In my region, CBC Radio One recently added an FM station to it’s existing AM broadcast. Radio One has a good share in my market, and is what I listen to a lot — but I was always disappointed to have to listen on the AM band. Now they’ve got the same programming on an FM band, and I’m most happy about it. During the launch campaign, they used an excerpt from Steely Dan, “No static at all (no static at aalll….)”. Perhaps you know it. The difference in fidelity is of course a welcome change to my ears, and I now feel I’m hearing the music and voices a little closer to the way they should be heard.
This is the same metaphor that Rob Martoia, a former student of Scot McKnight, uses in his new book, Static: Tune Out the “Christian Noise” and Experience the Real Message of Jesus. Martoia intermingles recounted conversations with his friends Phil and Jess with his own explanation as he unfolds his thesis that the Christian language used by the church for decades has too much negative baggage in our culture and needs to be replaced. He contends that the words used in the New Testament are rich with meaning relevant to hearers in the first century, but not to our own context today. To illustrate, he moves through a variety of terms and phrases that we use from the Bible, explaining what they meant in their original context and then offers a consideration of what they could mean in ours — and concluding that we might be better off with replacement terms in each case.
The conversational/story style has been compared to Brian McLaren’s use of the same device in his New Kind of Christian trilogy. I found Martoia’s use of this style not as engaging as McLarens, but others may find it moreso for the fact that it is portrayed as an actual rather than a fictional dialogue. To be sure, his thesis is likely to be less controversial at any rate.
As I settled into the book, I found I was wanting to start skimming past much of the material I was reading, and as I looked closer at why this might be I came to the understanding of who Martoia’s audience is… and it isn’t really me. The book is perhaps best directed at people in an established church who are looking for ways to share their faith with non-Christian friends, or who are frustrated in their efforts to this end. Wonder why your invitations to co-worker Harold to attend your church’s Alpha class are being rebuffed? This book is for you.
One thing that gave me pause with the book is the underlying assumption about the sharing of one’s faith. I’ve commented before on my disquiet with “directed” conversations or friendships. I don’t have the impression that Martoia would suggest the courses of action with which I’m uncomfortable here, but he does present the tools with which to direct the conversation in a less overtly religious manner than the ways with which some of us may have been familiar over the past few decades. However, bearing this in mind, once a relationship or a conversation lands at the point where inquiry is taking place and it’s time for a response without resorting to language fraught with religious baggage, Martoia’s book becomes suddenly quite relevant. On that basis, given the caveat I’ve already made, I could recommend the book for anyone wondering what a new kind of evangelistic conversation might sound like.
Martoia’s website has discussion on the book and links to further reviews as well as articles by and interviews with Ron Martoia. The target audience I detect in the book makes good sense considering Ron Martoia’s bio:
Dr. Ron Martoia is a transformational architect.his passion is helping people, and the organisms they serve, design, build and experience revolutionary change. Over the last 2 years Ron has spoken to over 25,000 leaders in conference settings. His area of expertise is on the new and shifting landscape of church/cultural intersection, where he helps churches consider how they can shift their theological outlook which in turn will shift and adjust their ministry trajectory and cultural interface. Through his speaking, consulting, writing, and acting as “a distant staff member” to a number of churches, Ron is using his cultural intonation to help churches shift paradigms from the old Newtonian world to the Quantum world of the 21st century context.
After reading that, I think I want Ron’s job. ;^) The bio depicts an approach that the book seems to use as well, namely an approach to contextualization that begins with shifting theology. I believe this is what gave rise to a less-than-favorable opinion of the book from a good blogger-friend of mine who shall remain nameless. In practice, I don’t think Martoia operates this way &8212; that is, he isn’t giving up on orthodoxy… but he is of necessity walking that boundary between Church-ianity and popular culture and looking to build a universal translation device between the two. I hope it works, but the nature of the task may lead to misunderstanding on both sides as he seeks to overcome the static. Maybe I don’t want his job after all.
Disclosure: I’m not paid for this post, but it is part of a series of reviews set up by The Ooze, who receive consideration for their efforts in arranging it.