Sunday, November 17, 2013

If not cool, then what? Relevant and contemporary.

If the attraction of church isn't its 'cool' quotient, what is its attraction?
I do think church should have an attraction factor, a number in fact. There are a few that spring straight to mind.

Firstly, and foremost, should be the very presence of Jesus in the church community, in the worship, the word, the sacraments, and in the individual lives of those that gather as the church.

Secondly, in a world full of pretence, show, self marketing and masks, there should be an attraction factor in the church in regards to authenticity, honesty, transparency, acceptance and its ability to ask hard questions and not just offer easy answers. The church should be a 'come as you are' community. There is something beautiful about this. Though of course the church need not apologize for also being a transformational community; 'come as you are' doesn't always equate to 'stay as you are.'

Thirdly, there should be an attraction factor in the way that the church community loves one another, cares for one another, stands with one another, celebrates with one another etc. As a redeemed community, as an advance party of heaven's invasion of earth, the church is a community (though flawed) that seeks to dwell in right relationship with God, self, others and creation. There should be something attractional about this.

And then fourthly, the church should also be a community that is relevant to contemporary society. Yep, I said it, RELEVANT and CONTEMPORARY. By this though, I don't mean cool. Remember my last post? Relevant to contemporary society doesn't have anything to do with being cool.

By relevant to contemporary society  I mean the, way in which it speaks  the life of Christ into the issues, cultures, addictions, pursuits, longings, questions and concerns, and worldview of its particular context in history. This doesn't necessarily mean contemporary mediums or packaging, in fact, you could argue that it may in fact require counter cultural mediums and distinctly alternative packaging in order to truly speak into today's cultural context. If the famous idiom 'the medium is the message' is true, then consideration must be given to the ways in which the mediums the church use at times enhance our message and other times distort it.

I think that if the church is to remain contemporary it must also be ancient. It should take seriously Jesus call to give, to pray, to fast, to turn the other cheek, to lay down one's life, take up one's cross, die to self. It should encourage stillness, reflection, contemplation. If people want to be 'pumped up' they can take a spin class or go to an AMWAY conference or tune into Anthony Robins. The church has some pretty ancient and some pretty unfashionable things to call people to. Fasting in a world of consumerism focused on touch, smell, taste experience? Have fun rallying the troops for this fun pass time!

At times, the more contemporary we become, the more irrelevant we become. It's hard to critique culture if we're not counter culture. And so it's an ongoing back-and-forth shuffle, working to ensure that the Sunday gatherings on the life of the church community are relevant to contemporary society,

that is...

they speak hope and truth and love,
and promise and grace and forgiveness ,
and the reality of Christ, and of his life and his death and his resurrection,
and of his arms open invitation to follow,
right into the very heart of the issues and challenges of 21st Century living.

I know as a local church pastor that sometimes we do this really well and that sometimes we don't do as well as we would of liked. I know too that sometimes I think we've nailed it and nobody says a lot and other times I think we've bombed it and people say things like, 'now I wish every Sunday was like that!' You scratch your head, trust God and push on. Jesus has a way of graciously meeting people right where they are at.

When the church speaks into the issues, the longings, the questions and concerns of its contemporary context, ultimately, it is attractional. Why? Because people know deep down that surely there has to be more to this life than this life. More going on than just consuming and acquiring and tasting and experiencing and conquering and striving and burning out and...

It's not about being cool.
What's the point when your message isn't cool?
It's just confusing.
It's about Jesus, authenticity, love and a boldness to offer ancient truth into a 21st Century context. 

Check out these Christians in the Philippines worshipping together after Typhoon Haiyan. Come on! That's what I'm talking about. The real deal.

Side note: I'm not here wanting to contrast attractional with incarnational. Ultimately the church should be incarnational rather than attractional, that is, a church that goes into the world rather than expects to attract people out of the world. I'm talking about a different kind of attraction here and believe there is a manner of speaking of the church as attractional that I think is appropriate.  

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