Spirituality, Scripture, and the Art of Being Irrelevant

Here it goes again.  Someone in my church universe just tossed the word “relevant” into the conversation.

That’s a word I hear pretty often.  The church needs to be relevant, people say.  I’m not exactly sure what folks mean by using that word, but I guess it means not looking old, or never saying something that seems foreign.

News flash:  the church is old!  The church is foreign to every time, place, and culture, because the gospel is a stumbling block to anyone who’s not one hundred per cent connected to God.  If you think about it, something about the church or its holy text has been labeled “irrelevant” somewhere along the road of history.   Consider these:

  • Galatians 3:28?  Irrelevant.  No one cares about females or slaves. (Except Jesus.)
  • Deuteronomy 24:19?  Irrelevant.  No one farms anymore.  (But we still have hungry people, right?)
  • Genesis 3?  Irrelevant.  No one likes to talk about sin.  (But what if I have sinned, and I can’t find anyone to talk to about it?)
  • Classical music?  Irrelevant.  No one finds any meaning in it.  (Except at Christmas.)

You get the point.  Everyone, even if they don’t want to admit it, takes in Scripture and faith and worship through a filter.  My question is, what’s relevant:  the filter or the stuff trying to break through it?

Along the path of spiritual development, particularly Christian spiritual development, one must confront the seemingly irrelevant stuff.  True spiritual development is stunted when we are content to surround ourselves with scriptures, prayers, and experiences that we like.  Somewhere along the way, if I want to grow in faith, I need to ask myself …

  • What does it mean to feed the hungry in 2011? 
  • What does it mean to be free?
  • If I feel connected to God in an expensive environment (plasma screens, poinsettias, orchestras, exquisite guitars) and not in a run-down country church, what is that saying?
  • Why do I sometimes feel that God isn’t there, but other times I feel God all around me?

Perhaps others find answers to these questions in their current cultural/economic/social situation.  Me, I have to go back to the old stuff.  Nothing speaks to me like words I’ve heard a thousand times in church, repeated just one more time for my ears that day.  Nothing brings me out of my bubble like a throwback to some ancient way of doing things.

I think it’s about time for those of us trying to be the church to claim our irrelevance.  Let’s be old, awkward, and weird.  We may just find God that way.

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