Me: "I've seen lots of movies. I must be relevant!". Hermione: "Huh?"
Is Christianity still relevant in a postmodern and pluralistic culture?
A lot of Christians pride themselves on how relevant they are. They do their best to understand and empathize with our culture.
Unfortunately, a lot of Christians are misguided in their attempts to become more relevant. They watch lots of movies, wear the right clothes, sip expensive lattes, and immerse themselves in CNN and the New York Times thinking they’ve cracked the cultural code.
I love what Ed Stetzer says about “being missional”. He said, “Seems like everyone wants to be missional but when they say “missional” they really mean “edgy,” “innovative,” or “contemporary.”
We should connect with our culture but how do we do so with Biblical and personal integrity? Let’s look at three ways we think we are connecting (but aren’t) and one way to truly connect.
Three ways you might think you are connecting with culture, but probably aren’t
1. You are watching what they are watching
Watch more movies, that’s the answer! Right? TV and movies are like windows into the minds of our neighbors. They must be gifts from God!
That might’ve been a bit sarcastic but pop culture does have some value. Movies like Religulous show us how Christianity is perceived (or caricatured) and points out some of our own faults. Movies like Napolean Dynamite generate a cult following. TV shows often influence the way our culture thinks about sex and relationships.
Timothy Tennent is the president of Asbury Theological Seminary and the author of Theology in the Context of World Christianity. I had him for a class on World Missions in 2007 when he was still a professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
I’m including some of the highlights from a lecture he presented on the 7 Megatrends Affecting Global Missions in the 21st Century:
1st Megatrend: The Collapse of Christendom
› For the longest time, Christianity was at the center of American culture. It was socially acceptable and sometimes even profitable to be Christian in our society. In the 21st century, however, Christianity will move more and more towards the periphery.
› Hendrik Kraemer said, “The Church is always in a state of crisis; its greatest shortcoming is that it is only occasionally aware of it.”
› We are moving from a state of belief to a state of unbelief.
› We are moving from a denominational to a global identity. Being Presbyterian or Methodist is not as important today.
2nd Megatrend: The Rise of Postmodernism
› There are theological, cultural, and ecclesiastical crises that arise from postmodernism. People no longer believe that truth is true. The power of the word is lost for most people. For a preacher who believes that God has revealed Himself through words, this is a dangerous mindset.
3rd Megatrend: The Collapse of “the West Reaches the Rest” Paradigm
› The emergence of a Post-Christian West (4,200 people are leaving the Christian faith per day in Western countries).
› The emergence of a Post-Western Christianity (In non-Western cultures, Christianity is blossoming, for example, in Africa alone Christianity gains about 24,000 new members per day!)