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There is one word that scares Christians who want to make a difference: irrelevant. Connecting our faith to everyday life and culture hinges on how well we know the God we believe in.
In a culture overloaded with buzzwords like diversity, authenticity and personal empowerment, Christians want to be relevant. Sharing the Gospel has shifted from standing on a pulpit to hanging out with friends over a cup of foamy latte at Starbucks and Pete’s — as well as coffee tables in living rooms at home and social networks online.
There’s never been a more significant time to talk about the God we believe in and how He shapes our thinking, feelings and everyday experience.
Our faith has to be real and it has to connect with people at the heart level. If we share Jesus, we have to talk about Him in a voice unique to us as individuals or we lose our virtual microphone. At the same time, we also need to communicate truths about God’s ways that haven’t changed since the first word in the Torah was written.
How can we be relevant without sacrificing Biblical truth?
It’s All About Conversation
It’s a question that author and theologian Ed Cyzewski answers in his book “Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday life”. Cyzewski writes to the theologian minded, so he takes pains to explain the importance of “contextualized theology” in the first half of the book.
“contextualized theology: understanding God through the lenses of a particular culture. ~ Ed Cyzewski
It’s a seminarian’s way of saying this: it is important how we hear God’s voice and understand Him accurately in the Scriptures — first as the writers of the Bible did originally — and then, for ourselves, in our individual circumstances and culture.
What I appreciated about Cyzewski’s book is his underlying goal: to help people see theology as a conversation with God, to explore with others. Contrast this with how some wield theology: cache for the intellectual, standing at a distance to issues and people living in a secularized culture.
Even though Coffeehouse Theology was written primarily for theology enthusiasts, I found some important gems in the second half of the book that help us hear from God more biblically and personally.
Gems From Coffeehouse Theology to Help Us Hear From God
1. How we respond to what’s happening in our culture changes how we think about God and also how we practice our faith.
When it comes to cultural values and (post)modern beliefs, do you:
A) Separate from Culture – ignore the culture?
B) Co-exist with Culture - view culture as a tool to be relevant, but don’t interact or challenge the values of the culture?
C) Dialogue with Culture - broaden the conversation by allowing a diversity of opinions and create room for conversation?
I share the same affinity as Cyzewski with the third option. I learn so much more about my own questions about faith as I listen to what people are saying. In giving people the space to express their opinions and values, I exercise my own faith.
How do I know this? Every interaction raises up a flood of new topics to explore with God and blindspots in my own spiritual journey. It drives me further into Scripture, alone time with God and community time with believers (like here on our Faith Barista Jams!).
These honest conversations fuel my passion to keep faith fresh — to dig into the Bible to find answers, wrestle with God and experience the humility and thrill of prayer, community and waiting.
2. It’s critical to study the Bible for ourselves, to be confident to interpret what the Scriptures really mean.
Cyzewski says, “We’re the product of our history and culture…”, warning us of the risk of refashioning the Bible into our own image. One reason why the Bible may be rendered irrelevant is that it is incorrectly interpreted and misapplied to our situations. Of course, the Bible is not intrinsically irrelevant, but it can feel that way if we’re solely dependent on others for spiritual insight.
When we run into real life complexities, we need the real-time freedom and thrill of hearing from God directly from the Scriptures.
This is where relevancy comes in — when we see God at work in our lives and we can understand how it spiritually makes sense.
3. A personal thriving relationship with God is fueled by intimate prayer and meditation.
I was happy to find Cyzewski talk about contemplative prayer, as he shared a quote from noted Christian mystic, Jeanne Guyon.
“You do not move from one passage to another, not until you have sensed the very heart of what you have read.
You may want to take that portion of Scripture that has touched you and turn it into prayer.” ~ Jeanne Guyon
I personally did not confidently delve into this practice of contemplative prayer at depth and long stretches until I grew in my study of the Bible (point #2). I found more freedom to sink into one word or phrase in a verse, when I’ve understood the context for it. Then, I can really let my right brain run rampant and get “mystic” with the Holy Spirit — which I love.
All this talk of theology would be pointless if it didn’t change our relationship with God or with others. Although our faith isn’t driven by the need to be relevant, our devotion to God frees us to invite others into the conversation.
The next time you find yourself at the cusp of a heated debate, take a breath, smile and just listen. You may find yourself like I often do, coming away with a renewed urgency to grow closer to God, more humble with other believers and end up welcoming culture to make itself comfortable for coffee.
“Though I am free and belong to no man,
I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible...
To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.
To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.
I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.
~ The Apostle Paul
1 Cor. 9:19-22
How have you grown in how you hear from God?
How does the secular culture — work, family or church culture — affect your view of God?
Finishing my review copy of Coffeehouse Theology felt like completing a virtual class audit to an Intro To Theology. To explore everyday theology further, Ed Cyzewski’s conversational style and personal stories will make this a gentler ride, without sacrificing content.
For more of Ed Cyzewski, visit his blog In A Mirror Dimly.
*** NOW, IT’S YOUR TURN — FAITH BARISTA JAM! ***
Faith Barista Jam Thursdays – I serve up a topic of faith, you write the post. Keep faith fresh with a faith prompt and add your voice to this community.
Today’s topic: How Am I Hearing From God?
Submit your post on today’s topic by clicking on the blue button below “Add Your Link”. If you don’t have a blog, share by posting a comment.
Next week’s 11/4 Topic: Shaking Off Feelings of Guilt
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