions, not the traditions of materialism, hypocricy, gossip, greed, and over programing. We are see the effects now as my generation makes a mass exodus from the suburban mega churches we grew up in, the very churches that throw themselves face first into trying to be “relevant”, to the point of delivering us prepackaged, meaning less garbage. We want something real. The gospel is real.

In the book, the author states "There's no arguing that Generation X is largely unmoved by the language of traditional Christianity, but you don't see many church leaders wondering if maybe the message itself is the problem. With so few people believing in hell, what’s the point in getting so worked up about salvation, whether it’s by grace or otherwise?” arguing that “the message of Christianity does not communicate to people who have grown up in a world in which pop culture is amniotic fluid, largely because what religion talks about does not speak to the spiritual needs of today’s seeker.”

Well, I can tell you right now that the problem is not the message; the problem is the church has lost the message. It is buried under $500,000 sound systems and video screens, under banners advertising the next big thing in the Christian ghetto industry. When the modern church wakes up and realizes it has the truth in it’s hands, and that the Word of God does not lose relevance, that the word of God is not a list of what you “should” or “should not” do, it’s bigger then how you vote or whether you drink or smoke, then they will see my generation regain an interest.

We are no longer satisfied with the simple answers. We want to dig deeper. The reason the church is loosing a grip on our age group is because the church has become so watered down it has, as Toney Campolo put it, “neutered the gospel”. I have learned more about God, Theology, scripture, original language, and church history sitting around talking with friends then I ever did in church, because most churches refuses to serve us the meat of the gospel.

We are a generation screaming out for something genuine. A church can not be relevant until it understands this. We look at a church following 10 years behind pop culture and it is neither genuine nor relevant, who wants to be a part of that?

So, it boils down to this: “Keep it real!”

PS – We have been lucky to find a church that understands this. Thanks guys.


jennylou said...

"Wowsa, Wowsa!" I definitely agree, but you know that. I am so saddened at the energy and expense so many churches go to to dumb down and glitz themselves up when it is the opposite of what seeking people truly desire. We want authenticity--even the ability to disagree or say we aren't ready yet. That's why I love how at our church you can come up to the communion table and just ask for a blessing instead of bread and wine because you are still coming to terms with faith. There is room for process. And lots of room for the truly deep and abiding aspects of Christianity. Why do churches always add so much distracting fluff to such a great truth?

~ jessica said...

I can't tell you how much what you wrote here resonates with me, JR. Perhaps Jenny understands. I'm at an unfortunate, and unusual, loss for words, but you've struck a cord with me. I don't think I can remotely call myself a Christian, but I can identify a feeling of disatisfaction I've experienced in virtually every church I've ever entered. I feel like I'm being marketed to, when the quality of the goods (shall we say) should sell themselves. It's the bombardment that has always made me close my ears and turn away. Many would say this is unfortunate for me, but I've found a path to god that works for me, and to me it's more real than anything I found inside a building or community that claims to be centered around faith.

I'm rambling. Thank you for such an insightful post. I wish my response was more articulate.

Amanda said...

JR-- wow! Great observations. I might just print this off and give it to my pastor. I love things by Brian McLaren who speaks so "real" about this stuff too.

Just Pete said...

Right on, J.R. Really enjoying your blog and your "theology". Thanks, too, for the plug! I'm glad we all have this on-line "Church" of our own.

flyseller said...

I have always believed that God's message is simple and yet at the same time extreamly difficult to live.

The simpleness of the message is found in John 3:16, "Believe, and you will be saved." The difficulty comes when we try to live it out in our daily lives. We find that simple becomes incredibly more complicated every day.

The christian life, by necessity, becomes more deep, the more we live it fully. Many of MY generation (50 and older) choose to live in the simplicity of ignorance thinking that it is blissful (being ignorant). The challange we all face is to stay engaged and challange one another to THINK and not simply HIDE.

JR, you are amazing. Blessings on you.

- said...

What a great post to introduce me to your blog. Thank you so much for that. It's so true...I pitched a program to our church leadership a few months ago and the first line of the proposal was "Postmodernism is Dead...get over it!"

Great thoughts. I look forward to reading the archives!

Kevin said...

I largely agree with you but the feminist in me has real problems with Campolo's phrase "neutered the gospel". Foremost, this phrase implies that the Gospel is male.

Might seem nitpicky, but i think it's really important to notice how gendered our religious language is.

J.R. said...

New guys,
Don't get your hopes to high, most of my posts aren't this insightful. I think best when I am ranting. ;-)

Thanks for stopping in though, I hope you find it to your liking.

zimmerzblogz said...

Could it be possible that a person could be ousted as a pastor or church leader for "keeping it real?" Would this constitute TRUE orthodoxy?
I agree with you that some congregations are too steeped in what is blatant sham faith. To "be real" would be like shock treatment. I also would agree that programming ourselves into a spiritual frenzy is not healthy. And so we must also be prepared for the results if we lead our faith communities in this direction. Remember, TRUE orthodoxy meant being burned at the stake. It could mean the loss of a ministry, friends, and so forth. Bucking status quo can be very hard on a person and family. I think you realize this is Christ's call - to forsake all else but Christ. As far as The Power to Be Free goes, well, it is a book as void of religious jargon
that I've seen come from a denominational writer as I've seen in quite some time. It may seem like a book filled with "Sunday school answers" but it is, I think more exploritory than that. As for The Quest - it could be as real as you want it to be. Remember the words of Boenhoffer, "community is only community as long as Christ is the center." Even if The Quest is not a preferencial avenue for you to experience the kind of realness you may seek, it is as real a context as most people of the Wesleyan movement (or any other movement) has seen in a long time and it meets the criteria of Boenhoffer - that is to keep Christ central. That's the real deal and that's also why I encourage you in your enthusiasm to follow after Christ hard! Glad your at NPH.

Mamamax said...

Wow JR. That was amazingly right on.

J.R. said...

I would like to clarify, for as much as I didn't enjoy the book, I did very much enjoy the Quest group, getting to know my co-workers on a level that is rare in a work enviroment, and the discussions we had in our group were very insightful. That is what the Quest did for me more then anything. Our group was very "real".

Melodie said...

Great post! I'm so glad you and Jenny found your way to our church. I'm pretty sure there are many there that would resonate with what you say. But you already know that...