Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Church of Irrelevance

The teaching in our churches lacks relevance to what is going on in our culture, politics, government and in other ideologies/religions that marginalize or demean the Christian faith.  Many churches seem oblivious to the undercurrents in our culture and world that are or soon will be negatively impacting our lives.  Certainly the personal gospel is central to the Church.  But there are only so many times I can listen to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved” and 2000-year old stories about an extinct culture without becoming uncomfortably restless about the lack of connection being made between Scripture and today’s pressing issues.

I recently experienced a Sunday School in a Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) church teaching on the book of Psalms. Now there are literally hundreds of topics in that book that can be effectively related to current events and circumstances that are of critical interest to most folks. This teacher (more accurately, a self-absorbed expositor) was a bearded academic looking "Dr." in his 60's or 70's. Did this learned doctor, who should know better, even attempt any relevance or interaction with his student captives trying to act reverent?  None. He was grossly absorbed in hearing his own voice and his own private immersion in his text.  How different this presentation was from the teaching of the great PCA preacher D. James Kennedy.  He had a handle on relevance.  And I’m sure others today do also.  But certainly not most.

The book of Psalms relates the dire current events as told by a man immersed in the challenges of leadership and politics of his day that were of critical relevance to his contemporaries.   Even Glenn Beck is doing more to  garner renewed interest in Christianity than most pastors.  Now why couldn't the doctor make the same stab at relevance to his contemporary listeners?  He made no attempt at making the text relevant to today’s issues.

Granted, the PCA churches are among the more academic and cerebral denominations out there. But this lack of connection with today’s issues appears to be quite common across the board of Christian denominations.  I attended several churches of various denominations recently.  They all seem to suffer from the same disconnect.   They all appear out of touch with many of the topics of greatest importance to individuals, our nation and our Judeo-Christian-inspired liberties.

The Bible contains countless examples of compelling topics of that day that are just as compelling today.  It is a shame that our church leaders and teachers appear to be so immersed in the literal aspects of Scripture and related ancient history that they fail to draw the essential parallels to today's screaming needs.   Christianity’s primary sacred text is too often presented in such a way that the connection is not made.  Do they expect the average listener to make the connections?  I consider myself at least as interested in the Bible as the average church goer.  Yet the way I’ve seen it taught lately it may as well be Alice in Wonderland. Are the expositors so far out of touch with today’s issues that they are incapable of relating Scripture to current events and needs?

Bible writers weren't academicians. They were kings and entrepreneurs and political advisors and politicians and revolutionaries. They were deeply immersed in the critical issues of the day. Today's pastors and church leaders?  Hardly.  I tried approaching a couple of pastors with this observation.  Their response.  “We don’t want to get political.”  Or “we don’t want to offend anybody.” 

How knowledgeable are church leaders about Islam, Christianity's greatest threat?  How about secularism and materialism, the idols of today?  How about "progressivism" that attempts to replace God with government? These challenges are being ignored by our churches.

No wonder mainline denominations are fading. No wonder there is a Christian faith void developing in the West.  Something will fill it.  Islam will.  New age is another.  Science and atheism are others. And an all pervasive federal government is filling it in the name of “progressivism.”

The trouble is, none of these alternative void-fillers instill the same set of values that Bible-based Judeo-Christian principles on the founding and continuing operation of our nation, legal system, liberties, and moral code.  In contrast, these alternative value systems are materialistic, harsh, unforgiving, and cold.  Allow our Judeo-Christian value system to lose relevance because of the failure of our churches and we become an oppressive, unproductive society.  But that is our current direction – as long as our churches continue their quest toward irrelevance.


Ron McCreary said...

This is a subject that matters to me professionally. I would agree that preachers (and congregations) can easily get inside-focused so that they become the sole content of their conversation. Also, IMV, the predominance of only the personal-piety side of the Gospel tends to take our energy inward instead of outward.

So I try to be relevant when I preach. Except I suspect your idea of "relevant" might be different from mine. Check me out on my own blog, .

Gerardo Moochie said...

What I consider to be relevant would be our historic American exceptionalism that was fostered by our Judeo-Christian heritage. It is relavant to do all we can to overcome our increasingly negative attitude toward our heritage. It is now considered "arrogant" for us to consider our nation "special." Next stop: We should not consider our Judeo-Christian heritage special. In fact, many deny that we even had a Judeo-Christian heritage. And next, we should not even consider our own Christian or Jewish religion "special", but simply "arrogant." We are now considering morality as being "judgemental" and "arrogant." Where does that lead us. The only thing that's gaining ground as being special and worthy of praise is amorality, the ideal that everyone's values and beliefs and acts are as good as anyone else's and worthy of defense and respect. Pardon my expression, but HORSESHIT!

Gerardo Moochie said...

I had a discussion with another paster recently (not Ron). I mentioned the need for greater relevance in our churches. Specifically, I urged teachings that contrast Christian principles that were instumental in our nation's founding with our secular/progressive federal government and Islam: two entities that threaten our religious freedoms.

He responded by infering that Jesus spoke about the Pharisees and not the Roman government and therefore neither should our government or another "religion" be the message in sermons from the pulpit.

I reminded him that the Pharisees represented that ancient culture's major influence in the region. The people Jesus interacted with had little to do with the "official government" of the day, except the one who happended to be a tax collector. But the Pharisees are the ones who had the most influence on what people were supposed to believe and how they were supposed to live. The closest equivalent to the Pharisees today are the ideologies that restrict or pervert our faith freedoms. Specifially the two ideologies that most impinge on our freedoms are secular progressivism embraced by our federal government and fascist supremacism endemic to resurgent historic Islam. These are the entities that are telling us what we are to believe and how we are to live.

Consequently, the message in the church today should address the challenges created by today's pharisees, the all-powerful, the all-impinging Federal government, and the fascist/supremacist Islamic ideology. These are the things the church ought to be engaging us with to become more relevant.

But just like the democrats have turned to amorality so as not to offend and lose voters, churches have found their comfort zone in irrelevancy for fear of offending and losing thithes.