I have been thinking a lot about the church’s role in reaching the “culture”, and enjoyed what Walt Mueller has to say:
There’s nothing wrong with shaving your head… except maybe for me with my knobby skull. There’s nothing wrong with complementing your bald head with a well-manicured goatee. But a few years ago, I noticed that as I would look out over rooms full of youth workers, it appeared that some kind of conspiracy was brewing and I had been left out. There were bald heads and goatees everywhere – on the men in the room that is. I was curious about this phenomena that was making it hard for me to tell people apart. In discussions with observant peers, some of us began to jokingly wonder if this wasn’t some kind of attempt on the part of some (certainly not all) to increase their cool factor and somehow become more relevant. What was a initially a joke is in reality – I believe – true for some, not all.
Over the years, I’ve sometimes referenced these observations as a prelude to talking about cultural relevance. Because I study youth culture for the sake of effective cross-cultural work with kids, many people are surprised to find out that I oftentimes try to squelch our (the church) growing love affair and obsession with relevance. I think we need to stand back and take a long, hard objective look at ourselves and our ministries to see just what this pursuit of relevance might not only be doing to us, but doing to actually hinder the advance of the Gospel message … the noble desire and calling that has made us pursue relevance so passionately in the first place. A misdirected passion for relevance has fostered the increased use of the word “reinvent” when it comes to ourselves and our ministries. We run the risk of unintentionally allowing an obsession with style to eclipse what should be a passionate obsession with substance. Sadly, when we fall into it, we don’t even know that this is what’s happened. Eventually, our lives and ministries become a series of extreme makeovers, with the short time in between each filled not with more and more reflection on the substance of the message, but with trying to keep up with the styles so that we’re ready to jump when the next change is need… something which is happening with increased frequently as time marches on.