Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Relevancy of the Church

This blog post stemmed from a conversation in my Wednesday night Small Group. Our group is studying The Forgotten God by Francis Chan. The conversation went in several different directions about the Holy Spirit and His place in our personal lives, church, and society, but one question that stuck with me to ponder was this, "What is the relevancy of church in America today?"

That question made me really stop and think. The first thing I did to attack this topic was look up the definition of relevant. Webster defines relevant as follows:
1. closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand.
"the candidate's experience is relevant to the job"
synonyms:pertinentapplicableappositematerialapropos, to the point,germane

So, the question becomes this: How applicable/pertinent/closely connect to society is church (i.e. the place people go on Sunday, not the body of believers) in America today?

My initial response, along with my group members, was "fairly" or "somewhat". So, then, the question was posed, "How?" i.e. what does the church do to make it pertinent or applicable or relevant? 

oops. It gets more difficult at this point. We say-well, the church used to be the philanthropic center of the community. Or, even, the church was consulted when a new law or ruling was put into place. Finally, we talk about how the pastor was seen as esteemed or a community leader. But today, today, are any of those ideas the case?

I have a love for historical fiction and plain culture fiction (Amish, Mennonite, etc). Some of the things I am attracted to in these books are the simplicity of life, the strength of community, and the importance of family. As we considered the above discussion, my mind began to wander to these books. The first building a town ever built in the "olden days" or even in these plain communities was the church. The entire town came together to build this place of worship, of camaraderie. The church building was also the town playhouse, schoolhouse, and often the place for democratic governmental meetings. But what about today? Dare we suggest a school play take place in a church sanctuary? Dare we even consider a governmental meeting there? What happened? And does the lack of use...the extreme separation of church from state make the church societally irrelevant?

I think that churches around America have decided that the blatant and obvious answer to the question posed is no. We, the church, are no longer relevant in today's society. I would say, as a pastor's daughter who grew up in the church, that a contemporary movement deemed the church no longer relevant about a decade ago. This change or decision, if you will, began a movement to make church culturally relevant. Churches gathered twenty-somethings who always wanted to be rock stars and put them on stage with 700 lights. They added cliches, frivolity, and cheesiness to attract the masses. I believe, however, that in this process of making the church relevant in post-modern society (or the attempt to), many churches have stripped away the reverence, power, and even spirituality that the church embodied. In trying to be cool, we eliminated Christ and there was certainly no room for the Holy Spirit to move. But, this church did become popular. It was a cool place to be. But still, the question remains...was it relevant? With no power or spiritual authority, the church is none other than a community center where we come to see a great concert and hang out with friends. That desire can be filled in many different venues around America today. Just like the move that we've seen away from the church being the playhouse, schoolhouse, and government building, the community center, concert venue, and YMCA are all great places to hang out and push the church to the back burner.

What is the purpose of church? What do I want? Well, it is a place to come--find intimacy with Christ and other believers, be fed by the Word (not cliches and feel-good words), and experience discipleship from those who have learned before. I want a faith that is stronger than the community's ability to push and combat the church. I want a moving of the Holy Spirit that will break down barriers, cross boundaries, and do the pulling in (rather than a need for a watered down gospel).  I don't want church to be fake. I want God to be in the room. The problem today is that we the Church don't know how to experience this anymore. We are so far away from what God designed as true church that I'm concerned we will never get back there. I am concerned that barring a huge movement of the Holy Spirit, the church will never be relevant again and that breaks this girl's heart. Please don't misunderstand me here-I'm not bashing contemporary worship. I love P&W music and I think lights add to the sensory experience. I'm simply saying that in our attempt to find relevance, we instead found casual Christianity. My encouragement to myself and believers around me is to find the relevance of Christ in our lives and then ultimately, we can allow the Holy Spirit and the always-relevant Gospel to lead the way to relevance of the church in America again-- because really, without Him, is church even relevant to me?

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