An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
Recently I was introduced to an evangelical church of sorts and as I perused their website I did what I usually do at every new church website to which I am introduced: I looked for a statement of beliefs. Instead I found a statement of "core values" that really had little to say about theology specifically, but far more about methodology of ministry. One of these values particularly struck me, in part because I know that for many who subscribe to it, they see the Orthodox Church as the very symbol of everything this particular value warns against.
We will continually search for new and culturally relevant ways to present Christ's message...[and] discontinue activities and ministries that have lost relevance and effectiveness.
Let me be blunt...at what point does relevance end up being little more than fashionable? I mean, is the power of the Gospel message hopelessly lost because the presenter lacks a hip new "Cold Play" T-Shirt? If so, maybe the "power" wasn't there to begin with? Or maybe the power is found somewhere altogether different?
Yes, big complex programs and stratagems, I suppose, will need constant revision and change in order to maintain appeal...BUT...the message, no scratch that, the LIFE isn't found in programs or stratagems!
I know this has the tendency to sound trite, but if we want to talk about activities to engage in that will deliver the message of LIFE to the world, well how about we try living the Christian life! It is without question, THE most important activity we can do to present Christ's message.
However, what happens - as seems to be more and more the case - when living that life is irrelevant to our culture? Do we abandon it?
As I see it, neither my (nor the Church's) mission here is to be relevant to the culture (like a TV program's ratings or a political election), but rather we are here to show a radically different way of being. People love to talk about how Christ related to people, but they often fail to note how many times people walked away from Him in disappointment - unable to give up that part that of themselves that anchored them too firmly to the world - which includes their culture I would presume.
We are going to offend this culture at some juncture and perhaps at many junctures. But you know what? When I think of people who I would deem to be holy (yes I mean that), I see people who are often quite attractive to others, despite what they may lack in their ability to be "relevant" to culture, people gravitate toward them. There is a relevance...a deeper relevance...that cannot be captured in programs and activities. It's a state of being. Purified and illumined I suppose.
It is most needful that we focus on that deeper sort of relevance rather than the other, I think.
On the other hand, if that radically different way of being isn't relevant, at least to the individual, then I think that's a problem. Your particular subculture of adherents will no doubt appeal to a few folks who are attracted to anything counterculture, but you certainly won't be affecting or changing culture. If that isn't important, then why care about anything mainstream culture does as long as it does affect you and the adherents of your particular belief system. I think there were always be tension between followers of the faith and influences of culture. Imagine the arguments back in the third century with Constantine decided to back Christianity. I'm not sure I can suggest a good answer, but what helps me when I get confused about this particular issues (which happens on a fairly frequent basis) are the words found in James 1:27.