In this excerpt from his little book Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance,1 Os Guinness puts his finger on a key issue in the conservative Christian sub-culture. His comments are even more interesting when you consider the book was published in 2003:
It’s sad to say that rarely has the church seen so many of its leaders solemnly presenting the faith in public in so many weak, trite, foolish, disastrous, and even disloyal ways as today. Such leaders do not speak for most ordinary Christians I know. I suspect the press and media invite them to fulfill a stereotype rather than represent a serious position, but again and again for those who hold the faith with all their hearts and minds, the outcome is anger or sorrow.
But this is no time for logging dead horses. What we need to do is not only explore how this self-inflicted stupidity has happened, but how we can do better in a day that is hungry for a word from God …
Curiously, an embarrassing fact confronts those who inquire into the problem. This monumental and destructive carelessness has coincided exactly with a mania for relevance and reinvention that has gripped the church. So a disconcerting question arises: How on earth have we Christians become so irrelevant when we have tried so hard to be relevant? And by what law or logic is it possible to steer determinedly in one direction but end up in completely the opposite direction?
This is exactly the fate of a significant number of articulate leaders of Western Christendom. After two hundred years of earnest dedication to reinventing the faith and the church and to being more relevant in the world, we are confronted with an embarrassing fact: Never have Christians pursued relevance more strenuously; never have Christians been more irrelevant.
By our uncritical pursuit of relevance, we have actually courted irrelevance; by our breathless chase after relevance without a matching commitment to faithfulness, we have become not only unfaithful but irrelevant; by our determined efforts to redefine ourselves in ways that are more compelling to the modern world than are faithful to Christ, we have lost not only our identity but our authority and our relevance. Our crying need is to be faithful as well as relevant.
1 Os Guinness, Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 11-12, 15.
Tyler Robbins is a graduate of Maranatha Baptist Seminary, a DMin student at Central Seminary (Plymouth, MN) and a bi-vocational pastor at Sleater Kinney Road Baptist Church, in Olympia WA. He also works in State government. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist and is the author of What’s It Mean to be a Baptist?