The opportunities we are missing because of our obsession with our aesthetic should sober us to think differently.
Just because you serve high-end coffee on a weekend doesn’t mean you’re actually speaking to a person’s soul. Don’t get me wrong, for all the Christians you serve; a delicious americano can help them engage at the early service, but for the people that have no idea who Jesus is, your church cafe is just another option for great coffee in your city.
In his book “The End of Absence,” Canadian journalist Michael Harris suggests that within our current cultural climate, people in society are making a trade. They are trading absence for constant connectivity and ultimately, the trade isn’t a fair one. He suggests throughout the book that the constant connection that we experience is actually counterfeit and that the space every human has been born with (absence) to think, to process and to be confronted with themselves is disappearing. It’s making us less human. Harris goes on in the book to demonstrate “how” our lack of absence affects and cheapens the areas of life that have traditionally been essential to the human experience (Family, relationships, work, etc.) It’s a brilliant book. His insights are invaluable and by the way… Michael isn’t a follower of Jesus.
While the evangelical Christian sub-culture is trying to figure out how to be relevant to non-believers, non-believers are trying to figure out how to find serenity and peace. They are in many ways bypassing what seems to them to be a pretentious spirituality. Am I saying that there is no room for cultural expressions within churches? absolutely not. What I am saying is that those expressions had better be grounded in a community of people who have a depth of spiritual maturity. A spirituality that helps people throughout their journey on the continuum of faith.
We work hard to offer people lights, lattes, and leather jackets. We think that they are looking for an engagement of their senses. What we’re missing is that a world that is addicted to being digitally connected needs space where face to face community happens. A place where the emptiness of the counterfeit can be traded for genuine absence and contemplation. In the last two thousand years, the church has been at its best and has been most effective when it was able to offer the societies that it served two very simple things: Truth and community.
You’re not a castaway as a pastor because you lead a church predominantly made up of seniors who still sing hymns. If you can lead and teach your people to leverage their experience and spiritual maturity to engage their own neighborhoods, your church will be packed in no time. Not one millennial is going to care if the music is “lit” if one of the seniors that you lead takes the time to speak grace and truth into their lives. If the holes of mentorship, fatherhood/motherhood, and guidance are filled; many millennials would trade all the bomber jackets in the world for a stable friendship like that. The same is true of every model and type of church.
Being relevant isn’t so relevant anymore. With access to the world with a single click, people can find relevant content in seconds. Most churches cannot compete with the inundation of relevant options. Where we have the opportunity to excel in our current cultural milieu is to offer what we’ve been able to give to people for the last two millennia: Truth and community. How you do that is up to you. Just don’t be so relevant that you miss giving people what they actually need.
Remember the commission we’ve been given: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 NLT
Call people to Christ. Make them part of the family. Teach them what Jesus actually said.
Truth and community.