I was recently viewing a website - I'm a Graphic designer by day, M.Div student by night - and I came across a church plant website that was planning on starting in September. It had that "emerging" feel (whatever that is) and so I read a bit closer. They are planning on meeting in a movie theater on Sunday mornings. The web site begins with the question, "When did church become so boring?" Interesting, I thought. It then made the suggestion that few of us like being bored, and that church has become fundamentally boring and that's why people don't want to go to it. This got my wheels turning some more.
There is a perception in the world of Evangenerica (Karlene's made up term) that in order for the Church to succeed and the Gospel to win, then the bearer of the Gospel - that is, the Evangel, and as a body, the Church - must become 'relevant' to society. Oftentimes "relevance" becomes synonymous with "entertaining." What can we do to get more butts in the seats? We get caught in conversation about whether the music is loud enough, or the lights bright enough. Or even, do we have the right glam? American evangelism has become a lot like remodeling a McDonald's. Generally, after about 10 years someone notices that the plastic seat covers are out of style, so they put together a committee of people to implement remodeling in all of their stores just in time to see the styles change once more. There are two problems here: (1) the remodel always comes too late, and (2) even with the remodel they're still serving the same crappy food!
So, we start meeting in movie theaters instead of Churches (or 'Worship Centers' as they've come to be called). We wear street clothes, and serve Starbucks, while playing Rock 'n Roll through our $100,000 sound systems. We start throwing a swear word or two into our daily vocabulary just to fit in (yeah, we're rebels). Yet, relevance should, and does, mean more than simply being more entertaining than we used to be. Church is about more than keeping people from boredom.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying this is about music style. What I am saying is that the relevance of the Church is the Gospel of Jesus Christ! It does not live in church models, or music, or mochas. The hope and message of Jesus Christ is the food which we find nourishment and life sustainment on. Yet oftentimes we minimize it in order to be more in tune with culture. I believe that Jesus' message is relevant as read in the gospels. With a world suffering from poverty and war; striking disparity between rich and poor; homelessness, abuse, addiction, brokenness the counter-cultural message of Jesus teaches us a better way to live our lives. It is in Jesus' counter-cultural message that the Church will find relevance in a hurting and broken world. Jesus' message of love, even to the point of laying his life down for the one's he called friends, is more relevant than we can possibly imagine. We must triumph Christ's love boldly, being unashamed of his message of peace, love, compassion, and grace once more. This is our only hope in a world that already has a enough Starbucks.