on being relevant

has it gotten us in trouble?  I wonder.   Dan linked to an interesting article over at Christianity Today talking about the problem of the Crystal Cathedral and its founder Robert Schuller.  Here is part of the asessment:

Some are tempted to hit the man while he is down, but this is unwise.  Robert Schuller is not the problem—contemporary evangelicalism is. Schuller was only leading the parade of those who believe they are responsible for making the gospel relevant. The lesson is not that Schuller got it wrong or that his theology is out-of-date; it is not that we just need to find a better, more current point of cultural contact. The lesson is that our attempts to find and exploit a point of cultural contact inevitably end in bankruptcy.

So in a nutshell – what I am calling “the addiction to the need to be relevant” lead to the demise of the Crystal Cathedral?  This is a fascinating assertion indeed – one many of the rest of us would do well to pay attention to.

I am in full agreement with my friend Lionel who wrote on my FB page:

What is relevant is that Jesus has redeemed us by hanging on a bloody cross. If you are bored with that, you are bored with the metanarrative of the Scriptures.

I think think the problem isn’t the issue of relevancy, the gospel is always relevant and relevant across cultures – the issue is contextualization – how do we communicate the ever relevant gospel in an understandable way – in language people will understand?  To me that is more the issue and one we as Christians need to get back on track with.

7 responses to “on being relevant

  1. Wow, great question! I don’t think it is wrong for the church to reevaluate on occasion to discern whether disconnect with culture is because of faithfulness to the gospel or because of our own awkward religious baggage. Our church culture has gone beyond this though. We actually seek to outdo the world in attractiveness for the sake of attractiveness as if by being attractive we can lure people toward Christ like a frog in a pan of progressively heating water. We don’t have to add secret rituals and handshakes, but neither to we need to stop preaching the ugly parts of the gospel in hopes that the “nice” gospel will maintain people until they mature enough to hear about judgment, bloody crucifixions, and the like.

  2. I think its been an evolving issue since the early church. It seems like in today’s churches the true and pure gospel is lost. On one end of the spectrum there is far to much focus on the archane and commentative letters of Paul. Then you have the “feel good ministried” (Joel Osteen types) where there is little scripture at all. The Bible and what it teaches does not need to be modernized or hipped – we need to submit to it teachings and live by its laws.

  3. I think its important to contextualise the Gospel so as to speak truth within the community you are speaking so that they can clearly understand that truth and live out that truth within the context of that community…as long as that truth based on the truth of Scripture and not the community enforcing its own truth as scripture.

  4. Pingback: Week in Review: 01.15.2011 « Near Emmaus

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