Sunday, December 15, 2019

Churches - Nurture Your Strangeness

Image result for john piippo weird

This morning at Redeemer we experienced an open heaven. One thing that happened was a number of our people sought God for prophetic words of encouragement to give to people who came forward. What a beautiful sight this was! But was it cool? That's the wrong word.

Jesus (the Real One) didn't have a coolness factor. Jesus wasn't trying to be hip, dope, or whatever the word is at the moment. 

Jesus didn't come to be relevant. For more on this see Os Guinness, Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance

Jesus was different. Distinct. It is Jesus' difference and distinction that captivated people. ("Nietzsche saw that independent thinkers would always be out of step with the conventional wisdom of their generation." Guinness, 19)

Jesus's beautiful humanity was weird. 

Jesus didn't fit in with the prevailing religious and political regime. Jesus was, as Michael McClymond indicates in the title of his book, a "familiar stranger." 

Jesus' strangeness, when lifted up, draws people. Russell Moore, in "Why Your Church Needs to Listen to the Culture," writes that relevant-hip churches are boring young people to death. If we listened to culture we would see this, and give up trying to make Jesus everyone's homeboy. 

Moore reflects on his own church experience with youth:

"The “unchurched” kids laughed at the Bible studies based on television shows or songs of the moment. They weren’t impressed at all by the video clips provided by my denomination’s publisher, or by the knockoff Christian boy bands crooning about the hotness of sexual purity. What riveted their attention wasn’t what was “relatable” to them, but what wasn’t. They were drawn not to our sameness but to our strangeness." (Emphasis mine.) 

Moore describes one teen who asked him, "Do you really believe this dead guy came back to life?" "Yes," Moore responded, "I do." The kid blinked and then whispered, "Dude, that's crazy." Yes it is. It is crazy. The kid stayed around to listen to more about this.

I don't know if Moore has read Yale theologian Miroslav Volf, but they sound the same. Moore writes: "Jesus didn't hide the oddity of the culture of the kingdom, and neither should we." 

At Redeemer I once preached a year-and-a-half project through the book of Revelation. Missing from my bucket list was to try to make Revelation normal. If it was normal, no one would be interested. Revelation is bizarre. It should be, to all who acknowledge that there is a God in heaven and, ipso facto, his ways are not our ways. We are talking about another reality intersecting and interacting with our unredeemed planet. This other, heavenly reality has to look different!

If you are a pastor or church I now free you, in Jesus' name, from sameness, and release you to difference. Our distinctives will differentiate us from American culture, presenting themselves as a clear option for those looking for redemption.

Moore writes:

"Let’s listen to what our culture is saying, hearing beneath the veneer of cool the fear of a people who know that Judgment day is coming because it’s written in their hearts (Romans 2:15–16). Let’s listen beneath the cynicism to the longings there, expressed in the culture, longings that can only be fulfilled in the reign of a Nazarene carpenter-king. Let’s deconstruct what they — and we — tell ourselves when it’s nonsense. But let’s not stop there. Let’s run toward, and not away from, the strangeness of an old gospel of a Messiah who was run out of his own hometown, but who, oddly enough, walked out of his own graveyard. For real."

My two books are:
Leading the Presence-Driven Church
Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

I'm now working on...
Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart 
Technology and Spiritual Formation
When all this settles, Linda and I intend on writing our book on Relationships.