I have lately noticed a trend in church services, Christian magazines, Christian music, Christian culture, etc… Christians trying to be relevant. To be sure, this is a big step for the evangelical church of our parents generation that wouldn’t dance, watch movies, or step foot in a bar; sometimes they were alienated from the non-christians around them. But I worry that in our modern quest to be relevant we compromise and dilute our faith with secular culture. We try so hard to make Christianity look “cool.”
I think one of my biggest annoyances is that we assume that in order to be relevant to the generation around us we need to simplify our message. We need to “dumb it down.” So we replace pew Bibles with video screens, we interpret the Bible for them, and then we turn it into petty clichés. The argument is always that by doing this we will first capture a non-believers attention and then lead them into a deeper faith afterwards, much like secular advertising. Part of this makes sense to me. But by cutting down God’s word into easy-to-digest tidbits we reduce our message to nothing but more clutter.
Paul was relevant to his generation, without reducing his message in the slightest. You can see his “be everything to everyone” attitude in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. The difference between Paul and ourselves is that while he is finding common ground with people he is following up those relationships by preaching the gospel. An unadulterated, unsimplified, relevant gospel. You can see an example of this in Acts 17:22-34 where he finds common ground with the Athenians, their poets, and how they worship, but then turns the conversation towards the one true God and does not shy away from complications or controversies.
I think that people want depth in faith, they want to see that Christianity is not a mindless bunch of freaks following some tradition they invented. They want to see that it has substance. Now, this may not mean that you start discussing the intricacies of theological matters with a unbeliever, but it does mean that you don’t hold back from explaining things that they have questions on simply because it may confuse them. They are not going to understand the Christian faith in a day. I think the hope is that they will be compelled to pick up a Bible, or ask around and look into it themselves.
I guess as an Advertising major it’s a challenge to myself as much as anyone else. I’m just as guilty. Maybe we just need to stop trying so hard to be relevant and speak truth. Relevance will follow.