“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Christian Life - Part III - The Cult of Relevance

Well, as we progress through these posts, we find that they build on one another. We started with the Cult of Personality that raises some pastors to the status of celebrities, with all of the perks, and arrogance of a worldly celebrity. Then we looked at the Cult of Individualism, which causes the body to look like some kind of Frankenstein monster, rather than a beautiful bride being prepared for her wedding.

These two creat another cult -- the Cult of Relevance...

When you have pastors who begin to believe their own press clippings, thinking that they are somehow MORE than simply clay jars that are presenting the awesome message of the Gospel, you then begin to see their desire to be relevant in and of themselves, sometimes to the denigration of the Gospel!

Likewise, when you have people who are taught that church is all about them and their comfort, then these people begin to EXPECT that the message they come to hear will be about them.

Now, these two statements may cause you to wonder -- "Are you saying that our message should be irrelevant?" No, not at all, I am saying that the Cult of Relevance is not interested in the relevance of the Gospel in the lives of Christians, rather, it is interested in MAKING pastors and churches hip, cool and relevant from a worldly perspective, not a Godly perspective.

When you have pastors who think that it is appropriate to 'pitch' their latest book as opposed to preaching from God's Word, then you see the outworking of a worldly relevance. I have so often seen on TV a pastor lifting his book up and making this claim: "If you want to know how you can live a life full of __________ (fill in the blank) then you need my latest tome on XXXX"

When you sing 'worship' songs that use the words; me, us, I, and we, and never use Christ or God, you may be singing a song of relevance. It is about how I am feeling, and what I am going to do, and where I am at right now, as opposed to glorifying God and praising Him.

When you have youth leaders, and pastors who think it is 'cute' or 'relevant' to use common gutter language behind the pulpit, then you may be suffering from the Cult of Relevance as well. I know that many posts and blogwars have been focused around this one aspect of 'relevance', but the truth is that we are to be a people noted for NOT looking and sounding like the world. When we coopt the worlds ways and language, we are making the statement that their ways are somehow more 'relevant' or 'important' than the ways that Christ expounded in the Word. As a matter of fact, the Messiah made it clear that it was what came out of one's mouth that defiled them, not what went into it!

When we have sermons built around the 'Beverly Hillbillies', or 'Everyone Loves Raymond', or 'Mayberry RFD', then you may be relevant, but the message is that the Word of God finds it's relevance in sitcoms, rather than being relevant in and of itself. I have picked up some of these so-called sermons and studies and listened to them -- they are incredibly insipid, and almost devoid of anything that could be called Biblical learning!

When you have movie studios sending out contests that require pastors to do a sermo-mercial in order to win a trip to FLA., then you may be suffering from the Cult of Relevance. I do not fault the movie studios, they are of the world, but I DO fault the pastors who responded to this. And, by the way, there are more and more 'contests' that require sermo-mercials; why? Because they are effective and pastors comply!

So, what can we do about this? Well, here is a good place to start:

Matthew 16:24 - 26 -- Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?

Romans 16:17, 18 -- I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

2nd Timothy 3:1 - 6 -- But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions...

You see, if we die to selves, we will be a lot less worried about OUR relevance, and much more concerned about Christ's relevance. We must deacrease, and He must increase. As cool as James Brown was (one of my favorites), when he was lying in the casket, he was completely unconcerned about being relevant. Why? Because he was dead! So, if, as Christians we are supposed to be dead to self, why are we so consumed with being relevant in and of ourselves?

Notice that in the Romans quote above that we are to watch out for those who use smooth talk and flattery to teach contrary doctrines -- in other words, no matter how 'cool' someone sounds, their words and teaching must pass the litmus test of Biblical truth.

Amd finally, in the 2nd Timothy quote we find that people will become more and more self-centered -- well, what is this Cult of Relevance if not a self-seeking, self-centered attitude of arrogance? "I need to be cool" is the overarching concern of the modern pastor as opposed to "I need to be Godly".

Let us be more concerned with the things of God, and less concerned with the things of this world as we approach God!


Steve Sensenig said...

This series is so good, Ray. I haven't been commenting, but have been reading these posts with great interest. Keep it up!

Ray said...

Thanks for commenting Steve -- I, likewise, lurk at your site often... :-)

I have been trying to not use names and places, for two reasons:

There are far more churches infected/involved with the subjects than I could ever post.

And I really want people to think about the subject rather than reacting by protecting their favorite church -- besides, there are enough blogwars going on, I do not need to add fuel to that fire.

And finally, this little blog is my thoughts, not the definitive word on everything.