relevance and “holy originality”

Sticking with the church theme, I already mentioned Ryan’s helpful discussion of the term “relevance”, but I wanted to highlight a few quotes from the article he cites from Timothy Larson:

The value of “relevance” can easily degenerate into the shedding of the real, solid, indispensable features of the Christian life in a demeaning chase after the latest fads. Such an undesirable outcome is perhaps merely a manifestation of a larger tendency, which has gone on for several decades now, to remake church life in the image of the tastes of 12- to 16-year-olds.


Larson continues his mostly scathing critique wondering if today’s youth culture were to respond to Christianity’s attempts at relevancy, what would they say? Stop trying so hard to be relevant, for God’s sake!”

Hmm..."stop trying so hard"... another chance to post this comical and scary satire of the 21st century church:

In the meantime, I continue to make my through Phil Wagler’s book, Kingdom Culture. A comment I read this week relates well to this discussion of relevance. Speaking on the implementation of church vision, I resonate with what Wagler describes as “holy originality” -

There ought to be a holy originality to a genuine spiritual vision birthed within the context of the age and locale in which we serve. The unending presence of big box and big name franchising we see in our cities and towns causes us to believe that we have only really arrived when a McDonald’s or a Wal-Mart blesses us with their consumerist presence. This false sense of identity also reveals itself in our churches when we carbon copy an original vision of contextualizing the dreams of God in some other place into our body life because “everyone is doing it.

Interestingly, however, when I think of originality my mind often leaps to what's already “cool” or more appropriate to this discussion, “relevant.” Yet "holy originality" doesn't gaurentee relevance. Wagler warns against adopting someone else’s originality, suggesting instead that Christians seek the “creativity of the Spirit” in our attempts to love God and love others “in new ways for a new day in new places.” How this looks will vary.

This originality means there is a particularity of every situation. There will never be a perfect church to emulate. There is no such thing as "generic" faithfulness that can be transported to any and every situation. Even Jesus’ recipe for successful ministry failed at certain times and certain places (e.g. Mark 6:1-5).

In the comments of his post, Ryan raises a point I think relates well to this idea of "holy originality." He comments, "it seems possible to me that we could be deemed 'irrelevant' and that this wouldn’t, in fact, be a bad thing."

Here's a thought to leave you with: it's quite possible that the church is only truly relevant when it's irrelevant.


Ryan said...

"Holy originality." I like that much better than "irrelevance" :). I also like how Wagler frames the role of the church—especially in light of the fact that the big box mentality can creep into how we do church as well. I also like how he emphasizes the importance of each congregation relying on the Spirit to lead and guide them as a unique expression of Christ's body.

David Warkentin said...

Yeah, irrelevance could be open to misinterpretation misuse, perhaps an accepted lazieness in contextualization our faith appropriately (which it seems is what "holy originality" is all about).

I definitely recommend Wagler's book if you're looking for a thoughtful exploration of church and kingdom (another one for the list!)

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