Sacrificing “Relevance”

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : November 10, 2004

I think we should try to be as clear as possible.  I also think that we need to provide connecting points for people to meet Jesus without our own man-made obstacles getting in the way.  But I think the Church has overshot its goal of being relevant and has lost its distinctiveness. 

I was reading a post by Charlie Wear where he makes reference to the success and influence of Americangelicalism (this is my attempt at fusing the words "American" and "Evangelical").  The Church was responsible (according to many) for electing Mr. Bush.  The Church turned the Passion into a blockbuster.  The Church created a whole Christian music industry.  The Church has turned "the Purpose Driven Life" into one of the best selling books EVER. 

I’d say that the Church is pretty relevant in our culture.  But is it transformative?  It seems that we have a great deal of influence and power in America.  We are the last bastion of Christendom.  Emergent types wish this weren’t so–and it is changing (at least in urban areas).  The conventional church is still catering (ie, being relevant) to the dominant culture.  The emergent church is generally catering (ie, being relevant) to a growing segment of American society.  Of course, there are faithful folk in every church, patiently proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, patiently loving people, patiently seeking the Face of God.  But it seems so much of the energy we spend trying to be relevant or influencing people–through economic strength or politics or via the "culture wars" seems to miss the target. 

Mark Van Steenwyk is the general editor of Jesus Manifesto. He is a Mennonite pastor (Missio Dei in Minneapolis), writer, speaker, and grassroots educator. He lives in South Minneapolis with his wife (Amy), son (Jonas) and some of their friends.

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    This is an excellent point, I agree. When does a desire to be relevant destroy our identity as distinct? We can err on either side of the equation, but you're right, America has quite obviously erred on the relevance side, to our detriment.


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