Thursday, May 02, 2024

Trying to Be Relevant Has Left the American Church Irrelevant

Image result for john piippo new york city
(New York City)

Neither the Old Testament prophets, nor Jesus, were trying to be relevant.

The Church's great distinctive is not We are way cooler than you and your tribe are.

Can a church have culturally relevant things? I believe so. But these things, as awesome as the lights and fog machines might be (we are so easily entertained) , are not manifestations of our great distinctive.  

See, e.g., this: 

15 Then Moses said to him, 
“If your Presence does not go with us, 
do not send us up from here. 
16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people 
unless you go with us? 
What else will distinguish me and your people 
from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

Exodus 33

The Gospel is relevant, as the antidote to, our miserable condition. But a presence-driven church is not trying to be culturally relevant. 

Os Guinness writes: 

“Rarely has the church seen so many of its leaders solemnly presenting the faith in public in so many weak, trite, foolish, disastrous, and even disloyal ways as today… This monumental and destructive carelessness has coincided exactly with a mania for relevance and reinvention that has gripped the church. So a disconcerting question arises: How on earth have we Christians become so irrelevant when we have tried so hard to be relevant? And by what law or logic is it possible to steer determinedly in one direction but end up in completely the opposite direction?… We are confronted by an embarrassing fact: Never have Christians pursued relevance more strenuously; never have Christians been more irrelevant.”

It’s not evil for a church to have a fair-trade coffee bar. I probably like coffee more than you do. Coffee-drinking was so much a part of my Finnish heritage that my grandmother literally had tears in her eyes when she learned I started to drink it. To her, I finally joined the Finnish Faith Community. But something has gone wrong when God communicates to us one thing (“better is one day in my presence”), and it gets misinterpreted as another thing (“better is one day with my barista").

- See my book Leading the Presence-Driven Church.