Listen, I only came to church to see if they could offer hope
But everything that happened there was way outside my scope
Like afterwards, outside, was a beggar on the grass
He held out his hand, and people would smile, then they'd pass
I'm sure he reached for something real, for something more than cash
He begged them for a little cheer
And they all pretended not to hear
I get the message, loud and clear:
Church is middle-class
Whenever I hear young pastors plead for the opportunity to employ new and creative methods to reach today's alienated sub-culture, I'm reminded of songs such as Larry's First Day in Church. The fact that there are hypocrites in the church shouldn't surprise us since, the last time I checked, churches are occupied by humans. The fact that the church in the West is becoming stagnantly ineffective shouldn't surprise us, given the opulently affluent lifestyle we live. Yet is the answer, to the clear predicament the church finds herself in, to re-package methodologies to better serve the self-described needs of a particular sub-culture?
What could be the reason to alter the manner in which we worship God so as to not offend a sub-culture that, admittedly, has no understanding of orthodox Christianity?
Being a concrete-sequential type of learner, I'm interested in the specifics of the methodologies that the younger pastors are interested in doing. So I think I'm being very sincere when I ask this question - What are you guys talking about?: Being able to preach in shorts and flip-flops? Not having church on Sunday nights? No senior pastors over the age of 40? Tattoos and body piercings being the norm? Online church communities? Open source Bible studies? Community involvement? Environmental activism? Relevant worship singing? Spiritual experience elevated over theological foundation? What?
Now, let me be clear here, I also believe that the church in the West is foundering and has become entirely too self-centered. However, I don't think this state of affairs is a result of being older, the philosophy of modernism, the religious right, or unwarranted dogmatism. I think we are where we are because we are fallen human beings. That doesn't excuse our condition, but it goes a long way to explaining it.
So, I'm very concerned when I see Christians positing methodologies, ostensibly to correct problems within our church, that wind up take a pragmatically capitalistic point of view in that a target audience is identified, and methods are determined based on the demographics of said audience. Correct me, if I'm wrong in my understanding here, but how is this new and creative?
Consider the following selected scenarios, as well as their implications for the church.
Would it matter if the weekly attendance at our mainstream churches dropped, were the churches to:
- start feeding the poor and homeless?
- start caring for single mothers?
- mentor younger ministers while actively engaging their contributions?
- preach the Word of God?
Now, consider the same implications, for these selected scenarios.
Would it matter if the weekly attendance at our emergent churches dropped, were the churches to:
- have an older senior pastor who doesn't preach in shorts and flip-flops?
- sing traditional (i.e., old) worship songs?
- actively seek out the wisdom of the elderly?
- preach the Word of God?
We are humans and, as such, we are obsessed with ourselves, whether or not we are modern or post-modern. If we truly want the church in the West to become effective, we must learn to discern between catering to wants vs. needs, and we must learn to love our neighbor as ourselves.