Sorry, We’re Not Coming to Your “Cool Church Night”
For much of American history, being a Christian aligned you with the prevailing mindset of the day and made you respectable in the eyes of culture. The local church was the place to do business, socialize, and find a spouse. In short, it was very beneficial to belong.
This is not saying that everyone’s faith was sincere – it just meant going with the stream rather than against it.
But the river has since changed course.
Culture has left its religious roots behind and is dominated by secularism (death to religion) and relativism (death to truth). The Bible is no longer considered the moral compass; rather, everyone is free to decide for themselves what is right and wrong.
Young people, in particular, see the Church as irrelevant to their day-to-day lives–a dead, empty tradition of the past.
To identify as a Christ follower today is to run the risk of being labeled narrow-minded, anti-scientific, or homophobic. With diminishing benefits and increased cost, the steadily-growing exodus from the Church doesn’t come as a surprise.
According to the book Churchless, “More than one-third of America’s adults are essentially secular in belief and practice.” This means there are approximately 156 million Americans who are “not engaged with a church.”
And how have we responded to this seismic shift?
Honestly, in large part, we haven’t, and that’s the problem. While the gap between secular culture and Christianity continues to grow, many in the Church seem either unaware or unsure how to respond.
It’s important to understand that with respect to their views of God, non-Christians can range from positive to indifferent to hostile. Despite this spectrum, most outreach efforts are focused solely on reaching those who are already open to the idea of God.
Evangelistic events will frequently be held inside a church building and feature the latest Christian entertainment in an attempt to attract non-believers. This may serve to draw those who are sympathetic or nominal, but it doesn’t connect with people who are either apathetic or anti-God. This is a problem, because it’s where our world is heading—and fast.
The emerging secular culture isn’t coming to your “cool church night,” no matter how often you invite them or how you dress it up.
While those who organize these types of events are undoubtedly sincere in their desire to reach people, their approach is quickly losing relevance.
We need to show concern for nominal Christians, and yet if we are going to be effective in reaching the secular world for Jesus, we must focus our efforts on those who will not normally come to our churches looking for answers.
I think many followers of Jesus are aware of the need, often painfully represented in the lives of their own family members, yet they don’t know what to do about it.
The simple response is to be like Jesus –to get out of our Christian ghetto, develop authentic relationships with unbelievers, ask them questions, and really listen to what they’re saying.
Isolation is the enemy of the Church. We need to begin reintegrating into secular culture and eliminating the superficial differences that keep us isolated and irrelevant.
When we really get to know people, then we will no longer answer questions they aren’t asking. We will instead start to understand how to communicate the Gospel using symbols and imagery that speak powerfully to them and their culture.
Being in the world will allow us to shape our outreaches to more effectively engage with people who have grown up with a warped understanding of Jesus and a negative view of the Church.
What’s more, it’s essential that we learn to be a people that welcomes the broken and shows mercy to the sinful. The perception that Christianity is a holy club for self-righteous people who look, act, and vote the same, more closely resembles the target of Jesus’ most scathing criticisms: the Pharisees.
The secular world is not beyond the love of God. He is active in the world and bringing the lost to Himself like He always has. He invites you and me to be a part of His rescue mission, and in order to do that effectively, we’ve got to open our eyes.
Motivated by God’s broken heart for those that don’t know Him, we must step out of the safety of our Christian bubbles, and into the messiness of the world around us.
It is in this place and among these people that we will begin to see and feel what God does–and then knowing how to respond will be the easy part.