The Journey Toward Relevance

OK . . . I am writing this really pissed. I just spent 20 minutes writing a post and lost is because the computer connection at church is a piece of crap. So . . . here is the abridged version (or at least what I can remember).

I finished Kary Oberbrunner’s The Journey Toward Relevance yesterday. It was not what I expected, but I still found it worth while. Oberbrunner deals with the balance between faith and culture. He refers to those with an imbalance on the side of faith Separatists. I found this discussion most relevant to my setting. The church has become an insiders playground. Too many churches hog the Gospel to themselves. They are irrelevant to the surrounding culture, and many don’t care. Christians must be relevant in order to spread the word. If your church isn’t growing, chances are it’s not relevant to your surrounding community. Look at the life of Jesus. He was always relevant. His parables used what the people knew – agriculture. He ate with non-Jews, with sinners and tax collectors. We eat with Christians, at Christians eateries, discussing Christian books. We have separated so far, we have a message that fails to connect with the contemporary ears.

The other extreme probably is more prevalant in liberal denominations – these are the conformists. They have sold out the Gospel for relevancy. Oberbrunner is clear in his point – there is a way to be relevant that is consistent with the Gospel. The Conformists sell out all uniqueness and conform to the tossing waves of the day. The world leads, they follow.

It is a fine line to walk. We all fall off that line often – to either side. However, it is important that we know where we fall. Too many Christians are content with where they are. They are content not to witness to non-Christians. They are content to never see those who do not know God. Jesus told the Pharisees, “Is it not the sick who need doctors?” We need to get out of our healthy houses, and start visiting the infirmiry. Sick people need us. Dying people need us. Oberbrunner reminds us that we may have to change some things to be different.

It is fascinating how Churches of Christ in the South look like they do in the North, and the others that I have visited in the East and West also look very similiar. “They look like the original Christians did” is what many confused members would say – but that is awful theology and misinformed understanding. The first church was much, much more Jewish than any Protestant church is today. There is alot more evidence that the Greek Orthodox church looks more like the church of the first three or four hundred years.

Instead these churches should vary at least slightly according to the culture that they are set in. Urban churches should “feel urban.” Suburban churches should “feel suburban.” Rural churches should “feel rural.” And on and on and on.

Oberbrunner ministers just outside of Columbus, so he discusses places that I know of which made his book especially relevant to me. In his final chapters he describes someone who ministers here in the artsy part of town – the Short North. It is a wonderful description of what a Tranformist look like. If you are not struggling through your journey to be relevance, it is time to begin. You can be more relevant to the people around you.

Oberbrunner (though to my recollection never mentions him) relies on Richard Niebuhr’s work Christ and Culture. He suggests that the proper balance leads to life as a Transformist.

Next I take a brief break from this kind of reading and will pick up on somethings that I would do well to brush up on – historical theology. It will probably take me about all summer, but I will beginning Alister McGrath’s Historical Theology. My tradition has not fully appreciated the theological advances made through the first 1,500 years of the church. That is where I will spend much of my time. As a result, these posts will take a much different flare soon.

Last weekend began a busy time in May where I will be traveling alot. We were in Defiance last weekend for Abbey’s wedding shower (I’ll try to get pictures on soon). Tomorrow morning I am leaving with my grandpa and brother for New York City. Andy is leaving there for a two month cruise that he’ll be working on. It’ll be a quick trip for us – we’ll be back on Sunday. Then we’re off to Nashville probably Thursday of next week, though he haven’t even looked that far ahead yet. Our Senior Night is that Sunday, so we’ll be heading back through the night on Saturday.

Then summer will be here . . . never a dull moment!


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