I met with a thirty-something couple yesterday who was describing the frustration of reaching out to people their own age who had grown up in church youth groups offering a typical ‘relevant’ Gospel. While the appealing music and messages drew crowds together, many of those youngsters somehow missed the reality of a lasting intimacy with Christ. Worse, according to this couple, the youngsters have now grown up, rejected the cultural Christianity they were exposed to, and have the attitude regarding Christianity of “been there, done that.”
Now, let me be fully transparent: my own mantra throughout the eighties and nineties was this very thing: a relevant Gospel in a seeker-sensitive church. Further, I still believe that the Gospel does, indeed, need to be communicated in a way that can be fully grasped by the culture it is planted in. Thus Paul’s statement that he became “all things to all people.”
So here’s the question: How do we keep missing ‘the real?’ How is it that we communicate a Gospel that can draw crowds (or not) yet the reality of the power, life, transformation, mystery, awe, and wonder of that Gospel is not caught?
Yes, the Gospel must get out of the walls and into the streets where it can be most potent. I believe that the church must be committed to this in the way that it walks, talks, and behaves. Thus my own commitment to simple/organic church life.
But, the Gospel must also be… well… potent. Because that is its very nature!
Perhaps the obsession with ‘relevancy’ is not so much the problem as the dependency on methods and program rather than complete reliance on the simple power of the Holy Spirit. And this, then, begs the question of where am I today? Am I still looking for the model, the program, or the method in my quest to serve God and reach out to others—including organic church models and disciplemaking models—or have I been stripped down to the raw bone of just-plain-ole dependency?
“The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations and a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart…
“We must put away all effort to impress, and come with the guileless candor of childhood…
“When religion has said its last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself. The evil habit of seeking 'God-and' effectively prevents us from finding God in full revelation.”
-- A.W. Tozer