There is something going on in the church, I’m sure it’s not a new thing but it seems bigger now than ever. You hear things like this church is relevant, or the pastor of that church is real. We are told to reach the culture we need to be relevant. To reach our family, friends, and coworkers we need to be real. These labels are becoming a concern to me, because of what they seem to mean…
When you hear the word relevant in regards to a church you can be fairly sure of a few things, maybe not all of these things but usually at least a few. They have a light show and fog machines during the “worship experience”. The band will be loud and generally guitar driven. Once a month, every other week, or maybe every week the band will play a secular song to introduce/drive home the sermon. The sermon will have multiple points the pastor wants you to take home and apply, and typically these points are mostly reinforced by the pastor’s life experiences or anecdotal stories and not so much the Bible. The sermon will probably be more self help, than teaching the word of God. At least once a year you will hear a sermon or sermon series inspired by a movie, song, or TV show.
Something that seems to be going around more recently is that Christians need to “be real”, or I’ve heard that some people like their pastor because he is real. In my experience being real boils down to showing the world that we are just like them, that Christians have problems just like the world. Can’t stop swearing, don’t hide it just be real. I’m amazed at pastors that swear from the pulpit, and some people actually think it’s a positive thing. “He’s a real person, he talks just like we do, he’s so real.” “Being real” in this definition only helps people justify their own actions, because everybody at some points judges themselves against the people around them. Don’t be ashamed of the movies you watch or the music you listen to, just be real. Christians do have problems. We aren’t perfect, but isn’t part of the problem that the world looks at Christians and says ‘oh they are just like me, I don’t need what they have. We talk the same, we walk the same, we listen to the same music, watch the same movies, and play the same video games‘?
I don’t really wanting to dig into what I think may be right or wrong about these trends, but I want to point out that it seems being relevant and being real has replaced being holy. I know nobody reading this is holy, nor can they be. A lot of people reading this strive to be relevant and real, yet it is ‘be Holy’ that is commanded in the Bible (1 Peter 1:15,16). ‘Be relevant’ and ‘be real’ are not commanded in the Bible. I heard a sermon recently on Holiness. It was one of the most real and relevant things I have heard in a long time. The pastor spoke with passion and tears in his eyes as he testified of God’s conviction in his life and he repented of the very things some churches have said makes us real and relevant; our music, movies, games, and language. Churches don’t need to emulate the culture to be real or relevant. We have the gospel, and that is the most real and relevant thing in existence! I believe if we preach the gospel and strive for holiness God will build His kingdom, and change the culture. We have the largest churches we have ever had in the history of the world, yet look at our culture and the rampant immorality. That is because the church is effected by the culture instead of effecting the culture. That is because there are churches that worship the god of self. That is because American Christians aren’t concerned about holiness.
We need to stop pandering to the culture. We need to be less concerned about being relevant and real and strive to live a holy life. In doing that we will be more effective at spreading the Gospel that is real and relevant for all people at all times.