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on March 25, 2004
This book has an interesting way of making its point. The flaps and back jacket of the book advertise this as a critique of the modern church's mad rush to be relevant. However, he begins with an interesting description of our slavery to time - he calls watches "the gods on our wrists." This obsession with time has translated itself into an obsession with being "timely," i.e. current and up to date and relevant to the culture around us. And the downside is that in our obsession to be relevant, we have become irrelevant. He says this:
"After two hundred years of earnest dedication to reinventing the faith and the church and to being more relevant in the world, we are confronted with an embarassing fact: Never have Christians pursued relevance more strenuously; never have Christians been more irrelevant."
He is correct - even in this era of the megachurch, where the advocates of relevance champion their methods because of the size of their churches, the fact of the matter is that the church is, and has been, losing its saltiness. Most church growth is the result of professing Christians transferring churches. Also, because of the watered down "relevant" gospel that is preached in our day, most of those who profess faith probably don't possess it.
Guiness makes a case, and I think a good case, that true progress doesn't come from accomodating to the culture, but through resisting the culture. He quotes C. S. Lewis who says that "progress is made only into resisting material."
Among other things he points out that our quest for relevance is fueled by our fascination with futurism. We are always trying to construct a church for the next generation. However, as Orwell says "futurism is the major mental disease of our time." Guiness points out that futurism is "a quack science, it picks up current trends, projects them into the future, and then pretends that results are predictions."
In fact, history is a better guide to our future than relying on the study of current trends. History gives a broader understanding of humanity than does science, so it behooves us to pay greater attention the past than to the current.
It has often been said, and Guiness reiterates it here, that the only way to be always timely, is to always focus on the eternal. One of the things I have noticed about those on the mad quest for relevance is that they are constantly having to re-invent themselves with every changing wind of the culture. It seems to me that this would wear you out. It also seems to me to be patently obvious from Scripture, that this world is hostile to the things of Christ - culture is not neutral. Therefore, trying to stay current with the culture may mean we are accomodating our persecutors. As John MacArthur said in a recent sermon - "unbelievers have become the number one church consultants in our world today." Or, as Guiness quoted in a prior book "He who sups with the devil had better use a long spoon."
I can't recommend this book too highly. Guiness is not calling for irrelevance, he is just saying that the gospel is eternally relevant, it doesn't have to be "made relevant." The Biblical view is that the gospel evaluates and critiques culture, it doesn't accomodate itself to culture. This book is a welcome defense of that notion.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon July 8, 2009
In this little book, Os Guinness applies his clear-headed cultural analysis to one of the prevailing idols of the day: relevance. First making the case that western culture is held captive by the clock (the "little gods on our wrists"), Guinness goes on to show how this frantic obedience to the schedule has spilled over to infect all our thinking with the urgent but misguided agenda to be always relevant and fashionable in the eyes of the world.

Our culture views relevance as synonymous with truthfulness and importance. Tragically, this mindset also dominates much the church in the west and has lead to all manner and degree of compromise in life and faith. As Guinness so aptly argues, the more the church attempts to be relevant to the culture around it (read: the more the church attempts to ape cultural thinking and living, assuming that the church must look like the world to be able to speak to it), the less relevant the church becomes. The message of the gospel is perennially relevant as are the mediums that the Bible outlines for spreading it. Guinness calls the church to speak to the idolatries of the age with a bold, prophetic voice rather than, as is all too common, adopting those idolatries and covering them with a very thin Christianese veneer (a case where medium undermines message). Highly recommended!! Another great read in the same spirit is Guinness's book Fit Bodies, Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don't Think and What to Do About It.
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on March 2, 2004
What is a relevant message? What does keeping it real mean? Is there an obligation of the preacher to hold the unbeliever's interest? OS GUINNESS attempts to give a point of reference to the church about society's culture, the church, and the preached Word of God. He argues man's misunderstanding of time: How he perceives the past, present and future has resulted in him abusing God's revealed truth and in him preaching of another gospel.

OS GUINNESS argues the Gospel of Jesus Christ is always pertinent and appropriate. " The Gospel addresses the human condition appropriately, pertinently, and effectively. This is true whatever your generation, whatever your culture, or whatever century you live in." pg. 13. He further argues all Christians should share the message of Christ to all unbelievers in all types of situations. The Christian life should be defined by the Gospel.

On the cover of the book is a challenge to the idol of relevance. How can one worship relevance? Relevance is worshipped when God's truth is disregarded and it is sought more than God's Will. Pastor seeks to hold people's interest by giving messages that today's listener finds relevant. But if what is taught (doctrine) is not true to God's word, how can it be relevant to the unbelievers most important need? Man's most important need is forgiveness for his sins and eternal life. The Christian should stay faithful to God's word. If not the Christian is not faithful to God and holds no relevance to the unbeliever. The Christian's authority comes from God. Only through obedience to God's word can a Christian be relevant to the unbeliever.

Those who profess to believe Jesus Christ is the Savior and Lord have often moved away from historic doctrine. Large portion of those who proclaim themselves as evangelicals attempt to adapt their theology to today's thinking in the World. The message is conformed to the toils of fashion and conformity. Culture is decisive and the audience is sovereign. What people do and think determines the message given by many a pastor. The teachings of yesterday are not judged based on truth, but rather if today's target audience will be receptive. What the preacher feels the people wants to hear today and in the future determines what is preached and how the church goes about other activities.

Therefore what is considered relevant becomes a new god, an idol. Those who come into a particular local body no longer serve The God. They come to seek a different truth defined by today's culture. The truth is no longer taught out of scripture. No longer do people come out of a conviction that they have rebelled against God, repent from wrong doing and seek God's forgiveness. Many come to be entertained and recreation.

This book does not contain scripture references nor is this book aimed at those who do not proclaim Jesus as Lord. It is an encouragement for those who profess Jesus as Lord and Savior to stay true to God's Word.
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on November 22, 2003
In this refreshingly insightful book, Guinness exposes how the Church has bowed to the idol of relevance and its relationship to time (trendiness). The Church is too busy trying to keep up, constantly conforming itself to what the world says it needs to in order to relevant. Too much is given to being fresh, new, up-to-date, attunded, appealking, seeker-sensitive, audience-friendly (p. 76) The Church is too often looking to become "future-savvy", producing futurism, which is a quack-science that picks up current trends, and projects them into the future, and then pretends the results are predictions (p. 77) Leaders who have such a mind set ought to be called down as false prophets.
In having such a mentality, the Church actually becomes irrelevant. Guinness teaches us the only way the Church can actually be relevant is through being faithful to the gospel, for "in itself the good news of Jesus is utterly relevant or it is not the good news it claims to be." (p. 13) Guinness calls the Church to stop being "obsessed with the new" (p. 77) and rather to learn from the past, and most importantly, the eternal.
On a personal note, like the one reviewer mentioned, I agree this book shows the errors of the "New Apostolic Reformation" (the neo-charismatic apostolic/prophetic movement) in their constant stream of prophecies of the "coming" Church. They constantly threaten "Join us or be left behind" (p. 76)
I also would highly recommend an equally insigthful (and much more thorough) book by Philip Kenneson's called "Life on the Vine."
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on October 24, 2003
This is easily one of the best books read in awhile, and I read many. Guinness is profound in his penetrating analysis of the current state of Western Christianiy.
Thinking the dire need to be more relevant, the church has made themselves irrelevant. Caused by cuddling up to modernity's false notions of time, the church is off course and missing the target. Not caring about the past, they concentrate on the future. Read for yourself the latest and greatest on the New Apostolic Reformation and see what he's talking about. The focus is not even on the present but on the future! How arrogant to assume they know what's coming.
Guinness has so many tight sayings which if truly sorted through using the Word of God will cause each and every humble, believing Christian to stop and take stock. Time is uncontrollable. Redeeming the time is what it's all about, and this book shows what that entails, and what it does not.
Frank, provocative, astute. Marvelous addition to the growing controversy and one that needs to be widely read, discussed and followed.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon November 5, 2010
This is in many ways addressing the same subject as Dining with the Devil - taking a slightly more panoramic view. It must also be said that the subject is more vaguely addressed here - Dining with the Devil was much clearer. Als instead of "modernity" Guinness is attacking "relevance". In both cases Guinness is labelling a modern condition with a single convenient word. In this book it is a little more unclear what it is exactly he doesn't like. He also quotes Nietzsche a surprising amount. In one case he approvingly quotes Nietzsche's comment to Wagner - a quote that cries out for context if ever one did, and Guinness very clearly is taking it out of context. All in all, more sloppy work than Guinness usually does and somewhat repetitive. Ultimately this book leaves too many nagging misgivings to make up for its commendable aims, and must be marked accordingly.
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on August 31, 2003
Os Guinness has written an amazing work on the concept of "Time" Guinness states that we live in a world that is run by the clock, we have been described as a people with "gods on their wrists" We do not have enough time for anyone but ourselves, and even that time is running ourselves thin. Therefore it's time to turn back the clock. Perhaps one of my favorite parts of the book is when Os Guinness steps out and calls for a reformation. He notes some of the greatest minds in history, the examples they shared, and how we need reform badly. I loved this book almost as much as Time For Truth. Because of the purpose of this book was something that I believe to have been met, I will gladly give the book 5-Stars. Os Guinness wrote the book no one had written, and everyones been asking for. Great work!
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on October 14, 2003
Os shares some awesome commentary on the state of relevence in the church. He also brings the plight of the ancient prophets into the modern world and compares them to the "untimely" people today. His comments on the history of time were also very interesting, as some of the other reviewers point out.
Overall I think this small book is a wonderful addition to any Christian library.
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on September 26, 2003
Ever since the 1960s, when he worked with Francis Schaeffer in Switzerland, Os has been writing life changing and enhancing books. Once again he does not let us down - let this book transform you as all this author's books have done since the Gravedigger File and Doubt. Go for it! Christopher Catherwood, author of CHRISTIANS, MUSLIMS AND ISLAMIC RAGE (Zondervan, 2003)
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