Let’s Stop Pretending Christianity is Actually Relevant, Okay?

(Jimmy Sellers) #1

I used the authors title in my post.
To be fair it was the next article in the link that @David_Vermaak shared in his discussion titled

Here is the link to this very interesting article. I would be interested in the community’s thoughts. I read it several times I went from mad, to not so bad, to not quite on board. In other word it shocked me at first and then it made sense, but it came up short in the end. It seemed like a lot of other “let’s go back to the future movements” and believe me I am a fan of looking at the church and its beginnings in the historical cultural context of that day and I remind my friends and church members when appropriate that the Greeks and Romans were very religious but not religious as modern-day Christian understand religion.

In any event it will be interesting to hear your thoughts.
PS: read some of the comments to this article.

(SeanO) #2

@Jimmy_Sellers The gist of the article appears to be ‘people will care what you know when they know how much you care’ or ‘live out your faith and people will see its relevance’. And it appears targeted at attempts to preserve right wing dominance in politics and culture that are filled with hypocrisy. I agree that these movements are upsetting, but I am not sure what to make of the article.

The title is provocative but illogical - Christ is always relevant. The method of communicating Christ involves self-sacrifice and love, which I think is what the author is trying to say. However, I think the article may be overly optimistic in its prediction of a response from unbelievers if we would just live out our faith. This argument has long frustrated me.

Jeremiah lived out his faith - Ezekiel lived out his faith - Noah lived out his faith - Jesus lived a perfect life - the crowds just wanted food and healing. The way of Life is narrow and no matter how much we live out Christ we should not expect masses of unbelievers to suddenly choose self-control, godliness and eternal glory over the lusts of the flesh. Jesus said that the darkness hates the light and the world loves those who belong to it - but we are not of the world. So the argument that if we would ‘only live out our faith’ suddenly people would see the relevance of Christ falls flat in my opinion.

Looking forward to hearing other thoughts.

(Jimmy Sellers) #3

Had it not been the next article in the link I would never have given it or him a moments thought. I took the time to google Ben Sledge, he is a pastor at Gateway Church in Central Austin and a number of articles posted on a website

And I found this on utube. Very interesting story and a point of view that would have appealed to me 50 yrs ago.

(SeanO) #4

@Jimmy_Sellers I think Mr. Sledge is making a valid point, so I certainly think there is value in his argument - especially as he referenced how early Christians were salt and light in their culture and brought about real social change. Do you feel like his Church is aiming to be seeker sensitive? Is he part of the emergent movement? What do you guys feel are the benefits / downsides of this approach?

(sandycathcart) #5

@ Jimmy_Sellers

Thank you so much for sharing this article. Aside from the language this article says exactly what has been on my heart for a long time. And I agree with SeanO that CHRIST is always relevant, and I suspect Ben would agree, but the word “Christian” in our society has come to mean something other than a person who actually follows Christ. I hardly ever tell people I’m a Christian anymore. I usually say I’m a follower of Jesus and I point to the person of Jesus above all else.

I was very excited to find the link to his articles and sermons. My heart has been heavily burdened for people who are losing their way in this world, falling into depression and committing suicide. I’m so glad to see he has good answers that I can point people to.

I’m curious. Have you thought about why the article made you mad? And what keeps you from climbing on board?

I would love to have more discussion on this. The main thing I have learned from these RZIM courses is how much we need to love and listen to other people. It has radically changed the way I reach out to people. I now pray each morning for God to give me the opportunity to touch someone with His love.

Looking forward to hearing more from you. Again, thanks for sharing this!

(sandycathcart) #6

Thanks for sharing Sean. I agree with you totally, but I did not see that Ben was saying that at all.

What I got out of the article is that we need to live “real” Christian lives, even if it means we might die in the process, for even our deaths may strike a chord in some people’s hearts. Striking a chord doesn’t mean people will fall to their knees and give their lives over to Christ. But it does mean that something inside them will either be drawn to the love of Christ or make them extremely angry. People who are truly seeking truth will see Christ’s love in us as attractive.

I am the worship leader of a very small rural church and I have been saddened by the views of some of the Christians in our church toward nonbelievers. The law has become more important than love. And I have never understood how anyone could expect nonbelievers to act like Christians. I thought that was more what Benjamin was addressing here among other things.

God has always separated a remnant and I’m excited to see what he does with this generation of young people who are choosing a different way to follow Christ in truth. It also frightens me, so I continue to pray that God will lead them in ways that will truly shine His light in this dark time.


(SeanO) #7

@sandycathcart You’re optimism and hopefulness are surely a blessing to the saints :slight_smile: I agree with the main thrust of Ben’s argument that we should truly love our neighbor and that there has been much hypocrisy within the Church. I think those statements are undeniable.

But I think he makes some claims about the direction of the Church that are uncertain, such as:

“People will be curious why you were kind to them when they may have been a jerk to you. That’s attractive.

“The reason I’m excited about the shift is because as the cultural converts die, vibrant Christians will take their place. Churches will be smaller and stranger to the public, but they’ll be healthier.”

People might not be curious why you were nice - they may just take it for granted. And every time a cultural convert dies there is no guarantee a vibrant Christian will pop up in their place. If we look at Europe’s trajectory over the last century, we see this is certainly not the case. I think that only God knows what the future will hold for the Church in America - whether we are faithful or no.

That said, I am not trying to be a pessimist - God will build His Kingdom and Christ will be victorious :slight_smile: And I fully trust that will be true here in America and not only in Asia and South America where the Church is exploding. Praise God that you are serving in the rural Church - I hear God is doing great things in our rural communities and I am sure you are a part of that!

(sandycathcart) #8

Thanks for sharing Sean. I see what you mean. Yes. Ben made some big claims and you are certainly correct that some people will just expect kindness and not think anything about it. I have actually experienced that quite often, BUT there will be those who will respond and those are the ones we are reaching.

I spent over a decade ministering in the county jail to many women. I taught bible studies in the jail, visited their homes, brought them to church, and coached their births in the hospital. I was often called a Pollyanna. Your words kind of made me feel like that again. And I guess I do tend to be optimistic, but I serve an amazing God! Out of the many women I ministered to only about a dozen turned their lives around. BUT that dozen was worth it. And time will tell if some of the other women may change after God finishes His call to them through someone else.

Yes, you are right that there isn’t always a vibrant Christian to pop up in the place of a cultural convert. And that’s one of the things that frightens me about our culture. So much of our youth seem to be going down a dangerous path. But I also see through church history that we tend to get stagnant in our way of worship and need to be shaken up. I’m thinking of the desert fathers and St. Francis and Luther and Calvin. And it sure seems like we need some shaking up.

One interesting thing is that when I was in Bible school one of my assignments was to tell what I would be looking for in a church if I were to relocate. My first two things were 1. a good biblical teacher and 2. good worship that draws us into the presence of Christ.

Then, when we moved here, I found myself in a church where the pastor preaches the same sermon every Sunday and the worship was sadly lacking. Yet, my husband and I saw that they had an incredible outreach to the community and really loved one another in spite of enormous differences in church backgrounds. We have been there five years now and the result is that we have the pastor attending bible school with us and I have gathered a worship team together. So now, if I were looking for a new church I would be looking for a group of people where I can be stretched in learning to love.

I do miss the teaching and worship at the big church I used to attend, but I never had the sense of real connectedness we have here. I do think going smaller might be a good thing. After all, the church is God’s people. I got lost in all those people before.

Just some thoughts springing out of yours. Thanks for sharing!

(SeanO) #9

@sandycathcart Wow, you make me want to attend a small Church again :slight_smile: It is very insightful that your definition of what you wanted in a Church changed as you matured. I think that is very helpful! So often we look for the best preachers and music, but you are bringing the music and the preaching to the people who are loving one another already.

(Brittany Bowman) #11

This topic speaks heavily on my heart and is a great question. I’d like to bring Abdu Murray’s book, “Saving Truth,” into the conversation because of his ability to relate controversial cultural topics into our higher value as sons and daughters of God. Murray describes how in one lecture a woman asked about her experience with same-sex relationships. He explained how the purpose of marriage is to imitate God’s self-sacrificing love for His Church, and the girl cried, saying, “No one has ever told me I was was made in God’s image before.” Imagine if Murray had not been bold enough to lovingly address such a controversial topic, as the article’s author suggests he should have done.

I believe there is a delicate balance between works and logic, and indeed, “Faith by itself without works is dead,” (James 2:17). However, Peter’s decision to not simply provide money to the beggar in Acts 3 allowed him to meet both his spiritual and physical needs. God was praised and many converted, but only because he had the courage to not simply meet the man’s physical needs in fear of offending the Pharisees. I’ve tried the approach in this article before, and it was dangerously ineffective. My friends saw I was a good person, but none had the courage to ask me questions about why I was being kind. Instead, they thought it was simply from my flesh’s willpower and discipline, which led down the dangerous path of them seeking to attain goodness outside of God. They didn’t realize their full value as children of God because I avoided controversial topics, where I could have lovingly shown them.

Murray’s book is something I have been searching for for years, and I hope it speaks truth into your lives, as well. Great topic!

(SeanO) #12

@Brittany_Bowman1 Thank you for sharing the story from Murray and relating it to the apostle Peter. May God give us the courage to speak the truth as we live out our faith without fear of men that His name may be exalted and the lives of those around us transformed!