I’m not exactly the most affirming person when it comes to the state of Christianity here in my native Newfoundland.
For some reason, it seems that believers here have either checked their brains at the door of Christianity, or have so radically acclimatized to the more spurious intellectualism that they can no longer be discernible as Christians. Ironically, this often leads to the same kinds of things when they work themselves out (Liberals and emergents seem to agree on a lot).
One of the reasons I wrote that long review of Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis, was that people I knew here were beginning to appreciatively read the guy. Not that Bell is necessarily a bad guy, but in his writing and more recent speaking, he has often ended up more critical than correct. In his quest to be relevant to the world around us, he doesn’t seem to have done the necessary thinking to understand why people actually believed the things he’s critiquing in the first place. The result is a slightly arrogant critique of things that deserve critique, though without a sufficient grounding in Christ, Scripture, or the community of faith.
And it is this kind of spirituality that the young pastors planting Churches here in Newfoundland gravitate to. Seeing the tattoos and the cool hair styles, and even the soul patches on the faces of the emergent leaders, they think that the “coolness” factor means that they are actually connecting Christian faith to the postmodern world (instead of reinventing Christianity to make it look better to a postmodern world).
Modern young pastors seem to have forgotten that the faith we hold to has enemies, most clearly it has the enemy of our own rationalization. We seriously want to believe that the things God calls us to in Christ are not as extreme as they sound, or that Jesus was only kidding when he implied that many would be offended by him (see Matthew 11).
The simple fact is that the job of a Christian remains to make disciples of all nations, teaching them as Jesus taught us. It’s an old faith, it was revealed by God. Our model for this task isn’t a dude wearing soul patches or tattoos, but the apostles, like Paul.
For our boast is this: the testimony of our conscience that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. (2 Cor. 1:12)
When Paul sought to speak to the people of his time, he modelled for us what good Christian communication looks like. Simple, sincere, and by the grace of God, so that people would be moved not to follow the apostle Paul, but Jesus Christ.
We have a great tradition of many people who went before, preaching this way; becoming all things to all people that they might win some, but never changing what the Gospel was. Let us not in this generation sell out their godly efforts for the sake of a soul patch and the applause of a dying world.