Instead of Relevant…Go Retro

I’m off school for a couple of weeks, which has allowed me some breathing room and dig out from mire of Hebrew exegetical work and more. I still have a ton of school work but thought I’d catch up on some other reading as well. Since issues related to ecclesiology have been forefront on my mind lately, I picked up reading RetroChristianity, by Michael J Svigel from where I left off when the semester began. Now I confess I have a bit of a bias since Dr. Svigel is one of the profs in the Theological Studies dept at DTS, which is the dept of my ThM focus. But I also took him for Trinitarianism and Historical Theology I. Funny, Smart, a passion for church history (he loves the Apostolic Fathers), he has an even greater passion for Christians to think and behave Christianly and for the church to represent the faith well. This pours out of RetroChristianity and makes it a book worth reading.

In the past 500 years since the Protestant Reformation, things have gotten a bit crazy…and off course. Yet we live in the present and must contend with present realities. His solution is not abandon the present to capture the past NOR to forget the past and focus on the present (well actually we’re doing a pretty darn good job of the latter). Rather, he proposes reclaiming the past for the present.  In a nutshell;

RetroChristianity also acknowledges the egocentric nature of many evangelicals’ approaches to church and spirituality. We need to counter the preference-driven mentality rampant among so many churches, replacing it with a more biblical, historical, and theological framework through which we can make informed decisions regarding doctrine, practice and worship. This will help us wisely balance the vital elements of church, worship, ministry, and spirituality, avoiding excesses, extremes, distractions and distortions.(21)

As I read through the latter half of the book, particularly Section Three: RetroClesiology: Beyond the Preference Driven Church, I could not help but think about the contemporary evangelical church’s fascination with cultural relevance. Interestingly, I came across this piece by Ed Stetzer on the importance of change and embracing evolving forms of worship as long as there is a commitment to the gospel. Well, I agree with gospel centeredness. But I think we can also go to such extremes that makes everything we do church-wise about cultural relevance.

There seems to be this prevailing mindset that if we don’t make the church culturally relevant that we might lose people. Well, that goes back to my previous post here about seeker sensitivity. No doubt, there will be seekers who come into our gatherings. But the church is designed for the believer. If one is truly converted it will necessarily change affections. That would lead to an interest in learning about the God they have now placed their trust and what that means for faith and practice.That means our churches should have a greater concern of h faithfulness to the Christian message than faithfulness to the culture.   Yet so many pastors today fear that any lack of cultural relevance will lose people. Why is that? If there is affection placed on Christ, they’ll get it.

I’m concerned that too much focus on cultural relevance will lose something significant of the past related to the historic Christian faith. Svigel’s sentence here rings true;

For too long evangelicals have been trying to update the church. Today they have tamed it by removing its offensive counter-cultural equivalents. The result is not an improvement to the church, but a weakening of it. (146)

Let’s not make the church so culturally relevant that it becomes irrelevant to Christianity. It would be a far greater tragedy to lose the Christian message and faithfulness to biblical church practice than lose those within the church who may not have gotten it anyway because they’re affections were not placed on Christ in the first place. It is his church. Let’s honor him not ourselves.

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