From MyNakedPastor.com to coffee houses in the sanctuary churches have been trying to reach the world and appear “relevant”, especially the younger generations. After all, according to one study, “70 percent of young adults ages 23-30 stopped attending church regularly for at least a year between ages 18-22.” So, we have to do something, right? But are we doing the right “something”?
I came across an older article today thanks to a RSS reader that seems to have found a new “retro” setting or something. Though, the article was older, it’s message is still relevant today as addressed the question of how much the church of today is, or should be, mimicking the world in an attempt to be relevant to the culture and attract people.
Mimicking The World:
In the articles, by Brett McCracken, he frets about the on-going trend in church marketing and church worship of mimicking the world or referencing the world. He addresses this across the board from using technology (like online churches), to using worldly references (like quoting Lady GaGa in a sermon), to using shock messaging (like the myriad of sex related websites that sprung up a few years ago, mygreatsexlife.com, etc).
Methods and Messages:
For me, the method is generally benign. In other words, there’s nothing inherently bad about using technology and having a band in church or having online church. After all, many of the things we consider traditional or old fashioned in the church were at one point a new technology. It used to be controversial to have an organ in the church. Bulletins and even hymnals were once new. Churches used to only have word of mouth marketing, but then there were flyers, mailings, TV spots, and eventually the Internet brought seemingly endless opportunities for reaching people.
The methods are just tools. It’s the message that’s important. But in the quest for the church to be relevant has the church not just adapted its methods? Have we also adapted our message?
Churches try to attract new visitors with websites shock messages/websites about sex (or which at least sound like they are about sex). I’ve sat through multi-week sermon series about the best way to manage my finances and the key principles of business success. I’ve been to churches which are so “relevant” to the world that you were lucky to hear even 1 Bible verse mentioned in the entire service.
I’ve attended several Leader Summits put on by Willow Creek over the years. A few years ago during the closing session with Bill Hybels, he challenged Pastors and church leaders to speak about the Gospel more concluding that if they hadn’t mentioned the Gospel message in 3 or 4 weeks, they needed to do that. I was dismayed not just that apparently churches were going months without talk about the Gospel, but that Pastor Hybels admonishment was essentially to at least mention the Gospel once a month.
What is the church’s primary message? Isn’t it the Gospel? So, shouldn’t we be focused on that message?
Honestly, I go back and forth on this. I love the idea of being creative in finding ways to reach people and I think that is the basis for many of the things I mentioned above. At the same time, do the things above really address the desires of the people we are trying to reach. Sure it’s good to know how to deal with my finances, but in the end is that what the non-believers are really looking for from the church or are they looking for Christ?
The ironic thing is that most companies do everything they can to distinguish themselves from everyone else in their marketing message (We’re easier to use, we have better customers service, it’s the latest tech, etc). But in many ways, the modern church seeks to de-emphasize what makes us unique in our marketing message. Christ is what makes us unique.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
As the church seeks to better reach out to people and be relevant to their lives, have we sometimes gone too far? Should we approach people my mimicking the world or should we clearly distinguish ourselves as different from the world, but having what the people truly need. Is it OK to use shock messages or worldly topics to get people in the doors?
What do you think?