I'm all for cultural relevancy. But at what expense?
A couple of things have struck me in recent months that have stretched my tiny brain a smidge. Allow me to explain.
Our local Christian University invites churches over to a "Church Fair" to hand out brochures, etc regarding our particular church, service times, etc. Not a bad idea at all. But this year, I was asked a couple of questions that I've been unable to forget, along with one question that I was never asked (I guess it was assumed). Oh, and both of the questions, from two different well-meaning individuals, were really the same question. Ready? Here goes...
"Do you have a dress code at your church?"
OK, so know this about me. I'm at the front of the line for the "God Doesn't Look At Outward Appearances...He Looks At The Heart" conference. I'm a card-carrying member. I have no problem with any sort of setting where it "doesn't matter" what type of clothes you're wearing (although, modesty and respect of others isn't a bad thing and is okay to expect...though debatable).
But what bothers me about this question is that it really isn't the real question. I'm not just picking on the two well-meaning 19-year-olds who asked the question. I'm really attacking a much bigger segment of their generation. Here's what I think the real, honest question that is out there in some minds (admittedly, not all, just some):
"What's the smallest amount of effort that I can put into this thing? What's the lowest common denominator? Is your worship celebration going to be convenient for me, or will there be some sort of expectation I have to meet? Will the bar be high, or can I just put little or no effort into the deal? Are you guys cool, and have you created a cool place where I can hang with others who are cool and have also put little effort or thought into the deal?"
Wow, I'm harsh I guess. Yes, we need to create envioronments where people will want to come and meet God. And yes, things like "unwritten dress codes" and other hidden parts of our church cultures can be a detriment to those who are looking into the God thing. And yes, is more interested in our hearts. And yes, if someone who doesn't have anything "nice" to wear comes and everyone is dressed "nice," they might feel marginalized (hey, I was in Youth Ministry...I've had many conversations about all this before and heard lots of takes).
I guess my expectation was a little different for this next generation of Kingdom leaders. Haven't we learned that the "It's all about me" culture we've created in the Church today has hamstringed the church long enough? We've got pews FULL of folks that think its all about them. Truth is, in most churches, you see a little bit of everything. Most of us don't think too much about it. I've never really asked a non-church person, but does anybody really believe that the reason people aren't coming has to do with the fact that some people put on their nicer duds? Come on; I'm not buying that.
Regardless, I smiled and told both individuals that they'll see a little bit of everything at our church, and I doubted they would feel out of place, and that the music was blended with a little of the old and a little of the new, and that we were just trying to follow God best we knew how, and sometimes we chased rabbit trails, sometimes we miss the main path altogether, and sometimes we get to be in on the radical transformation of a person.
Oh, the question(s) I was never asked? A sampling....
"Is God there?"
"Do the people at your church strive to serve Him? To get to know Him more deeply?"
"Is there a genuine desire from at least some at your church to reach people who don't know Him?"
"Are you attempting to make God famous, or is it all about you?"
"Are their Godly people there with valuable life experience that I can learn from?"
(OK...A little more ranting. I'm fine with the "stand around and drink coffee and wear whatever" church environments. But after having had a few kids move on from here and invest their college years in those environments, what happens when they move back to Topeka or wherever, and the "experience" they've grown to know and love at the aforementioned-type church from their college years doesn't exist? What then? Unfortunately, some have thrown the baby out with the bath water. Bottom line: If you're in love with Jesus, does it matter much how he's packaged?? But if you're really in love with the Jesus only as he's packaged in an experience (i.e., the aformentioned type of church environment), when that goes away or you can't find it in another location, does Jesus become an afterthought, too? Just a question...but one that's based on experience)
Open for your thoughts.