George Stroup, in his excellent book, The Promise of Narrative Theology, states the issue succinctly:
The Bible no longer exercises anything like the authority it once did in many Christian communities. And in those communities where the Bible continues to exercise its traditional role there is little or no serious engagement with the problems of the twentieth century.
It seems that what we need is a proper balance or better: a "both/and." That is, we need more pastors who engage the gritty, raw, challenging, and difficult material of scripture, but who are also deeply committed to contemporary cultural engagement. The challenge, of course, is to link up the "strange, new world of the Bible" (Barth) with the intricate, pressing challenges facing individuals and society today. The Bible and the Gospel speak words of lifeto our world but they do so from a standpoint that transcends it.
Finally, if you are committed to reading through the Bible this year, when you get to a difficult, "strange" passage and you can't figure out how it applies to your life, consider that it may not be nearly as irrelevant as it appears. It's a part of your history—our history. And relax a bit, because as Bonhoeffer reminded us, it's not really about us anyway. It's about God. Thankfully, though, he's invited us into his story. And it's a story that continues to change the world.