Making Church IRrelevant
By any chance did you miss the 2016 presidential campaign and election? Politics don’t drive culture, but are an expression of cultural change. With that point of view, we can easily observe that American culture is in a season of great flux. Familiar political categories are deconstructing before our eyes, while new categories are not yet formed. But let’s not limit our perspectives on change to politics. Corporations, small businesses, educational institutions, non-profit organizations…all these are shifting and morphing into something new. Well, at least those who will survive are adapting.
This cultural milieu in which we find ourselves should stir us up in congregations. Is congregational life the one island of stability in this contextual sea-change? For some, the answer is yes. These are the congregations who remain fixated on the issues and concerns of the last century. They are trying to answer questions no one is asking. But don’t talk too loud, we might wake them up from their peaceful slumber as they drift off into non-existence. Here is what they are investing their collective energies.
Holding onto 11AM
These churches somehow still believe their participants need time for milking the cows before driving to worship. Otherwise, they would move away from the MOST inconvenient time during the weekend to gather for worship. Changing worship times would disrupt their familiar routines and habits and we all know that’s the criteria we want to use for making church decisions.
Investing in theological nuance
These churches somehow believe people in our culture are driven by a fear of hell, while being fascinated by end of time predictions. They invest great energy in reading the tea leaves about end time events, rather than trusting God with what Jesus said we would never know. This is just one of the numerous peripheral theological issues of concern from previous centuries for which people inside and outside the church walls do not care. They are wondering if the Christian story has any power in it to transform the world wherein living people exist.
Engaging denominational battles
After consulting with many denominations who are working to transform themselves toward greater relevance, it’s clear that denominations of the near future will not even resemble what we have known. Fighting with one another on the denominational battlefield is like tidying up the mulch in the flower beds just before the tsunami breaks over the yard. Besides, the world around us sees those battles as one more example of how the church is squandering resources and in-fighting while the world wastes away.
Pursuing orthodoxy far more than orthopraxy
How much study does it take to engage the commission to love God, love others, and love ourselves? Pretty simple, right? Well, if you look at how churches spend their time, we would interpret that the Christian story is meant for studying and observing rather than living. I guess it’s easier to talk about love than to live love. The world around us needs to see the gospel in action in order to believe it’s anything more than posturing.
Defining themselves in opposition
By promoting what you don’t like or even hate, you are repelling spiritual seekers. It’s time to embrace who you are and what you are about. Identify what it looks like to embody the Way of Jesus and then live it. Lay aside hesitation and political correctness, embracing who you are, making your contribution to this world’s transformation. Be a proactive community of faith with something compelling and beautiful to contribute.
Aligning themselves with a political party
I’ve worshipped at that church. Clearly they were not welcoming people who held political opinions different than their majority. It was also clear they were mistaking patriotism for Christian faith, blending the two so perfectly that I could see no distinction between them. When their political party violated their faith values, the theological gyrations involved in trying to fit their faith into the political party line was hilarious. All the while the world outside writes-off these congregations as pawns of the political system.
So very few of us want to be that church. Instead we have tasted of the Lord and found that the Lord is good. We believe living in the Way of Jesus Christ is transformational; this world’s best hope. We are caught up in this Christian Movement, eager to partner with others who want God’s ways to be actualized on earth as they are in heaven. So, let’s lay the hesitation, fear, and irrelevance aside. Let’s become the invigorated faith communities Jesus Christ calls and inspires us to be.
Mark Tidsworth, President, PLA