Saturday, June 5, 2010

"Here we are now, enterain us"...

I've been thinking alot about the state of the American church recently. Actually, for more than a year. I am troubled by what I see in the actions that churches take to be "relevant". What does that word even mean nowadays, anyway?? Does replicating a concert like worship atmosphere make worship "relevant"? Does flashing images, strobing lights and a full band constitute relevancy? I think the church, as a whole is suffering from an identity crisis and isn't even aware of it.

Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines the word relevant as "a : having significant and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand b : affording evidence tending to prove or disprove the matter at issue or under discussion c : having social relevance".

I'm guessing that churches are trying to hit the 3rd definition but are missing the mark entirely. While trying to be socially relevant, churches are creating a co-dependency on being entertained while at church. Concert equivalancies, strobing lights; feel-good sermons; feel good lyrics; fun children's activities; fun classes.

Many leadership teams are quick to scold their congregation to "not come expecting to be entertained", yet, unintentionally or not, train the people to expect just that. If you analytically look at a typical modern church service what it produces is entertainment. Their actions speak louder than their words.

The church is teaching the congregation how to judge our experience on any given Sunday based on entertainment values. Did the music "move" *me*? Did the promo video make *me* feel good or proud or happy (or plug in an emotion)? Did the church provide fun to my children while I was in worship? Did I see *my* friends there? Did I get compliments on *my* contribution to the service?

I will often hear that the worship service (more specifically the music) was "great" but what does that mean? Based on what criteria? How well people performed? How well one praised God? If the latter is true, should we really be patting ourselves on the back for how well we gave back to God?

Don't get me wrong... I'm not a killjoy. I enjoy fun and highly encourage it! I enjoy being enterained but I don't think the church should be the venue. The church is so quick to flash lights, provide a 40,000 egg hunt at Easter, and create a concert feeling that they've lost their true purpose in the process. Is church about making me feel good each Sunday? Is that it's social relevancy nowadays? I ask because that is what churches are emphasizing, whether they mean to or not. I don't think church should be about *me* or you or anyone else. It's about coming to a place to give our worship to God. It is also about being taught what the Bible says.

The church has confused "social relevancy" with entertainment, blurring the line and confusing the two. Social relevancy is... being applicable, effective, needed in our society today. Yet, more and more are turning away from the church and, often, God than ever before. Clearly, our entertaining is not working, yet we're too stubborn (dare I say, prideful) to recognize that.

Shouldn't the church be known more for it's helpfulness to those in need on a consistent, reliable basis than for what it produces on a Sunday morning (or pick another day of the week)? Shouldn't the church spend more time in the neighborhood it serves each week than on what it produces? Shouldn't the church be encouraging to "go out" instead of "come in"?

I pray that we, as the Christian church, would examine our activities and the motives and purposes behind each one. I pray for true simplicity to be embraced by the church. I pray the teaching of God's word become a primary focus in each congregation. I pray, especially, for leadership to reclaim the church's identity in a community that is hurting and struggling. I pray that I nor anyone else seeking to praise God on Sunday would come with a "entertain me" expectation.