Should the Church Pursue Relevance?
If we have no good news to share with those who don't know Christ, why do we want to attract them?
“We’re not gonna preach or make anybody feel weird.” I read that this morning in a news article where a pastor was describing his upcoming Easter outreach.
I’ve thought a lot about that quote and the current trends in the Church in America. This pastor’s statement seems to capture the thinking of many I have heard from.
There is a sense that the Gospel message is irrelevant, and we must find new ways to attract people to the church. But if we have no good news to share with them, why do we want to attract them?
If the good news is “weird,” why bother?
When the Church started on the path to “relevance,” many of us declared and believed, “the methods change, but the message never will.” Now it seems we may have been mistaken.
No, the message isn’t being changed; it’s just not being spoken.
Let me assure you, the pastor’s sentiments that somehow preaching about a man born of a virgin, living a sinless life, dying for the forgiveness of sins, and rising from the dead is weird are not his thoughts alone. Many today are singing the tune that preaching is weird and irrelevant. I was personally in a class with a well-known organization when the speaker told a room full of pastors, “People come to church to have fun, and the more you preach the less fun they have.”
And many of the pastors buying into that belief and practice are seeing their churches fill. There has indeed been a successful transplant of Christians from traditional churches into churches with more lights, music and fun.
There isn’t anything wrong with fun in church. I too have faced the same kind of traditional religion that has run many from the church. Once, I had a church elder mount a campaign against my family and me because I had dared to suggest that married couples might consider ballroom dancing lessons for a “date night.” I can’t blame anyone from running from this kind of foolish legalism and looking for somewhere that has life.
My concern remains, though, that in a breakneck pace to make the church “relevant,” we are, in fact, making it irrelevant.
In an attempt to “fit in,” we have lost much of our distinctiveness, and the only thing that makes the Church relevant, or have a purposeful place in society, are its peculiarities. (1 Peter 2:9) The Church and the preacher should be a voice crying out and echoing the words of our Lord: Come unto me all that are heavy laden and I will give you rest.
That may be weird, but the world is dying to hear it.
I recently heard an internationally known spiritual leader comment that his generation cannot hear the next generation coming behind them. That they see no true signs that the Church they have handed down to us will have any resemblance to what it once was.