Blue Like Jazz and my thoughts on “relevance”
If youre a Christian under the age of 25, you’ve heard of ”Blue Like Jazz”, a book that promises to open your mind and challenge your views on Jesus and Christianity. A book that forces you to “take God out of the box”. After reading it, (finally) i have to say, i agree with this review. This review was written by someone who was once a part of the “Christian lifestyle” and chose against continuing on that path. His point of view is fascinating in regards to this book. Its sad that whatever he was looking for, (a true, living, Christ), he did not find in this book, and I encourage you to sincerely pray for him and others who are searching for the Truth. Here is the review.
It’s safe to say I did not like this book. Its not that I didnt agree with some of the things in the book. I just do not like the movement it so clearly represents. Whats my problem? Being made to feel as if my view of Christ is outdated is really getting under my skin. My relationship with Jesus Christ is personal and alive and something that is extremely real. Every day I learn something new and interesting about His personality and His love and grace and mercy and sense of humor. Every day I come up with more questions, and every day I get answers to questions previousely inquired. Jesus Christ is my best friend. I have had doubts about Him, I have pushed Him away and built walls I didnt think He would care enough to get through. But He did, and He has my whole heart. I love Him more than anything, and there is no question in my mind he is the one and only true, living, God.
It seems to me that this movement prioritizes relationships with others, over your own relationship with Christ. The basic view is, ” do good works and have good relationshps with non-believers and then when people ask why youre so different, tell them about Jesus”. I agree with living out your faith by doing works. I dont think that doing works is limited to a conscious effort that must be orchestrated and carried out in an organized, pre-determined manner. I agree with having good relationships… but I feel as if this is where the whole relevance thing gets out of control.
Relevance, or the pressure to be relevant is the new epidemic sweeping young Chrstians right now. The focus is bridging the gap between church, and the world so that people in the world wont be afraid to come to church. We are trying to prove that we are regular people, living regular lives and dealing with every day issues. . . but how far do you go to prove such a thing? We are re-doing church services, turning up the amps for the worship band, adding comfy couches and a coffee bar and orchestrating light shows all for the sake of being culturally relevant. Why? Because the more we appear to be like the world, the more the world will accept what we are doing and think its cool enough to be a part of. Its not a horrible idea, unless the message of Christ is comprimised – which in most cases, it is. I once heard a pastor say that the attention span of young people are so limited, that he often will only prepare lessons 20 minutes or less…. usually consisting of a life experience leading to a moral lesson backed by a verse or passage. the worship band is onstage for twice the amount of time.
Call me old fashioned, but I enjoy hearing God’s word. The many people who worship to blaring rock music and raise their hands at the climax of “awesome God” for hours but fall asleep or have trouble sitting still when God’s word is being taught, worry me. So what do you do when people are falling asleep in their chairs?? shorten the sermon! of course! It keeps people interested and happy and coming back for more. Basically, we are just allowing the Holy Spirit to move during worship! What, Jess has a problem with this? Jessica, stop being so old fashioned. Allow God to move in this place! We dont need a routine, take God out of the box Jess!
But why? So when you bring your friend who doesnt believe in Jesus to the “concert” which is actually a church service, they can just ignore the morality stuff and get into the music and the coffee! And hang out with Christians who are ALSO into the music and the coffee! Then they will ask you… “wow this is church??” and you say, “yeah isnt it neat-o?” and they say “hell yeah!”
This is the problem I have though. For someone to tell me that I have to “update” the way I relate to Him, in order for others to notice and inquire is frustrating. Im still trying to wrap my head around the concept.I cant tell you how many times Ive heard that “relevant Christianity” is necessary to reach this generation and just because i think its crap, it must mean im “not taking God out of the box?” or, my favorite was when a leader in a church I previousely attended told me I was ”spiritually proud” because i said i would never set foot in a church that considers itself “emergent”, after doing research on the subject.
He argued that the social aspect of the emergent church was where the fundamentalists are lacking. Helping the homeless, frequenting soup kitchens, freely giving away possessions are all things the emergent church smiles upon. This is great!! I think a church based on Acts 2 is wonderful. I think we are all called to interact generously and unselfishly wiht others… but the aspects of universalism and the idea of creating heaven on earth is where the emergents lose me, (and the Bible).
Social gospel is fine, if youre actually preaching the gospel! We are called not only to feed the poor and comfort the widows, but to make desciples. How can you do that if you dont preach the gospel? Well many have made the proposition that you simply live out your Christian life. As you live out your Christian life, people are going to naturally want to know what makes you so different from everyone else. Why youre so happy, and giving and why your eyes twinkle in the moonlight. and your answer? “Because Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life and was sacrificed for the sin of the world. On the third day, He rose again and joined the Father in heaven, where you will go if you repent, turn away from your sin, and put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ!” Hm. thats not cool. Its the truth, but its not cool. maybe… MAYBE people will THINK its cool, if they think YOURE cool…. so youve got to find a way to be relevant!!! yes!! be relevant so that when you share the gospel, people will respect what you have to say.
Being “relevant” means I have to relate to this generation, speak the same language. So now for the sake of being relevant, I can go to bars, maybe take a few shots (its ok as long as I dont get drunk, right?), actively listen to inappropriate conversations(im just listing!), maybe throw around a few curse words. Im just connecting with this generation, theres nothing wrong with that! It makes it easier to talk about Jesus! This way, when all my friends go out and get trashed at the bar, they wont think im stuck up because ill be right next to em drinkin a fuzzy navel. Only one. Ok, maybe two, because even if i do get trashed, God will forgive me. Ive got grace, man! I can build trust and a deep fulfilling relationships with people, and then when they ask about what makes me diff- wait a second. uh oh. What makes me different? I feed people and stuff! oh wait, so does angelina jolie…
now we have a dilema. This, ladies and gentlemen is how being “relevant” can be taken to a dangerous level.
If you are concentrating so hard to “bridge the gap” between you and the world, more likely than not… its the world that affects you. Your life looks less like Christ, and more like your friend Diane. Diane doesnt believe in Jesus. Diane thinks she knows the whole story of Jesus, but she doesnt. Diane drinks her doubts and self esteem issues away 3 times a week. Her good Christian friend drives her to all the bars, only having a drink or two herself, cause shes driving. Her friend is the only person Diane can think of who goes to church every sunday. Diane even goes with her Christian friend on some saturdays to feed the homeless. It makes her feel really good to know that she can help someone out. Diane knows theres something else out there. . . but cant figure out what it is.
Maybe if Diane saw change in her Christian friend, she would see that Christ is the “something else” she is looking for. If Dianes friend stopped trying to be cool, and stopped supporting her destructive behavior, it may give her reason to look at her own actions and see her own need for a savior.
Its ok to be separate from the world. If you have a true relationship with Christ, people are probably going to think youre insane. Its ok for people to think negative thoughts about you and think that youre weird for not getting drunk with them. Its ok to order a water when at the bar. And if you cant go to a bar without drinking, its ok to not go!! Its ok to not go see R rated movies if you dont want to. Its ok to enjoy a church service centered around verse-by-verse study of the Bible.
I mean, when paul was traveling around to the greeks who were swamped with philosophy and substitutes for the gospel, did he go drink and fornicate with them? No! He told them what they were doing was wrong, and that they should turn away from it.
make disciples. “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”
It is more important to preach the gospel than it is to be considered relevant.
Christ is never going to be “cool”. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. ” I Corinthians 1:18
People will not be saved until they realize their need for a savior.
Lets focus less on relevance and more on learning God’s word, so we can accurately share the Gospel with those who need to hear it. Reading God’s word will lead to living God’s word, but we cant just hope people notice how “good” we are, or how “cool” we are, or how much we love one another. We have got to stand strong and proud upon the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and actively share it with others. Thats what Jesus did, and thats what we ought to do as well.