Relevance As The New Legalism

Figure of a Missional Perspective

Figure of a Missional Perspective (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t know how many times I think I can say this, but Christians just need to get rid of the words “Missional” and “relevance” out of their vocabulary. Seriously. If I may wax Stanley Hauerwas, the church is not called to be relevant, the most political thing that it can do is be the church first and foremost. Now, exactly what does that mean, what does that look like? We can have a conversation about that. But what’s not up for debate for Christians is following Christ’s Great Commandment, to love the Lord Your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and body, and love your neighbor as yourself. Also, the whole language of intentionality is questionable at best, prioritizing intent over and against faithfulness.

Jeremy said it best:

“That people can even be of service is a function of being parts of the one body of Christ. The question is whether we actually value all the body parts equally, or if my bad back is thought of as a waste. The burden that Piper and his ilk put on individual Christians is overwhelming, and I think a function of addressing masses of individualistic Americans (me) instead of anything resembling an ekklesia. I don’t actually have an average, ideal description of a Christian. I HAVE A CHURCH. When we forget that, we get into the kind of exhausting millennial/genx obsession with being special and how we have to make a huge difference in order to be significant. If you add Christianity to that you get descriptions of the Christian life that are almost impossible to maintain without fetishizing experience and potency. If you add politics to that you get empire.”

- PJ contributor and writer Jeremy McLellan on facebook.

Dr. Anthony Bradley says it best:

“Being a “radical,” “missional,” Christian is slowly becoming the “new legalism.” We need more ordinary God and people lovers (Matt 22:36-40).”

Please read and share his article: The New Legalism: Missional, Radical, Narcissistic and Shamed

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h00die_R (Rod)

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17 thoughts on “Relevance As The New Legalism

  1. I read his article and I disagreed. What Bradley was concerned with was people looking for significance through spectacular good works. But that leaves a lot room for caring for others and good works without trying to prove oneself through them. It leaves a lot of room for loving one’s neighbor. And how is it that loving your neighbor as yourself will not, at times, make you relevant?

    There can be a difference between trying to please people and being relevant.

      • RodtRDH,
        I have read Bradley’s article several times. I think the most telling is the comparison he used. He compared living a quiet and peaceful life with trying to do something spectacular such as in Social Justice. There is no comparison made between trying to prove oneself by doing something spectacular vs being missional because one loves one neighbor as oneself.

        It seems that Bradley wants people to pursue the American Dream. For that, I would suggest the following blogpost:

        Is The American Dream A Christian’s Nightmare

        • But did Bradley say he believes in the American Dream? How isn’t missional/ “relevant”: / becoming internet famous Christianity not part of the American dream? Emergent folks still have to market themselves, conforming to market standards. Not much difference.

          • Is what he was describing the American Dream? Wasn’t he bemoaning the missional move to the city in place of life in the suburbs and a quiet and peaceful life?

          • You didn’t answer my question about how “not” American Dream “Missional” “relevant” Christianity is.

          • I did answer your question for it is about concepts rather than words. The American Dream is about building a fantasy island–a place where we feel isolated from an intrusive and sometimes dangerous world. That is life in the suburbs.

            Bradley bemoans the missional and radical Christianity that trades the above for a chance to make a difference in the place that needs the most uplift–the inner City. That living for others, rather than for oneself, is what distinguishes missional and radical Christians from those pursuing the American Dream.

            Of course those who seek the latter might do so for a variety of reasons and so there are problems that can be seen amongst some who seek the missional and radical Christian life and thus legitimate criticisms. But Bradley does not seek to make such distinctions when he compares missional and radical Christians with those seeking quiet and peaceful lives. In addition, Bradley makes no distinctions between those seeking quiet and peaceful lives.

            Let me know if you feel that I did not fully answer your question.

          • No, that’s not the point of Bradley’s post. He is writing to correct what “radical” and “missional” writers are neglecting, a Christian view of vocation.

            I am sure in future posts, Bradley can articulate his view more thoroughly. I see nothing wrong with where he’s going though. Too many Christians, mainline and evangelical have bought into “let’s do something great/be famous to get attention” method way of ministry. That’s Bradley’s problem. It’s the lack of love language there of, that is the problem. Bradley is right.

          • The reason why I can’t agree with you here is that Bradley was talking about where they lived, not just what they did. He was bemoaning the move to the city over the suburbs. He was concerned over the fact that it was not enough to live the life of stereotypical American of when I grew up where you went to work and came home and took care of your own and your neighborhood. This is where his comparisons are saying one thing to me and maybe something different to you. For again, he is comparing the job and a quiet life in the suburbs with those who are missional. He is not comparing different kinds of people who are missional.

            In addition, I am not sure if Bradley understands a significant part of the motivation some people have for being missional. That significant part is something I hear amongst all college freshmen whether they are Christian or not. They are thoroughly taught that they can be anything they want. I try to council these kids into recognizing that there is a difference between being able to be anything they want from they do not know their potential. Therefore, if you combine being missional with this self-delusion of being able to do anything you want, you see the problems he sees. But, again, not all missional people are delusional.

            Another problem I have with Bradley is that I think he has a narrow definition of the command to love one’s neighbor. When we consider the electronic digital informational age with our responsibilities with living in one kind of democracy, we can legitimately say that the neighborhood which one is to love has gotten too big to walk through. It really involves most of the world. To restrict the neighbors you are to love to just the people around you is not adequate to the modern context in which we live. And it is important to realize that we can not only help more and more neighbors, but that we are responsible for doing that.

            The difference between Bradley and myself here is that I have no delusions of being able to do spectacular things. The first two protests I have participated in had over 300,000 people each and very little, if anything, changed as a result of it. And yet, if enough people do the very small parts they can do for a long enough time, things will change. The questions become how much will change and what will happen afterwards. And all of that depends on enough people doing their small parts afterwards.

            But to not recognize the extended neighborhood in which we live is to maintain the status quo. And that is the criticism that the Left has of the Church that haunts me. The Left charges that the Church is just another institution of indoctrination for the maintaining the status quo. And I believe that is the real issue here. Bradley’s definition of whose one’s neighbor feeds into making the Church guilty of this charge. It feeds into the American Dream of creating and living in a fantasy island so that when events like the Boston bombing or 9-11 occurs, we have no alternative reaction than to say that such events are a first strike against my neighborhood and my response is to defend the neighborhood rather than understand the whole context first and then arrive at a well-informed reaction.

            A narrow definition of neighborhood makes us embrace tribalism. But this tribalism denies how others not in our tribe are made in God’s image. And the conjunction of this tribalism, along with an ever advancing and adulterous technology is threatening everybody’s future.

          • I want to add one more thing. Some of the changing headers on your blog are great. The one I am referring to says, “KEEP CALM AND CALL BATMAN.” I love that one despite it being theologically incorrect.

          • Thanks, I appreciate the feedback. PJ friend Seth works very hard on the Worlds’ Finest Banners. I finally decided to take down the Keep Calm Batman one since it didn’t fit with our new look. We’ll have more banners up soon.

          • Regarding your statement on Bradley, I think it is very fair. My guess is that Bradley is a political conservative. My problem is that I am a political leftist–this means Obama is way too conservative for me. Do you know any reformed theologians who are one the Left–that is anti-capitalist left?

          • Bradley is libertarian but socially conservative. For leftist Reformed thinkers, I’d recommend John DeGruchy & Allan Boesak as a start.

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