I just saw an ad for a seminar about the “culturally strategic church.” Something about that wording is just wrong to me. Why do those things give me such a weird feeling? Why do we need a magazine all about being relevant in our culture? I feel like I am already so steeped in American culture…I seek respite from it more than anything. What happened to the church being a counter-culture? The early church was surely a counter-culture phenomenon. They stood out because they worshipped only one God, they were active in matters of social justice, they shared everything, they treated women as if they were worth something. I think the problem with the church trying to be “culturally relevant” is that it ends up looking like a pathetic poser: always hopelessly behind, always a little off, and always trying to be something that it’s not – straying away from its true nature and calling.
Francis Shcaeffer really sums it up when he says, “Tell me what the world is saying today, and I’ll tell you what the church will be saying seven years from now.”
Trying to be a culturally relevant church makes me feel like we’re trying to know our audience, research our demographic, and then sell our product. That’s disgusting. We are not selling a product, we’re sharing the Truth and the One who completely changed our lives. We’re not targeting a demographic, but seeing the people around us as people – with souls and joys and sorrows and cravings that are universal.
In his “Open Letter to American Christians”, Brennan Manning proposes some controversial solutions to the flailing church:
“I believe he [the apostle Paul] would call the entire American church to return to the discipline of the secret. This ancient practice of the apostolic church was implemented to protect the sacred name of Jesus Christ from mockery and the mysteries of the Christian faith from profanation. The ancient church avoided mention of baptism, Eucharist, and the death and resurrection of Christ in the presence of the unbaptized. Why? Because the most persuasive witness was the way one lived, not the words one spoke. […] Let the church go underground for a while. As it lowers its profile, let it raise the ante for membership. We are the church. Let us present to the world the image of a servant community, and let us preserve the beauty of the gospel not with showy, defensive fervor but with an intense interior life of prayer and worship, service, and a manner of living that only can be explained in terms of God.”