Thursday, 7 February 2013

Finding a Faith of Our Own

by Joel Hawting | @jhawting

I came across a fantastic article from Relevant Magazine today and thought that I'd share it with you. The article is called "Finding a Faith of Our Own" and can be accessed here.

Brandon Ambrosino provides some wonderful and challenging insights into the modern church. In particular, he highlights the quest that many churches seem to go on in trying to shape and market themselves as hip, relevant or trendy in order to win back disgruntled, bored or indifferent people who have grown up in, but have since left, the church.

This is an issue that I've personally been wrestling with for some time - to what degree does the Church become 'like' the world, in order to attract people to Christ? After all, when you consider how Jesus was in his times, He wasn't exactly what you would call hip. In fact, He was hated, despised and persecuted because He dared to be different - He dared to stand for the Father's will. That wasn't cool, that wasn't hip. He stood out - He was different.

I'll let some quotes from Brandon speak to this issue. Here are some thoughts from Brandon's post that particularly stood out for me:

"It’s no secret that the young demographic in churches today is wearing thin. Today’s twenty- and thirtysomethings who have grown up in the Church have grown disillusioned and discontented, and churches trying to intentionally reach them should be applauded. Yet I wonder if there are drawbacks in this approach. Our generation is emerging into adulthood—we’re claiming our independence and struggling to find our place in the world of jobs, relationships, finances and faith. And during this formative time, I wonder if it is counterproductive to forge a way of our own that is shaped more by who we don’t want to be than who we want to be. Are we framing our theology in terms of what it is not—not boring, not old-school, not whatever your parents raised you on? By defining our faith in terms of what it isn’t, have we assumed the role of the marginalized hipster and so built our faith on a framework that is reactionary and defensive? If we can only gain spiritual independence by distancing ourselves from “other” faith expressions, we risk organizing the body of Christ into “us” and “them.” Sure, it might be marketable, but is this really the point?"

"Jesus once compared His generation to children sitting in the marketplace, angry with Him because He wouldn’t dance when they expected Him to (Matthew 11). His point was that He didn’t come to be the Messiah they expected Him to be. He came to be who He was—to be, in a sense, who God was. “No, no,” this Messiah said. “I’m not here to overthrow Caesar. I’m here to overcome the world. Put away your flutes, and join Me in My dance as I recreate the universe one atom at a time.”"

"...neither this Messiah nor His message was very marketable. Quite the opposite, actually. Jesus’ angry episode in the temple was horrible for business. With indignation, the Messiah looked around at those who exploited the temple for their own purposes. And as He overturned the money tables, He chastised the merchants, calling them thieves, and accused them of turning the temple into something that reflected their own agendas—not God’s."

"Certainly, we need a faith of our own. We need to rediscover the glory of the Gospel in an age that has relegated it to something of no use and no importance. Certainly, we need to engage our faith individually and in community in authentic ways."
"Behold the man nailed to a tree—that peasant, from a working family, despised and unknown. Look at Him there—the weakness of God, rejected, despised, unfashionable as ever, cursed by His own Father. If only He’d gotten with the program. But He didn’t. And that’s the point of the cross. That’s why there was a cross. Jesus didn’t ever get with the world’s program. He remained authentic to who God wanted Him to be."

This is a big challenge for all of us who are in church leadership today. We need to not be so concerned with how we might be perceived, or too focussed on developing a brand of Christianity that is marketable. We need to simply get back to basics. We need to discover what and who God wants us to be and find peace in walking in His will for our lives. We don't need to be different; we just need to be authentic.

Do you think that the church in general struggles with this issue? What do you think Jesus' response would be to the churches constant focus on being culturally relevant or hip?

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