Saturday, March 17, 2012

"Cutting Edge" Christianity, Part Three

Two points in this series are the power of labels and the functional shaping of groups by fear and pride. On labels: Discussions and teachings that I hear on sin of mention the problem the heart while most of the real words and related concern focus on the behaviors acted out as a result or on the consequences of these behaviors and the costs. In other words, what tends to get our attention and energy are the surface, material issues we can see. The inside of the problem or the root issues are not effectively addressed even if identified accurately.

Today, consider the words "cutting edge" as a label. We use the phrase to mean that the thinking or action so described is beyond the common approach; it leads others. In Christian circles and applied to Christian experience this might mean a given church is unique in its programs or that its use of technology is at the forefront of such applications. Perhaps a "cutting edge" church is a mega-church with organizational approaches to management of huge numbers in membership and attendance.

There are not pure applications of the phrase "cutting edge" since it is not specific technical nor spiritual terminology. It is a phrase used both as a trend and in describing the beginning of trends. The phrase has a meaning -- it's in the dictionary -- but it's application is loose and not limited to Christian topics clearly.

The use here as the title of a series of posts is intended to raise questioning of Christian "trends". My question is, "Is there something inadequate with what God intended for church?" And a corollary question: "Can the current church actually be substantively moved into greater levels of effectiveness in its missions of providing the faithful with spiritual instruction and support, evangelizing those outside the family, and mitigating for people generally the impact of this painful world."

The label "cutting edge" applied to church is seen in various movements and particular expressions of church gatherings across American culture. It is a biased label without actual meaning. The bias simply put is one of perspective. One might label a church "cutting edge" for its programs and another church across town as "dead" for its teaching. Clearly these labels are not logical but emotional. They are not used based on measurable quantities, as each label is simply a subjective phrase which reflects the view of the label user.

This dynamic illustrates perspective on the Christian experience and subsequent descriptions are based on surface factors literally seen with the natural eye. We think these outward signs sparking our labels are evidences of the spiritual state of the groups under inspection. If we would be honest with ourselves, we would admit the failure of our labels to appraise spiritual reality. Why do we continue to trust in these labels and fling them at others...or posture ourselves under their tyranny?

1 comment:

careyrowland said...

1. The real cutting edge of the Christian movement is found in what people do in their own homes.
2. Dietrich Bonheoffer, whom you mentioned a couple of posts ago, was on the cutting edge of what was happening in Germany in the 1930s. That is, he saw clearly the danger by which Nazi changes threatened the German people and the German "church." Like it or not, the "church" was an major institution historically in German life and government. We have a similar situation today, btw.
Bonheoffer sought to protect the institution of the church from pagan Nazi influence and ultimate annihilation. That defense of his cost him his life in 1945; Bonheoffer was a true martyr of our age.
While the institution of the "church" is irrelevant in some respects to the Christian walk, it is nevertheless a major determinant of how our relationship with the world in general, and specifically the governments of that fallen world, is defined and limited. Like it or not, the ballast and baggage of institutional church comes with the territory in this life. However, a day will come for each of us when we we each enter God's presence at the end of our respective lives; then that baggage, along with all the other worldly stuff, will be unloaded, as the camel going through eye of the needle, as we enter His gloriously perfect presence.