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December 12, 2003

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his point is an excellent one, but it hink he misses the point as well. the church was and is called by God to meet needs. isaiah 58 for example. i agree with his assessment of culture, but to say we shouldn't meet people's needs because our culture is selfish is dumb. he may be missing the difference between real and perceived needs. the selfish individualistic culture he is talking about is concerned with perceived needs or wants. the church needs to direct the to real needs and help them understand the difference.

I think that there is some truth in what he is saying. there is a lot of desire for pastors and churches to be relevant to this culture, just for the sake of being "hip and relevant". On the other hand, we need people to share God's redemptive story to a generation who has no clue, and we need to tell them that story in their language. I think that the danger becomes when we do something just to be relevant, or because another church is doing it somewhere. Too often churches and pastors will "try new things" without going through the hard work of learning the culture they are ministering to. They end up being copycat ministrys that look silly and cheesy.

I agree with Lucas that relevance is about real needs as opposed to perceived ones.

I think it was Brian McLaren who said, "The incarnation is the ultimate apologetic for the fact that relevance matters to God." (I'm misquoting, but I think I've got the spirit of his comment right.)

let me guess ... his format of church gatherings was relevant maybe 50 yrs ago?

""The incarnation is the ultimate apologetic for the fact that relevance matters to God."

Yes it does. But Jesus met the real needs of the people, not the ones they wanted him to meet. As Jesus' life proved: Being authentic and faithful is the only way to be relevant.

One of the major problems with the search for "relevance" is that it takes our focus off God, truth, and the Church and puts it on the culture, the people, and the world. Thus, our ability to determine what is a "need" and what is simply a "want" becomes difficult. You don't see the Apostles and Church Fathers all too concerned about being relevant--what you do see is their concern that we remain faithful and actually live the Gospel.

One of the things that I first noticed about Orthodoxy (especially the history of the Church) is how it saw reaching out to the culture/people as something that happened *through* a holy life first and foremost--not along side it, or in spite of it.

It is a both/and..."acquire the Holy Spirit and thousands around you will be saved," said St. Seraphim of Sarov. You'll become truly relevant when you've become holy--it is only then that will you have something worth saying or giving others.

He makes a good point about how as Christ-followers we are called to a self-sacrificial attitude, not a "Church should cater to my needs" attitude... however, I don't think this is always, or even usually what "relevance" is all about.

Relevance, as practiced by churches and ministry leaders, usually is a "giving" kind of attitude, i.e. putting in a special effort to reach others with the gospel.

Also, what is the alternative to relevance, practically speaking? Should we continue to do ministry in a 1950's mode just so we avoid possibly doing things at church that someone might actually enjoy? (...gasp!...) And even if we do this, won't it end up meeting the "selfish percieved needs" of the gray-haired set? No matter what we do in church it's going to appeal to some and not to others.

[Quoted]
You don't see the Apostles and Church Fathers all too concerned about being relevant
[/Quoted]

Don't you? What about 1 Corinthians 9:22, "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some."

Sounds like Paul was somewhat concerned about being "relevant"...

Something else I forgot to add:

Real holiness, that which bring real healing and wholeness, will in many cases NEVER appear relevant and will always be mocked and hated by the world. If there is anything the Scripture, the lives of the Apostles, and the witness of the martyrs teach us it is this: A life that is totally devoted to Christ will save the world....but it will never be popular, it will never be widely accepted, and will not be easy.

Once we start to ask the question "How can I be faithful?" instead of "How can I be relevant?" we'll find ourselves *really* reaching the culture and the people.

Gandalf,

The way Paul became "all things" was by becoming like Christ--not by looking at the world and judging whether he was being "revelant" to them or not. This is my point. St. Paul wasn't "concered" about being relevant--he was concrned with "Christ and Him crucified." Thus *through* his life of obedience, faithfulness, and self-denial, he was able to reach many.

Being "relevant" is the end, not a means. The PoMo's have it backwards in many ways....

You've been posting some thought-provoking stuff, DP!

I think shok and Gandalf pretty much nailed my first reaction... What "culture" are you going to pick? It seems like only the Orthodox can have any claim of not being influence by some culture (and I'll bet they are too, to some degree - how can that be helped?).

I think you have to separate out the concepts of "relevant to a generation" and "self-seeking consumerism" (which most of us would agree is not good...). The "relevancy" that I have seen in my church tradition was more focused on seeking substance, while allowing what was perceived as having become "empty form" to fall by the wayside; rather than relevancy "resulting in the sacrifice of substance in the pursuit of form."

Maybe when we transform "relevant worship" into seeker-sensitive "advertising and marketing" - maybe that's when we turn something real and relevant into self-seeking consumerism?

Oh, we've been influenced by culture that is for sure! Go to any tradtionally Orthodox country and you'll find plenty of culture!

The difference is the culture became relevant to the Church and was "baptized" (in a sense); not the other way around. And this takes time.....

I like Christopher Robin last question though...it points in the right direction I think.

Well, I'm dissapointed because as I read this, I had quick responses, then I turned to the comments and found that almost everyone had the same responses as I did. So... ditto. I just wanted to chime in.

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