My quest to find a relevant Christian Church is now in week seven. By “relevant” I mean a church that makes a strong connection between Biblical teaching and what is going on in the world today.
So far the Christian teaching that comes closest to meeting my “relevance” ideal is Glenn Beck. Isn’t it a little ironic for orthodox Christians that Beck is a Mormon. Perhaps orthodox churches have recently discovered something in their doctrine that prohibits relevance to current events.
The orthodox “reformed” church I attended today was easily the friendliest of the six churches I’ve tried thus far. The pastor’s dad and several men of the church introduced themselves and offered coffee – something Glenn Beck would never do – with one kind act of inviting me to sit with them during the service, and the final kind act of inviting me to a church luncheon after the service. But I digress.
The sermon was on 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. The message from Paul was given to those who lived in Corinth, a large commercial center known for its moral corruption. This is the setting for Paul expounding to the Church of Corinth how even the vilest among them were “washed, sanctified, and justified … by the Spirit of God.”
It was a well-presented sermon. But…during that 20-minute presentation there was not one connection of the meaning of those passages to the circumstances and events of today. I was anxiously waiting for the segue to a reference to one or more American cities, to one or more political ideologies, to one or more corporations to bring the relevance of these passages to our door step. The opportunities lingered all around those verses to relate them to current events. During the early anticipatory stages of the sermon I was considering when I would phone my wife to let her know I was invited to lunch at church and would be late. By the end of the sermon, along with the realization that the sermon never extended beyond the year 65 AD, I admitted to myself I needed to forego the lunch so as not to mislead my hosts into assuming my continuing interest.
The “sermons” given by the early church were relevant to that day. They were driven by the conditions that existed in their cities, in their culture, in their competing religions and ideologies. They were given in the cities of Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, and Philippi. Almost 2,000 years later, the sermons given today expect us to remain in antiquity. What is inexplicable to me is why sermons aren’t made as current today as they were back then. Sure, the people back then had similar problems and challenges and if we try really hard, some of us might be able to relate to them. But why not bring those problems and challenges up to date? Is it too much work for pastors to be aware of current events? Is there a fear of offending someone if we are critical of a real, current ideology, religion, organization, personal or public behavior? Is it ok to slip in a Scriptural reference to “homosexual offenders” of 65 AD but somehow a bit politically incorrect to mention the “homosexual offenders” of 2010 AD?
Certainly other ideologies like Islam, Progressivism, and Socialism are as much an anathema to Christianity today as Pharisaical Judaism and Paganism were to Christians back in the day. But these ideological challenges are not mentioned in sermons today. Why not? Is there a fear of the IRS coming down on them? Is one of the major church benefactors a “don’t rock the boat” kind of guy?
This is what my “relevant church” hunting quest is telling me to do. Besides Glenn Beck, look toward the Web. There are various web sites where I find relevance of Scripture to current events. Here are several of them:
Watchman Bible Study
The Hal Lindsey Report
Dove World Outreach Center
All of these ministries (and I’m sure there are many more that I’m not aware of) connect Biblical teaching with critical current events. They are all political to some degree. Some people may consider a couple of them to be excessively political or even mean spirited – at the fringes (or beyond) of appropriate Christianity. But no more so than Jesus’ rant at the Temple toward the money changers. Many are shocked when they first learn that Jesus would do such a thing.
To the contrary, contemporary preachers exhibit little righteous indignation at anything that is going on in the world today. It almost appears that they all live in an 65 AD bubble.