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What Makes The Church Relevant?

What Makes The Church Relevant?

As I sat in the pew Sunday, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Well, maybe that was because there was so much going on visually. A power-point board scrolled the lyrics of the chorus. On the stage stood (well, actually swayed) a worship band which consisted of approximately 10 middle-aged men and women: one with a tambourine, another who whipped out a jazzy guitar solo, and the minister who sat at his piano with a boy-band microphone head-set urging us to get funky with the Spirit. Without ever opening a Bible, the service culminated in a sermon that pinpointed three simple rhyming biblical principles. On the most revered day of the week, I experienced the phenomenon commonly known as a “contemporary worship service” and I was embarrassed. The worst part was this was all done for my benefit – the typical twentysomething. Apparently, this was what my generation wanted.

But this isn’t even about Generation X. Rather, it’s the need to make Jesus Christ, the Gospel and the Church relevant in today’s postmodern culture. But relevant for who? This is the question I asked myself that morning. Who did this service relate to? It certainly didn’t relate to my husband or me. Instead, we saw a group of well-meaning parishioners living out their high school fantasy of being in a rock band. We saw cliches and shallowness and frivolity. It suddenly occurred to me that by trying to make the modern church service “relevant,” we were stripping it of the reverence, power and importance that the Church was supposed to embody. We saw a church trying to be cool.

I would argue that this type of service isn’t so contemporary anymore. When I sat in that service and many others like it, I didn’t see a modern and relevant interpretation of worship. I saw the contemporary worship my parents desired 20 years ago, when Keith Green was at the pinnacle of his career and the “mega-church” was only something to be hoped for and imagined. No, this service was a replica of the new church in the 20th century. But now we’re in the 21st century, our parents are now the leaders in our churches and we are the generation who wants more than this. What will the new church in the 21st century be like?

What do you want it to be like? From the message boards at, you’ve said you want passion – a passion for the Lord and a passion to spread His love with those who do not yet know it. You want intimacy – intimacy with Christ and intimacy with fellow believers. You want discipleship – to daily be fed the Word of God and to stretch and grow in your knowledge of Him. You want transparent faith – a faith that can break down barriers and cross boundaries and move mountains. You want to worship – to praise the Lord for who He is no matter what the style of music.

We don’t want church to be cheesy. We don’t want to hear the same old cliches. We don’t want the self-help version of the Gospel. We don’t want the show, the performances or the spotlights. We don’t want church to be fake. We want it to be real. We want God to be in the room.

That sounds like the perfect church! Why aren’t we all going there? Well, because it doesn’t exist and won’t until we all gather in the Lord’s presence in paradise. Because a church might not be perfect, the tendency is to reject that church simply because it doesn’t meet all our needs or because of minor disagreements. For a lot of us, this is the church that brought our grandparents’ generation together, providing the foundation that led us to Christ. Just because it’s the “old way” doesn’t mean it’s the bad way.

We may never find the perfect church that maintains a balance between traditional and modern and meets all our needs. But we can still serve now, where we are and in the churches we are in. We can give our opinions and get involved in the worship team or the missions’ board or the Bible studies. We can make our desires known to the leaders in our churches, that we want an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ and we want to share that faith in Him and love for Him with others. Do we really need to dress that up into a fancy package that might be appealing to some? Do we really need the Starbucks in the foyer or poetry readings in the chapel or the worship band with the 15-year-old praise choruses? Those things don’t make a church relevant. The Gospel of Jesus Christ makes the church relevant. But maybe someone should tell our parents.



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