"It is time to abandon the evangelical quest to be 'relevant.' We need to be more cautious about letting cultural trends..."

“We have an unfortunate tendency to chase what is cool in our culture and make it the centerpiece of our ministry (often denigrating other ministries that don’t share our vision).   Meanwhile, we don’t realize that we are really about 10 years behind the cultural trends anyway.  We are perennial late-comers to what our world thinks is hip.”  

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Jesus Did not Wear a "Kick Me" Sign

Yesterday evening I checked my mailbox. Junk mail. As usual.

But this time, one of the advertisements caught my eye. It was a postcard from a church in my area—an invitation to their special Easter services. The front of the advertisement read: “We’re nearly as harmless as, well…a bunny.” Followed by a picture of one of those marshmallow “peeps.” I kid you not. I flipped the card over and read:

Does the thought of going to church make you uneasy, even a little queasy? Maybe you’re worried about what to wear or what others will think. At ______, we’ve worked really hard to make your experience non-threatening, beneficial, and even fun. We have a no-pressure, laid-back style and everyone is welcome! Stop by one of our ten Easter Services… it will be more than you expected and everything you’ve been looking for. Wear whatever you want, just be yourself. We’ll have the coffee ready for you.

Now, I’m not aware of a single church that wants to come across as threatening, miserable, and a waste of time. I have no problem with churches that work hard on being welcoming. And I really appreciate good coffee. But something about their whole presentation seemed, frankly … a bit pathetic: “Don’t be scared of us! We’re not that bad! We’re ‘harmless’! We’re nicer and more comfortable than all those other stiff, meanie churches.”

I know there are many “Christians” who have done horrible things in the name of Jesus. I know there are countless individuals who have been hurt by churches. Those situations are sad and should not be swept under the rug. But still…it seems to me that some churches spend way too much time apologizing and trying to “fit in.” Like the kid in high school who will do anything to get friends—only to find out those “friends” mock him behind his back for being so insecure.

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The Relevant Church

Reprinted with permission from Voice magazine (Jan/Feb 2010).

Recently I was visiting one of my elders’ friends to whom he has been witnessing for about thirty years. In a three hour time period we must have presented the gospel to his friend at least five times, in different ways. His friend just nodded and agreed but never made a decision to trust Christ as Savior. I was along for the ride this time, but this elder in my church faithfully does this every Thursday and has for years.

During our ride I got at least three phone calls from people requesting financial assistance from our church. I shared with them the different non-profit groups in our community that can help them. But, and how can I say this tenderly, I had to reject their request. We have several families in our church who have fallen on hard times because the economy in Michigan is terrible and if you lose your job, they are hard to find. Three families in our church were on the verge of losing their homes and so we took a special offering through the month of July to give those families a boost. Our small church gave $2,600 in addition to our normal giving.

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