RELEVANT’S Burning Issues: Faith

Posted on April 23, 2008


The May_June 2008 edition of Relevant Magazine posted 7 burning issues: Injustice, Homosexuality, Faith, Politics, Culture, Consumerism, and War.

FAITH: What Is the Biggest Problem Facing the Church Today?

1. Shane Claiborne: the prosperity gospel that [says] God has come to bless you and to give you health and wealth…The other thing I would name too is the shortsightedness of nationalism.

2. Nancy Ortberg: We don’t believe God. We don’t believe the vision of God. We don’t believe who He is. We don’t believe that He’s good. We’re not captivated by that vision.

3. N.T. Wright: I think it has to do with relearning the issue of how to think. The 18 century [sic] stressed Reason, with a capital “R.” reason, to many, is doscounted; people don’t really do that stuff very much.

4. Chuck Colson: We have substituted therapy for Truth.

5. Brian McLaren: I think the biggest problem of the Church in America is that we’ve lost our way. We’ve gotten comfortable carrying on a version of Christianity that has drifted farther and farther from what God intends. We have various versions of Christianity that are dangerously at ease with racism (as long as it’s not too overt), with a kind of idolatrous nationalism, with political partisanship that trumps our identity in Christ, with complacency about injustice and with consumerism that makes life consist in the abundance of possessions one acquires.

6. Steve Brown: Self-righteousness.

7. Cindy Jacobs: [We need] to get back to a biblical worldview. Why haven’t we attacked the big problems in the world, such as systemic poverty, violence and abortion? We need to learn to love God with our minds, not just our hearts and souls.


My biggest observation and critique is not with any of the answers, but with the question itself. As you can tell by the responses, not only are we never going to get to consensus on this, but we’re not even close to some sort of starting point.

But are we even suppose to?

A student of mine reviewed “Bruce Almighty” for class. She referenced this website and the following quote which I believe applies to this question as well:

When asked what he wants people to take away from the film, Tom Shadyac replied, ‘Hopefully they’ll walk away entertained. But also, I think we all have this “idolatry of magnitude”, thinking that if we don’t do something huge for the world that we haven’t done anything. We forget the story of the widow’s mite. We have this idea we have to do something huge, when we don’t take seriously enough the idea that it’s just the way you say hello, the way you treat somebody, the way you conduct yourself at work or in your car, or how you treat the earth. I hope this idea sparks just a little different way of thinking of how we can all change the world.’

This is also found in our language of God. “We have a BIG God.” There’s a lot of “Omni’s” when it comes to describing Him. And that’s not bad, it’s just that it dominates the conversations at the cost of other characteristics that are more prominent in the Scriptures. A song that my wife and I sing for the kids entitled “Sometimes I Feel Afraid” has a chorus that goes, “Because our God, He is big, He’s gigantic, He’s enormous, He is powerful, and strong, He is amazing, and He’s awesome, and there’s nothing in this world that He couldn’t pulverize…” (Yeah, gotta love the word “pulverize” in a worship song!)

Are those the descriptions of God in the Bible? Sure, but there’s a whole lot of other descriptions like “holy,” “generous,” “kind,” “giving,” “loving,” “patient,” “present/near,” “shelter,” “help,” “rock,” “refuge,” and on and on. And again, arguing from a perspective of textual percentages, perhaps we ought to re-balance ourselves in our language.

So, as we each focus clearly and energetically on the “big” areas that we see as problems for us in the Church, may we also paradoxically see how “small” the issues are in comparison to the grand work of God throughout the world. May we also never neglect the “little” things, as mentioned by Shadyac, in our everyday, mundane, routine walks of life, and recognize that we don’t have to be tackling “big” issues in order to be advancing the Kingdom of God.

Posted in: Culture, Religion