I am in another cycle of rebuilding the church I planted several years ago. I have learned many things since that first service in Feb 11 2001. Then we were in a rock and roll club in Arlington, Texas. I reached out to the lost runaways who found a safe place to live. One of my goals was to do church that was relevant and different. The difference was so that all excuses would be taken away that non-Christians might use to stay away.
Over the years what I did then which was considered cutting edge became the new standard for how church “happens” in our area. Since that time we have changed location several times, planted another church, we have grown in the ups and downs of being a church. I have made several mistakes in leadership along the way.
As I seek God again for direction I think back to the journey we have been on as the church. An old tattered sign is soon to be replaced. On it the words “Making Christianity relevant” are displayed.
My inclination is to take all my research and again go to the next level of “Church”. I can read trends well and know how to create a great, safe exciting environment for people to experience God. However should I still be on the mission of making Christianity relevant? Should this be my starting point?
My answer now as then is a resounding Yes / NO!?!
I didn’t set out to create a cool church then. I set out first seeking God. My biggest question was at that time “Are You calling me to do this“? And if so my New Start planting coaches then asked me “Does Arlington, Texas Need another church“?
The questions have not changed today. If these first two are not answered correctly then everything I do is from my own efforts and even if it grows it has failed. I know my Nazarene brothers and sisters may not understand this philosophy. We gauge God’s stamp of approval by numbers. We are driven by this and shamed into programs that “produce”. I get the heart behind this thinking and could even find scripture to support growth. I could teach the seminar on how healthy things grow and yet…
Yet today I am challenged with these old questions as we move forward. I am challenged because our context has changed. We are now in a partnership with an older church in an older traditional styled building. Now hear me please, I am thankful for this partnership. We now can move from nomadic and struggling to find space to do the ministries God has called us to do; to having space to do whatever our little minds can create, and yet…
Yet today before we move forward and go into decorations, colors, styles of worship we need to pause. My main focus should not be how to make people comfortable. My main focus is not apologetics. My main focus is not how to create an environment that the world feels comfortable coming into. My main focus will start with myself.
Am I experiencing the Transformational renewing power and presence of God in my own life?
I can only lead people to the depths of what I have experienced. I can do all the above with great conviction and be completely in His will… These other things are important as window dressing. They are important as tools. The post-modern church has put the proverbial cart before the horse. Honestly we have been doing this as long as I have been in church. Pastors run after programs, read books and try new things all in the name of reaching others (ego and getting a bigger and better assignment are the real core of their efforts). My desire to do something different wasn’t about the books but a passion for my lost friends, family and community. I didn’t want band-aid solutions. The change fundamentally had to be spiritual which then played itself out in our praxis of everyday life.
Christianity is never relevant to the world.
Christianity is never cool and trendy.
Christianity is counterculture, messy, and frustrating.
Christianity stands for Holiness, truth and love.
You would think this would be attractive but honestly it scares people to death. It causes them to run away at full speed. So my desire to create relevance is not from God. My desire to create a safe space where distraction is removed is from God. I need to continue studying the current culture and understand how they think, feel and function but not as a means to manipulate. I need to do this as a way to honestly know how to love, inspire and truthfully speak to their fears, hurts and wounds.
So I guess the old phrase stays because in doing this we as the church are always helping those outside see how we are reframing what they have perceived about our faith and constantly moving forward in “Making Christianity Relevant”!