I love the subtitle of Os Guinness’ 2003 book, Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance. In this book, among other things, Guinness talks about how the church often assimilates modern assumptions and practices which lead to worldliness. Speaking of the church assimilating modern practices, Guinness writes this:
“The last generation of evangelicals provides clear examples of this. The air is abuzz with the future. The ‘coming church’ and the ’emerging church’ are everything. The talk is all of new ways of ‘doing church’ through reinventing, revising, innovating, borrowing, mixing, and experimenting. Everything now has to be ‘intentional’ and ‘on-purpose.’ Ministers are no longer theological authorities but the ‘chief story-tellers’ and ‘facilitators of a joint spiritual journey.’ ‘Dysfunctional churches’ that are not ‘attuned to the world’ are ‘reinvented for the present age’ in a myriad of ‘intentional’ ways, all with their ‘value propositions’ clearly specified and their ‘measurable outcomes’ clarified in advance. Music and worship services are designed for audiences as if congregations were ‘specialized niches on music sales charts’ or the newly discovered fruit of demographic research.”
“But where in all this movement is the prayer to match the punidtry? Is the church ours to reinvent, or is it God’s? Does the head of the church have anything to say, or do the consultants have the last word? Shouldn’t ‘doing church’ follow from what we believe is the church’s being? Was the first church invented by a previous generation, so that it is our job to do it again, or is the church’s real need for the revival and reformation that can only come from God?”
“…Is the culture decisive and the audience sovereign for the Christian church? Not for one moment. God forbid. The client and the consumer may be king for free-market enterprise. Serving the shareholders may be obligatory for the directors of corporations. But the church of Christ is not under the sway of market totalitarianism – even in America where capitalism is king, pope, and emperor all rolled into one. From the prophets’ ‘This is the word of the Lord’ to the reformers’ ‘Here I stand; so help me, God, I can do no other,’ the message, not the audience, is always sovereign, and the culture is always potentially the world set over against Christ and his kingdom. To think and live otherwise is to recycle the classic error of liberalism and to court the worldliness, irrelevance, and spiritual adultery that it represents” (p. 65-6).