It’s my turn to ask anything.

Okay. We’ve had a steady diet of responses to many of the questions you all have asked over the past weeks. I’ll resume answering your questions early next week. For now, I’d like to ask you a question.

Do you feel the church today is relevant?

Here are some ground rules for the way you answer this.

1. Be specific about why you feel it is or, is not.

2. Do not use the names of people or specific churches. I will delete these immediately as I do not want to slander any person or church. The main goal of this is to get a feel for our experiences with the church.

So…what do you think?

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~ by Anthony Orzo on November 6, 2009.

22 Responses to “It’s my turn to ask anything.”

  1. By “church” you mean a denominational or nondenominational entity that meets and has rules and regs?

    Or – do you mean Christians who are deemed the church simply because of who they are?

    you said be specific. =]

  2. To clarify this…let’s look at it from the persepctive of the local church. The church that sits on just about every corner or every neighborhood. This is the church we are talking about. I would assume that there is a mixed bunch of people gathering in those buildings.

    Specific is good :).

  3. This is probably a more interesting question than you know. (i’d be interested to know why you have asked this question.)

    My short answer is yes and no.

    I believe in 10 years this question will be easier to answer. I have started to view places like the church (still keeping with the local building on the corner defintion) as a platform. It is a meeting place with familiarity and traditions. In 10 years our platforms to a large degree are going to shift. Just as i am typing a response to your question in a dialogue here on your blog (and we could just as easily be chatting/IM’ing or video-chatting), we could be having this conversation in a church building. But we are not. It’s a good example of why Christ identified believers as the Church and not a meeting place. God invented platforms by which we have gratefully taken and communicated through from the beginning of time. Adam spoke to eve in the garden face to face. Somewhere along the way there were messengers and smoke signals and morse code and telephones and places to congregate (temples, town halls, churches, schools) and now the internet.

    The local corner church as we know it COULD be a modified version of what we now know of as a video chat room or video conference call in 10 years. In fact, here are three internet based churches that exist right now:
    1. http://www.internetchristianchurch.org/16170.html
    2. http://www.churchforall.org/worship.htm
    3. http://www.lifechurch.tv/

    *who knows what these churches believe, but the point is that they exist. log-in, worship, leave and blog about it. and everyone stays connected to everyone through twitter/facebook/thelistisendless 🙂

    Where will we be 10 years from now? Will we be getting up on Sunday morning and dressing our “sunday best” to walk or drive to church? Will the local corner church be more relevant than it is in each community or will it be less relevant?

    There is much more that goes into this, but that is my best first swing.

    -broos-alot

  4. Hey Lee. Do you believe the advent of the “e-church” is because people have tired of irrelevant “local churches”, or do you think it is a natural progression for a culture that is in the midst of a technological revolution?

  5. As for the church being relevant. For me this is an article of faith. It seems undeniable from Scripture that the church is as relevant as Christ. It that sounds extreme consider his statements and the Biblical description of the church as his body!. I think the Bible gives us some basic definition of the church as Christians in community with sacraments, preaching, government and disciple. These core “marks” of the church have, for me, been hammered out in countless debates and biblical studies throughout the century.

    Having said that I understand the question but think the answer is best approached by asking how we can shape the church and it’s ministries in such a way that we demonstrate it’s relevance and engage our culture. Can the defining marks of the local church look very different in changing culture? Yes. Is there freedom for a fluid approach to the way the church is formed and looks that “fits” culture without compromising the essence of what it means to be church? Surely. But I think we will get at the answers to those questions best when we affirm the underlying relevance and even centrality of the church in Scripture. Buildings, the importance of Sundays, the shape of Sunday mornings, the form of proclamation may and can change.

    One more thought. The human heart, fallen and often wounded in life, abuses both grace and law and will abuse technology just as it has abused tradition. In other words there may be another reason, not so positive, for the advent of the “e-church”. It’s easier, less demanding, you don’t have to hang out with people you don’t like, interact with old folks, waste time or make sacrifices. Of course these motives would not be true of all or maybe even of most those who are into “e-church”.

    One of my favorite blogs on technology and church and lots of others stuff is Goddmanson.com. Drew Goodmanson is an Acts 29 pastor a Kaleo in San Diego. he and I have been speakers at some of the same church-planting conferences. he’s well-informed and thoughtful on all such stuff and gives multiple perspectives. Here’s a post he did on virtual community

    http://www.goodmanson.com/church-technology/is-online-community-real-com

  6. I just noticed on my previous post the first time I mentioned Goodmanson.com I misspelled it Goddmanson.com. Please note the correction. The link is good.

  7. Hey Ant–

    “Relevant” here is equivocal. I suspect that may be intentional.

    Do you mean: (1) is THE local church, considered generically, “relevant?” or, (2) is an average North American local church “relevant?”

    But, beyond that, perhaps you can clarify precisely TO WHAT you are asking whether the church is relevant.

    As to what I think: I think I can’t answer the question without some further clarification.

    Just me, perhaps.

    cks

  8. Yes, Kelly. There is an equivocal nature to the word relevant in my question. I am interested in learning what my readers see as “relevant” in regard to the work and mission of the church.

    As far as your question about the local church…well it means just that. I would like to hear about the experiences my readers have had with the church in their indigenous environments. Obviously, this could be anywhere. The post asks for specifics, so that rules out blanket judgments about a whole continent.

    Hope that helps.

  9. Hey Ant-

    You’ve still haven’t disambiguated the term, that I can tell. And I still don’t know the answer to the question, “Relevant to what?”

    I can’t offer a specific response to a question whose main term is ambiguous.

    It’s like asking, “Is locally produced milk important?”

    My $0.02.

    cks

  10. I would note in passing that this–

    “I am interested in learning what my readers see as ‘relevant’ in regard to the work and mission of the church”

    –is a fundamentally different question than, “Do you feel the church today is relevant?”

    I would also like to note that my “feelings” might not be germane to getting at the truth of the matter.

    I don’t feel that I’m an authoritative arbiter at this point.

    cks

  11. Oddly enough…others did.

    My $0.02. 🙂

  12. I’ll bite cks…responding to your question “Relevant to what?”…let’s begin with cultural relevance.

  13. According to Webster’s dictionary the first definition of “relevant” is to have significant and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand”. I thought the matter at hand was implied in the word “today”. In addition the common and most customary usage of the word “relevant” today assumes that we are talking about the culture in which we live unless a more narrow issue is identified. So I don’t think the question as stated is that ambiguous. Having said that I think that most local churches are not as demonstrably relevant as they could be and should be. By this I mean I think most local church can and should do better at engaging the issues and the questions of our culture in the language of our culture with far more demonstrable relevance to the culture.

    That my two cents. I also think it is more culturally friendly to write out “two cents” than to require people to figure out that’s what all those numbers and decimal points add up to.

  14. I think the church as a whole is approaching the mark of being relevant however it still has a long way to go. It seems that the “Christian Community” in the 90’s and early 00’s tried to make a parallel culture instead of actually trying to impact mainstream culture. I think that this really has hurt the impact that churches have tried to make on the common person in United States today.
    As of the last few years there has been a big push for the church to become “relevant”. I think at first alot of church leaders thought that being relevant to a younger generation meant being “cool”. This has led to alot of people my age (mid twenties) to think that church needs to have flashy lights and loud music and cool events, but that discussion is for another post.
    In the past year or so it seems that most churches are begining to figure out that the church just needs to be real. The church is changing with culture and people really desire for people to be real and not to be perfect. Maybe this is why “reality TV” is such a hit now.
    So to finally answer your question I think that the church is learning and will continue to be releveant in society today. Just as Christ is always relevant the church will become relevant.

    • Hi Larry:

      You wrote: “According to Webster’s dictionary the first definition of ‘relevant’ is to have significant and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand.’ I thought the matter at hand was implied in the word ‘today.'” And: “So I don’t think the question as stated is that ambiguous.”

      I’m sure others agree with your take. Since Ant specifically asked me to respond to this question, I felt it necessary first to clarify as exactly as possible what he intended by his question. My questions were meant to clarify, not quibble.

      Looking at your Webster’s citation, perhaps you can see how open ended the question is. We might ask: “Does the church have a significant and demonstrable bearing on”–to use your summary term–“today” [which I take to mean something like “our present culture”]?

      Well, to my mind, the answer to that question is completely up in the air, depending upon further clarification.

      After all, what does it mean for [X] to “have a significant and demonstrable bearing upon [Y]?” We might answer, “to be relevant to,” but that’s rather unhelpful, as the term “relevant” is precisely what is at issue. It seems to me that for “[X] to have a significant and demonstrable bearing upon [Y],” [X] is, in some sense, a driving force–an impelling force–that causes [Y] to do something, to act in a certain way. At any rate, [X] drives [Y] to some sort of (perceived) appropriate action.

      Does it count if the local “church” does have a significant and tangible effect, but that effect is negative? I think one could certainly argue that (a certain church) is relevant to its community (and even nationwide) in the sense I’ve outlined above. Unfortunately, its impact is completely negative. Relevant? Yes. Impactful? Sure. (Note all the injunctions against (a certain church).) Helpful? Not at all.

      (I wouldn’t count Phelps as a brother in Christ, but I think the underlying point is clear.)

      What about Christian abortion clinic protesters? (John Piper, for example [with two other pastors from his church] has been arrested at least once that I’m aware of for peacefully demonstrating outside an abortion clinic in Minneapolis.) If that’s not a culturally-relevant act, I haven’t met one! I have to believe that such conscience-bound Christian protesting is impactful on culture. But, what is the cultural perception of those engaging in such acts of protest? Some undoubtedly approve; others, I’m sure, view them with disdain, even disgust. When three of Bethlehem Baptist’s pastors are arrested for peaceful demonstration against the God-denying horror of abortion, is Bethlehem Baptist acting in a way that is “relevant” to the culture of Minneapolis? I’d say so.

      My attempts at clarification were not intended to insinuate that Ant has asked a silly question; rather, he has asked an exceptionally complex one–one that is susceptible to any number of answers depending on what one means by “relevance.”

      Just what are the criteria of “relevance?”

      When we press on the terms even slightly they explode with rich resonances and unfortunate ambiguity.

      It seems that some respondents are answering Ant’s question as if “relevance,” in this discussion, has an agreed-upon definition, obvious to all–something self-evident. And, perhaps it is. If so, I confess, I’m hopelessly out of the loop.

      You wrote: “By this I mean I think most local church can and should do better at engaging the issues and the questions of our culture in the language of our culture with far more demonstrable relevance to the culture.”

      To your thinking, what would it mean for the local church “[ to engage] the issues and the questions of our culture in the language of our culture with far more demonstrable relevance to the culture?” More specifically, what would a response that has “far more demonstrable relevance to the culture” look like? What specific change(s) would you like to see embraced?

      If you have some idea what “more demonstrable relevance” is, then perhaps you can define what “relevance” itself is. I’m certainly interested in your take.

      You wrote: “I also think it is more culturally friendly to write out ‘two cents’ than to require people to figure out that’s what all those numbers and decimal points add up to.”

      Truthfully, it never occurred to me to spell out the words. I searched my keyboard in vain for the “cents” symbol and, having failed to find it, made do with what I had to hand ($). (I sometimes miss the forest for the trees.) Your solution is certainly simpler.

      Best.

      cks

    • Cody, your comments and analysis of the church is really insightful. I believe you are right in many ways. There are many upstart churches that are embracing the kind of methodology you spoke abput in your post. Also, you can count on us having a post on the place of lighting in worship. I have been thinking about this alot recently. Glad to have been your YM 🙂

  15. I (rather unintentionally) broke the letter of Ant’s law regarding names, but not, I hope, the spirit. I would ask that Ant let my post stand as is, as my examples are instructive, rather than maliciously revelatory.

    cks

  16. Also, as my post makes clear, buy my formatting doesn’t, I was responding to Larry, rather than to Cody. Sorry for the confusion on my end.

    cks

  17. Well, what do you say then, Ant? What are the criteria of relevance, in the sense assumed–but not defined–in your question?

    How do you distinguish between a relevant church and an irrelevant one? Or, more specifically, between a relevant church act and one that is not?

    What do you mean by “relevant?”

    cks

  18. Ant.

    Answering you question to me – I think there would have to be a bit of both going on there. A natural progression to an extent but for that progression to take place there needs to be some disinterest.

    It is very reflective of our relationship with Christ. To repose your question in this light – Do you believe the advent of sin (and the pull it has on us away from Christ) is because of our disinterest in Christ or do you see it as a natural progression (based on evil’s plan) for us to move in that direction?

    If our faith in and zeal for Christ was strong then we would have less of a disinterest in Him and therefore less of a pull to move toward sin (but not completely because it is a part of who we are).

    If our relationship with our local church was as intimate as it needed to be and portrayed the marriage picture that Christ intended, then we would have less disinterest in leaving it for an e-church or a new “progressive” platform of worship. Therefore the progressive platform would not survive because the current platform was getting the job done.

  19. Thanks Kelly.

  20. Hi Ant-

    You wrote: “Thanks Kelly.”

    I’m not sure what I’m being thanked for, honestly, but I have to assume that this was directed to me.

    I do wonder if you (or Larry) have any thoughts on the questions I posed to you (and, in part, to him).

    I believe they go to the very heart of your question and I have to admit that I don’t understand the subsequent silence.

    To refresh, they were:

    (1) What are the criteria of relevance?

    (2) How do you distinguish between a relevant church and an irrelevant one?

    (3) How do you distinguish between a relevant church act and one that is not?

    (4) What do you mean by “relevant?”

    I know that you’re busy this weekend, but I hope that you will, at some point, be able to address them, or at least give some indication as to why they are not “relevant” to the question you posed for us, your readers.

    cks

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