From the outset of writing Relevancy22 it was felt that the contemporary church's definition of Christian orthodoxy had become too narrowly restricted and filled with its own conservative political and social platforms that were definitely un-orthodox and not the Jesus way of thinking. Apparently I am not alone as many of today's millennial generation are similarly convicted that Jesus' ministry was to all men and women - especially to the outcast, the unempowered, and despised. That He necessarily involved Himself in the affairs of human justice and equality. And that He did not hold back His retribution towards any religious ideologies that would diminish God's love and justice with one's own ideas of rightness and equality.
Hence, over the past three years of Relevancy22's blogging we have been developing a postmodern, post-evangelical reference site that has been actively revisiting every church dogma and doctrine so as to purposely reset historic Christian orthodoxy apart from its more conservative evangelic interpretation of those same doctrines. I say "evangelic" because any doctrine or dogma that speaks Jesus as the heart-and-soul of Christianity is both orthodox and evangelical as broadly defined. But conservative, or liberal, party politics or religious identification is another matter - one speaks law and legalism whereas the other speaks universalism and libertinism.
However, any church movement - even an evangelic church movement - can be compromised by good intentions and over reaction to the events of one's contemporary times and eras. But a wise man or woman will look back on their life and say, "Hey, this isn't about Jesus anymore, but about my wants and needs that have diminished my Lord and Savior's gospel to humanity." At which point those convicted servants of the Lord must stand up and speak God's name back into the ranks and files of His people until they understand how well-meaning religious intentions have co-opted the gospel of Christ.
And so, today's latest articles are seeing the same things while speaking to the church's need to not confuse the historic definition of Christian orthodoxy with its own contemporary ideas of what it thinks the gospel of Jesus is-or-is-not. That contemporary orthodox Christianity must always carry with it the burden of speaking Jesus' gospel in relevant biblical terms without compromising the intent of God's Word, grace, and salvation. That true Christian orthodoxy is not to be conscripted towards conservative - or liberal - political and social agendas. More rather that orthodox traditions of the Christian church must always be forward looking as much as backwards looking. That it can neither so be old-timey conservative as to be despised and distrusted, or so progressively liberal as to become a meaningless religious book club. That the name of "Christian" means something. That being "a follower of Jesus" carries with it social ramifications. And that the onus is placed upon the church to wrestle with the difference between God's grace and truth and its own liberality, conventions, and social mores.
So then, the church must speak in the language of its generation - which in this case is postmodernism. And to know the difference of when to let go with the church's past conventions - which in this case would be its secular modernism. And most importantly, to allow all these religious drivers to reset a progressive tone of liberality towards God's creation - both in terms of caring for mankind as well as for this good earth (see the ecology sections on this site's sidebar, or begin here: Aldo Leopold - Caring for this Good Earth). In this way is orthodox Christianity in time-and-keeping with its antecedent past much as we as people must continually re-evaluate ourselves in order to stay in step with our kids, our families, our schools, and our societies. We can ill-afford to be careless with either by always listening, observing, discussing, questioning, debating, and absorbing. This is the charge of God to His good servants wishing to do His will on this earth even as it is done in heaven.
We can ill afford to speak Jesus' name in less submissive tones than those which are spoken by the Spirit of God as He works the Father's will. Consequently, we test all things - including church doctrines and dogma, its traditions and folklores - that all our ways and thoughts and ministries may be as expansive as the love of God. And as truthful as His love would direct us into His longsuffering care and humility. Without shading its meaning towards our own private interpretations of the Scripture or preferences of gospel ministry. God's love is larger and more forgiving than we think. And it can, and will, make fools of us all if we do not remember His grace and mercy in all things, including the very church organs and edifices of His sheep-like people that have become stone walls to His goodness, forgiveness, hope, and healing, denying His power to all. May this not be. Peace.
April 11, 2014
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6 Reasons Millennial Christians Will Change Everything
despite millennials' social mistrust, bleak financial situations, and all the other
mind-numbingly depressing data... millennials tend to pretty upbeat about the future
April 9, 2014
Tyler Francke is a print journalist and freelance writer in the Pacific Northwest. He is the founder and lead contributor of the blog God of Evolution and author of the forthcoming novel Reoriented. Follow him on Twitter @tylerjfrancke.
The circumstances may look bleak, but here's why you can be upbeat about this generation.
A recent and widely discussed study by the Pew Research Center has given researchers new insights into the Millennial generation, greatly expanding a knowledge base that appeared to previously consist of little more than “They sure seem to like Starbucks” and “They refuse to move out of my basement.”
While some of the study’s revelations were not exactly groundbreaking (they have tons of debt—who knew?), others raised eyebrows, like their tendency to shun institutions, including religious ones, at rates far surpassing their parents and grandparents.
The bottom line is that, in many ways, Millennials are very different than the generation that preceded them, and some folks might be a little nervous about that. But we can lay those concerns to rest, because, as Christians, there is a lot to be excited about in the generation that’s poised to inherit the future.
1. They’re Poised for Revival.
Studies have shown that Millennials are much less religious than previous generations. Could this really be a good thing? Absolutely. First of all, while it’s true that roughly three in 10 Millennials (29%) claim no religious affiliation, 86% still profess belief in God, which doesn’t really sound like an atheists’ society.
What’s more exciting is that the arc of history bends toward spiritual renewal. Many of our country’s greatest revivals—from the Second Great Awakening to the hippie-era “Jesus movement”—were immediately preceded by periods of increased apostasy and reduced church attendance. So, be alarmist if you must, but don’t be surprised if Millennials wind up embracing pure, unadulterated faith at rates that put their predecessors to shame.
2. They’re More Individualistic.
According to New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, individualism is the one denominator underlying all of Millennial's generational trends. It’s why they’re optimistic about their personal futures but distrust society as a whole; why they’re fleeing congregations Exodus-style while still maintaining private beliefs in high numbers; why they’re addicted to selfies and sharing their latest exploits on Facebook.
And individualism can be a great virtue, even in a Christian context. Because though Scripture describes the Church in corporate terms—as “a body”—the metaphor collapses without some individualism. A homogenous mixture of identical material is not a body, it’s a gelatinous blob. A body has many different parts, fulfilling many different roles.
Millennials are a unique generation, the most diverse this country has ever seen. And if the Church God has in mind is not a blank wall, but a glorious, messy mosaic of color and awesomeness, then they may just fit the bill quite nicely.
To reach one’s audience with the truth of the Gospel or any other message, you have to speak their language. In 2014 and beyond, the language of our culture is increasingly becoming digitized.
3. They Speak Tech.
Pew describes Millennials as “digital natives”—the first generation that has not had to adapt to new technology and the Internet. Like Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, they were “born in it, molded by it.” This is their turf, and they are oh so ready to reclaim it.
When Jesus became man, He was very much a man of His day. He didn’t just speak the language, He knew what to talk about, sharing simple stories couched in the terms of instantly relatable, everyday experiences.
And Millennials are fluent.
4. They Question Everything.
You hear Millennials being called the “Why?” generation, and it's hard to deny that the nickname fits pretty snugly. It also reflects their tendency to be wary of institutions, political parties and even other people in general (less than 20% of Millennials agreed with the statement that “most people can be trusted”).
Such radical skepticism may seem distasteful or inherently combative, until you remember the high premium Scripture places on shrewdness and "testing everything". In that light, their eagerness to dissect the issues themselves (and maybe squish around in the guts a bit until they get to the heart of the matter, and see if they like how it beats) appears a lot less negative.
In fact, you could argue that Millennials' comfort with re-examining long-held traditions—and, sometimes, jettisoning them without hesitation—is one of their most Christ-like qualities. After all, Jesus torpedoed the conventions of his religious contemporaries by the boatload, once illustrating the point by saying that you can’t pour new wine into old wineskins.
With Millennials, that won't be much of an issue. Pour away.
5. They Don’t Toe the Party Line.
At first glance, it may be tempting to read the Pew study and conclude that the Millennial generation is bent wildly to the left. Actually, half of Millennials identify as independents, but they do tend to be pretty blue on most issues.
Honestly, I don’t think this is because young Evangelicals are simply becoming more liberalized. What’s happening is they’re going back to the words of Jesus, and realizing He didn’t say a lot about exact political stances, but He did seem to harp on things like loving others and serving the poor.
So they’re breaking rank from the polarizing two-party system and trying to find a third way instead.
6. They are Relentless Optimists.
Interestingly, despite Millennials' social mistrust, bleak financial situations and all the other mind-numbingly depressing data that apparently characterize their existence, Millennials tend to pretty upbeat about the future—both their own and that of the country as a whole. While only 32% said they’re now earning as much as they need (far lower than the other generations), 53% said they will earn enough to meet their financial needs in the future (which is far higher).
You can chalk this all up to wishful thinking if you want to, but here’s what I think: Optimists and pessimists look at the same world, and both see exactly what they want and expect to. And they help bring about the same.
God can use anyone, but it’s harder for those who don’t believe things can get any better to open their hearts' to God's leading. Things will get better, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure they do, in whatever small way I can.
And I know my fellow Millennials will, too.
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How Christian Orthodoxy must separate itself from
the Evangelical culture of conservative politics
the Evangelical culture of conservative politics
April 5, 2014
"What millennials are calling for is for the old guard of Evangelicalism to return to orthodoxy and to stop putting their political and social positions on top of their definition orthodoxy and then using them as a measuring rod to determine who is in and who is out. We are calling leaders of Evangelicalism to repent of making Jesus in their own image by imposing on the Christ of the Scriptures social and political ideas that were completely foreign to him. And most of all, we’re calling the leaders of Evangelicalism to stop demonizing the next generation who is doing our best to worship, obey, and follow Jesus Christ in a cultural context that they know little about.
There are unique challenges that face the way millennials live out our faith in this ever-expanding new world that require us to rethink and reform what it looks like to be Christian. All of us truly desire to see our world transformed by the Gospel of Jesus and the way that is going to look for us will be radically different then the way it looked for them.
"At the end of the day, I think the unfortunate reality is that many in the old-guard of Evangelicalism are going to continue to refuse to hear out the millennial Evangelicals and continue to perpetuate the myth that we’re just trying to rid ourselves of orthodox theology and embrace hipster, social justicey, teddy bear forms of Jesus.
But this opposition should not stop us from pursuing Jesus with our whole lives. I no longer fear being called a “heretic” by more conservative Evangelicals, because I am confident that as long as I am pursuing Jesus as he has been revealed in the Gospels, then I am going to be okay. And it is precisely my love and desire to follow Jesus that is fueling my passion to do justice in the world. To work to un-politicize the Gospel. To work for a better world for all people. Jesus is my motivation. He’s my goal. And I firmly believe that for most millennial Evangelicals, this passion for Jesus will continue to empower and spur us on to a much more robust faith, hope, and love."