Scott Hodge


Prophetic Untimeliness

Aug 14, 2007

I’ve been taking my time this past month reading through Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance by Os Guinness.  I don’t remember who recommended this book to me, but it was one that I had on my Amazon wishlist until my friend, Larry, fired it off to me a couple of months ago.  Photo_58_3

To be honest with you, my journey through the book has been a roller coaster ride.  In the beginning chapters, I found myself thinking, “Yeah, that’s good….  I like that!  Oooh….  Yeah!” 

Unfortunately, that didn’t last.  Because as I got deeper into it, I started finding myself thinking, “No, c’mon.  I don’t like that!”  In fact, on a couple of occasions, I even found myself shutting the book deciding I was finished with it. 

That’s when I had to stop and ask the big fat question, “WHY?” 

Why was I bothered by it? 

To tell you the truth, what I think bothered me the MOST was the fact that I felt so bothered by it.  (I know, that’s deep…)

The book is written in what feels almost like a “prophetic” tone to the church of today and its leaders –  giving a clear and concise challenge to our efforts of being “relevant.”  And it’s not that Os is “anti-relevant” by any means.  But he does ask some great questions.  And at the core of them all is this question:

“How do we remain faithful as well as relevant?” 

A couple of quotes:

How have we Christians become so irrelevant when we have tried so hard to be relevant?

In itself the good news of Jesus is utterly relevant or it is not the good news it claims to be.

…by our breathless chase after relevance without a matching commitment to faithfulness, we have become not only unfaithful but irrelevant…we have lost not only our identity but our authority and our relevance.

How are we to be always timely, never trendy?  How are we to be redefined – but in the right way?

These are the challenges/tensions/whatever you want to call them that Os addresses.  And while I’m still not sure that I completely agree with everything I read; and while it feels like there are a couple of unfair generalizations made (which are probably more accurate than I want to admit…), I’m glad I read it. 

More than anything, I think books like this help us and keep us from going too far in an unhealthy direction.  And if we’re afraid to read or listen to writings like these, I honestly have to think that there is a much greater fear at hand.

So I walk away from reading the book more convinced than ever that The Orchard is on track with the mission that God has given us.  Do we have it all figured out or perfected?  Hardly…  But it’s right.  And I am 100% certain that it’s worth pouring our lives into. 

I’m also walking away even further determined to be relevant – even more committed to using creative and innovative ways to share the story of God with a culture that desperately needs to hear it. 

But I also walk away from it feeling a tension in my heart.  And to tell you the truth, I’m glad I feel it.  Because I would rather be committed to reaching our culture and constantly trying to find the balance in how we do it than having no struggle at all and whatever else does (or does not) come along with that.

Thanks Os Guinness for your healthy perspective.  Keep challenging us young guys to be relevant with the greatest story in the world, while at the same time helping us to stay faithful to our identity and calling. 

7 Responses to “Prophetic Untimeliness”

  1. Sounds like a great read. Thanks for the post. It was certainly challenging. I would be interested to know what the generalizations Mr. Guinness makes that you consider to be unfair.
    Want to share?

  2. Travis, it probably had to do with all young relevant pastors being addicted to Starbucks. 😛
    Sounds like a good read Scott!

  3. Ty says:

    Maybe the generalizations were about pastors who feel the need to come across cool, hip, and trendy to the point of coming across phony and insincere.

  4. it’s good to have friends like that… wish I had a friend like that :) If I had a friend like that, I’d treat him to a trip to Chinatown on me if he happened to come visit Chicago in say late-September.
    That’s just what I’d do…

  5. Richard says:

    Hi Scott,
    This post exemplofies one of the things I like about you and your blog. You are obviously a thoughtful guy.
    Keep up the good work.

  6. Tom says:

    Hey Scott –
    Interesting topic. I’m not sure what Guiness’ take is, but my experience is that too often the church tries to appear relevant by using culture to “sell” the gospel. We co-opt the world’s ideas and give it a Christian re-packaging. (i.e. A series called “Lost” to get people saved.) In the process, in the eyes of the world we just look all the more inauthentic.
    I don’t think people want flashy, shiny, shrink-wrapped series titles that copy a recent trend. They want to know if we care, if we love, if we worship, if we believe all the crazy things we say, if it is real. And that’s hard to due with a series title.
    Just my take now residing in the cheap seats.
    – Tom

  7. Doug says:

    Since the days of preaching – the preacher desired to be relevant. If we didn’t have to make it relevant – we could just stand and read. We have always explained the 23rd Psalm in a manner that the western mind can grasp. The issue for me is that many are relevant for that sake alone. The presentation of the good news – in a manner that the poeple living in 2007 can relate too – is never wrong. At the same time – this book, as you stated, makes us think and keeps us from flying off the deep end. Thank for the blog.

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