Saturday, October 13, 2007

Relevant or relative Christianity? (Part 1 of 4)

Sometimes I think we try too hard! As Christians, we want so much to connect with the culture that we have been called to reach, that we risk becoming ineffective in our purpose as we end up blending in rather than standing out.

It kind of reminds me of parents that are trying too hard to be cool so that they can be accepted and liked by their kids and their kids friends. This is always a bad idea. For one, as a dad, you’d look kind of foolish sporting a Mohawk, “sagging” your 3-sizes-too-large pants, and hanging out at the mall with your son and his friends. Neither your son nor his friends would think you are cool. Quite frankly, they really wish you’d “grow up” and be the parent. If he hasn’t told you that yet, I’m sparing you further humiliation by letting you in on that open secret.

Before I completely take off on a rabbit trail, let me return to my prevailing idea of trying too hard to be accepted by the culture. As a pastor I can really relate to this conundrum. You see, I know what it feels like to attend a conference at a really great church that’s just oozing momentum all over the place, and wondering if maybe I might be missing something, which would explain (at least to my mind) why my church isn’t quite as rocking as theirs. Then I begin to try and figure out the next great fad, or the next great buzz word in the Church, so that I can latch on to that train and hopefully develop some momentum of my own (I know this never happens to you). Lately though, I have been really pondering the big idea of reaching the lost with the truth of the gospel. In my studies, I have gone back to the basics of what Jesus did and said (remember there were no Christians coming to His church when He started out in ministry, the only people He had to reach out to were the lost).

I discovered that I had devolved into shoddy thinking based purely on church cultural norms and dictates. All too often, for some misguided reason, we think that the way to impact the culture around us is to learn how to look, sound, and act like the culture. We even adapt their music styles, communication styles, fashion sense and everything else that makes secular culture what it is. One of the latest crazes is to develop a sermon series off the theme of a popular reality TV show and “make it ours” so that we can be more relevant and in touch with popular culture. Mark you, I am not by any stretch of the imagination condemning these practices, as I have had my own fair share of sermon series based off of reality TV (remember I said I can relate to the idea of trying too hard to be accepted by the prevalent culture). I am however beginning to ask the question as to the efficacy of the way we pastor our churches and lead God’s people.

Churches that have really loud, powerful music with all the accoutrements of lights, smoke and other “concert” paraphernalia tend to be seen as cool, progressive and enlightened churches. We often promote our dress style as, “Come as you are,” even at the risk of people dressing as if they threw something on and missed. We do all of this so that we can be seen as accepting, loving and non-judgmental. But I have to wonder: Is this really what Jesus would do? The dilemma, it seems, is in wanting to be all of these things (loving, accepting and non-judgmental) yet reflecting the power and truth of the gospel. Some are accused of being so “seeker-sensitive” that their message of the gospel is a watered down, half-truth rendition of what Jesus said. Others, in an attempt to speak the truth, have become harsh, insensitive and condemning of anything that doesn’t look like them. So where’s the balance you ask? The balance is in.... I guess if you really want the answer to that question you're just gonna have to come back tomorrow.