The Trouble with Relevance

Having grown up in the evangelical/fundamentalist/Pentecostal sub-culture, I know what it’s like to live with the mind-set that the whole world is against you. Oh, and don’t forget: this is because you’re so committed to absolute truth and holiness. The “us v. them” mentality was unwittingly burned into my psyche, to the point that I often catch myself today assuming people have no respect for, or interest in, me or my Christian faith. Cultural disdain was proportionate to spiritual maturity. No, really.

Fast-forward to the turn of the 21st Century, and the Holy Spirit really started to stir many in my religious circle, convicting us of our delusions of superiority. Notice I said we were being convicted, I’m not saying we fully repented or put that nonsense to death (Colossians 3.5), but a consciousness began to dawn…a sense that our intentional, extreme disconnection from culture made us overwhelmingly ineffective in reaching it with the Gospel. You start to wonder what the point of all the services and meetings (and self-denial) was.

Enter the pendulum effect. “Project: Immerse-Oneself-In-Just-About-Every-Dimension-of-Pop-Culture” began. Couple this with preaching that was exposing the explicitly cultural and extra-biblical realities of church life, and we were getting made-over like a hillbilly on Today with Kathie Lee and Hoda. Toss the 8-button suit with the gaudy Versace tie and go getchyoself a tattoo and a scotch! And you know what? Nothing really changed. We were still petty, superficial, carnal people who were not bringing people to Jesus. We were a little bit smarter, but we weren’t much better for it. Sadly, some of us got so pulled into the vortex of uninhibited carnality, that we never recovered. Instead of being committed to the right things for all the wrong reasons, we were committed to nothing but our own pleasure and convenience.

So now what? Well, I’m not sure, but it seems that I have needed grace to discover at least three things:

  1. a sense of the beauty and wonder in the Person of Jesus Christ
  2. an understanding that the Church and the Kingdom aren’t synonymous, but neither are they mutually exclusive
  3. a deep appreciation for the history of God’s people on the earth and my connection to them

This has helped me become more comfortable in my “new creation” skin, and have a broader perspective on this issue of cultural relevance. The painfully predictable “baby with the bathwater” approach just isn’t a solution, but neither is the status quo. I’m guessing there’s a third way…

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