Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Futile Search for Relevance

Relevant. It seems to be the buzz word of the last decade for many churches. They are always wrestling with what it means to be relevant in this day and age. Just what will it take to reach the current generation? In an attempt to answer that question there are churches in bars, churches in coffee shops, churches in movie theaters, pastors in designer jeans, worship leaders as rock stars and fashion plates, couches replacing pews, door prizes at holiday services, organs being replaced with electric guitars, and  sermons packed with as many pop culture references as they can hold. Yet in spite of all that, no one really seems to be any more relevant than when this all began.

I've been to multiple churches that have introduced new services with a more modern format in an attempt to get a younger generation into the pews. A large part of the reason that I'm so sick of it is that I fall within their target demographic. I'm one of those twenty-somethings that they are striving so hard to show that this "isn't your parents church." I'm sick of being told what it is that I want and what it is that I will relate to based purely on my age. Truth be told, I like liturgy. I like learning from traditions that have occurred for years, decades, or even centuries. I like choirs. I like moments for quiet contemplation. I don't like raising my hands or clapping in church. I don't like feeling like I've ridden an emotional roller coaster upon leaving church. I don't like most pop influenced worship music. Yet, in spite of that, no one ever asks what I like. They simply assume that it must be the more modern option.

I don't think I'm alone in this. I know of many others my age who have left Evangelical, Pentecostal, Non-denominational, or Assemblies of God Churches for the calming traditions of Orthodox, Catholic, or liturgical Lutheran churches. Knowing that, I feel there is one major false assumption that is being made about our generation. Everything the church seems to be doing to reach us seems to rest on the assumption that when given the option we will always choose style over substance. It assumes that we will only be comfortable with "seeker friendly" vague Christian niceties. It assumes that we will easily swallow shallow repetitive praise choruses, but any deep hymn will be lost on us. It makes us into one big stereotype rather than looking at any deeper issue. And to be fair, I'm sure it's much easier to figure out how to make your church's music sound more like what's on the radio than to figure out how to make meaningful human connections in an age where everyone hides behind the veil of electronics.

The whole basis of the core of Christian theology lies in the fact that the truths it contains will never cease to be relevant. The is no expiration date for love, compassion, care for others, forgiveness, and humility. You can repackage it all you want, but if you're focusing primarily on that package, I think you're missing the point.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Vanity, Vanity, All is Vanity

"Oh, hey," I replied as I rubbed my eyes and wondered why she was in my dorm room so early.
"Okay, so I really think that God wants you to lend me your car so that I can get to church this morning."
"Um....oh. I'm sorry, but I can't. It's not my car. It's my mom's and she doesn't want anyone else to drive it. I'm really sorry."

In hindsight, I guess I could have gotten up and given her a ride. At the time, I was simply exhausted and wanted to go back to sleep. But that's really not the point.  This memory recently resurfaced due to something my sister said the other day. My sister didn't stumble into the world of American Evangelical Culture like I did. She was also raised Lutheran, went to a public liberal arts college after high school, traveled the world exploring both personal and geographical horizons, and is still a Lutheran today. I don't remember exactly why it came up, but we were driving in the car discussing how people give direct credit to God for various happy or sad events saying "The Lord did this" or "The Lord caused that." And she turned to me and said, "I think that's taking the Lord's name in vain too." I had never thought of it that way, but I really think she has a point.