Jesus is not Relevant!: Commentary on evangelicalism in the USA

What are people getting “saved to?” I am increasingly wondering this, and was an idea that was first introduced to me way back in seminary (02-03) by the professor of my Church and Culture class, Dr. Paul Metzger. I have continued to think about this, on the back, but in reality I think this is something that really has been pressing in on me with full frontal force, and increasingly so! I jesusflaglook around at the state of (my context) N. American evangelicalism and I have absolutely no idea what it is even about anymore. I grew up as the son of a Conservative Baptist pastor (as so many of you know already), and have been in the heart of evangelicalism right through my undergrad/grad experience and into the present. I am currently 41 years old, and in my short years I have seen evangelicalism move from a tight type of fundamentalism to now either a hyper-loose progressivism, or more in the main, an irrelevant “mainline-evangelicalism;” so even in my short span we can see the basis of the problem (i.e. Fundamentalism, and its proto-rationalism and turn to the subject as the norming norm of Christian spirituality).

This is just a personal reflection, as you will notice. But who I am thinking about in this are those who are outside of the church. I know that there are plenty of people still coming to a relationship with Jesus Christ, but then I wonder (for them): now what?! Most of the evangelical churches in America are more concerned with being “relevant” based upon their socially awkward perceptions of what they even thinks this means. As I already noted above, their pursuit for being “relevant” whatever that means (from my perception of what that means as it is played out in evangelicals churches [and I’ve visited many] what this looks like is that they attempting to make their church services feel and look like an Apple launching of a new product with their CEO [“lead” pastor] doing the launch etc.) has made them irrelevant! The church of Jesus Christ is not in the business of selling or projecting anything, we are in the business of bearing prophetic witness to Jesus Christ the concrete ground and inner reality of all things church. But this doesn’t seem “relevant” so instead what I see happening in most of evangelicalism is a Pelagian (oops … I said it!) short sell to people trying to make them feel like they fit in the broader culture. And yes, often times the pastor will challenge the body to some hard things in passive aggressive ways, but usually only to play the part (i.e. there is no real teeth to what is being communicated).

There is also this sense, apparently, for evangelicals that church history started either when they personally came to Christ or not much before the 20th century at the very latest! This is problematic for many reasons. For example: evangelicals tacitly endorse orthodox Christology (i.e. the full divinity and humanity of Christ); they endorse, in word, the Trinity (i.e. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit); they endorse justification by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone, but in all of this it is only inchoately affirmed (but they have no idea why, and if they had to explain what any of that even meant, by way of reference to the historical grammar supporting their affirmations they couldn’t even come close … and the really sad thing is is that they don’t even care for the most part!). So evangelicals are left to the wind of the culture, and to their own rationales to carve out a way for their personal style of Christianity. And so they have chosen in the 21st century to be relevant, to demonstrate how Jesus is relevant to the broader culture, and hope that He will be accepted, and that they then will be accepted. This gets cashed out most prominently in the “culture wars.” Evangelicals are conversionists, and so they hope, in order to feel good about themselves through acceptance by the “world” that the world will be converted to their projection of who Jesus Christ is with the result that the fabric of USA culture will look like the insides of the evangelical church in North America. But once we get to those insides one wonders where the substance is? Jesus looks and sounds ever so much like the evangelicals seeking to make Him relevant (like a projection of themselves). And this takes us full circle: who are people getting “saved to?” I ask!

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2 Responses to Jesus is not Relevant!: Commentary on evangelicalism in the USA

  1. Paul tells us in 1 thessalonians 5:16-18 the constants! for this I’d GODS will for us constantly joyful in all thins unto GOD, BEing thankful unto GOD always and in communication, praying, unceasingly. there are many places GOD can place each one of us after learning the basics or beyond into the meat of the word and deep spiritual things of God. being in the kingdom does take a childlike attitude of being awed still in even these latter days, of GODD great AWESOMENESS which HE is still displaying for us in the heavens and earth and in individuals as well as groups of people like HE did sparing those in ninevah during Johnahs time. let go and let GOD do the parenting and guiding of their ffootsteps. do the work GOD has for you to help HIM with when it is present. enjoy your day unto HIM, be thankful for all the greatness HE has put into your every moment. and continue talking and listening to HIM as HE talks to you.

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  2. Bobby Grow says:

    Stephen,

    Not sure how to respond to that, but my post had to do with personal observations I’ve made in the evangelical church. We are called to test all things and hold fast to what is good in that very same paragraph you shared from I Thess 5. We are called to encourage each other by speaking the truth in love as we see the day approaching. It is not loving to stay quiet, and God has called us to hold each other accountable to God’s Word. What you are asking me to do is to abdicate what God has called each of us to do within the body of Christ. When there is systemic error underwriting say evangelicalism then the most loving thing to do is to say something about it. My blog post here is mostly a vent though in this instance since most people who I would like to read it won’t.

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