Spend enough time with ‘next gen’ leaders and you will inevitably hear the word ‘relevant’…a lot. Relevance seems to be the great quest right now. There is good reason of it; many if not most churches are graying and shrinking. By on large the church has not been successfully reaching youth and young adults on mass. And what is equally troubling is that the few youth we have are leave faster and in larger numbers than ever before.
Given these facts, a common observation is made; the church is stuck in its old ways. Old music, old seating, old style of dress, old buildings, old vernacular, old technology, old style of meetings, old patterns of ministry. The list can go on but you get the idea. Many believe that the church is too stuffy, and too old. That it needs a face lift, a good dose of new energy, new ideas and fresh perspectives.
In short the argument goes that the church must update and remove all of the ‘old’s’ and replace them with ‘new’s’. The church has to go from being irrelevant to relevant.
Let me clear that up a little. I don’t object to the sprucing up of the church. I am not a great fan of the organ, pews or ties myself. If we can bring our style worship and the lay out of the building into the 21st century that would be great. Actually I imagine there are a number you out there that would be satisfied if you could move your church into the 20th century. So don’t get me wrong I am all for this shift in style.
However I think we have moved beyond relevance as our main problem. We are into something else, something harder. Something that will require more than an electric guitar, LCD projector, and a hoodie.
Being irrelevant is a neutral term. It means that something is of no interest to you, or makes no impact on your life. A great deal of what happens on any given day is irrelevant to most of us. I imagine that the conversations my neighbours have in their home are generally irrelevant to me. Unless of course they they have decided to throw their garbage into my garbage can or are trying to figure out how to get my family to move, or to kidnap my son.
If that were the case then their conversations would be very relevant to me. I would want to know what they were saying and what they were up to. It is also likely that I would want to take steps to prevent them from succeeding. I may even want to turn the tables on them by trying to get them removed from the neighbourhood.
I want to suggest that the church has become this kind of relevant for many people. So many people are drinking up books by Bart Ehrman, Richard Dawkins, Tom Harpur and other like authors. The ideas presented by these authors are having a huge affect on the way people view the church, and God.
The question has shifted.No longer is the question; ‘is the church irreverent’, it has become; ‘is the church ignorant, and is the church evil?’ Those are the questions that we must address.
The church has become relevant again for many people.The problem is it is relevant to them because they want to discredit us, and shut us down. I wish new chairs, better lighting and YouTube videos would resolve this problem. But they will not.