Fog machines, emotion based worship, coffee bars, projector screens and bad theology seem to accompany “Relevant” congregations trying to reach those who have a preconceived notion of what church is all about. Of course, there is nothing wrong with having coffee readily available in your church foyer, worship should be powerful and no one can use scripture to say that projector screens and fog machines are unbiblical. With that being said, I think it would be fair to question the motive behind why modern churches across America and the world share these common traits. Is it because we are trying to bring in lost millennials or is it because we really just are used to having our daily dose of White Chocolate Mocha? Either way, it isn’t these things that are worrisome, it is the lack of discipleship and sound doctrine that follows.
“It’s one of those churches where you walk in and can’t tell if it’s church or a Banana Republic.” – John Crist
The church I currently attend actually has both free and purchased coffee in the lobby, they have an extremely contemporary based worship setting and of course, like every church we use a projector. So why do I still attend? The pastor continues to attack sin, refuses to compromise on Biblical values and isn’t concerned about losing the congregation when he actually teaches what scripture says. It is my opinion that the modern church has tried way too hard to stay up to date with the culture and not enough time utilizing the elders to foster over the younger generation. Peter gives a beautiful picture as well as instruction to the church leadership regarding how we should go about raising up those who follow us.
“ 1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:1-5 ESV).
The issue at hand is that we have created a culture where we have tried to bring in unbelievers using numerous methods outside of the good news of the gospel. It is so unfortunate that modern day Christianity results in church now becoming a social gathering as opposed to where the common people would go to hear the teachings for us lined out in the Biblical text. We once used to live in a society where class teachings were common among the congregation before the sermon, while also coming together throughout the week for associating with the leaders.
I worry for my current generation that they are reluctant to take heed to mentors within the church due to their own sinful pride and lack of leadership for them to follow. Human nature clings to selfish pride which is nothing new, but at least the previous generations acknowledged it. Millennials would have no issue dealing with their sin, if they had leaders in the church willing to stand against it. We have created a culture that believes Christ is all about knowing their heart and not destroying their sin, which could be avoided if we returned to avidly feasting on scripture.
Some conversations I have about scripture are so shallow that when discussing theology the conversation rarely gets past John 3:16. If you can quote John 3:16 and not understand what Paul says about our fleshly nature in Romans 7 or what Galatians states about mixing law and grace, we have a problem. Evangelism isn’t dying in America, effective evangelism is dying in America. The secular world has moved past us in educating young people where they get an emotional high on Sunday in front of a rock band worship group, while the atheist 22 year old is claiming there isn’t enough historical evidence that Christ existed. Church goers say Christ changed their lives but have nothing to show for it because they don’t read enough scripture to ask questions like, “Is Hebrews 6 telling me I can lose my salvation?”
So how do we defeat secular education?
Simply trying to relate to modern society has never seemed to be beneficial to truth, just ask Martin Luther. When this generation recognizes the wonderful truths of scripture and study the word like they scroll through their Instagrams, we could see a modern reformation against the rise of heretical teachings that have been steadily on the rise in the last few decades. When Christians put down their Stephen Furtick books, stop retweeting Joel Osteen quotes and dust off the cover of their Bibles, sound doctrine can return again. Why are these so appealing to us? When you don’t read scripture but you are promised a pathway to prosperity, you will do everything you are told. Christians were once the height of the Enlightenment as well as the Great Awakening in history, but now struggle in educating themselves against militant attacks on the very basis of logic.
It is my belief that sound doctrine is the key to overcoming secular society. We can’t blame those who push away the church when we have nothing to offer except shallow church members and megachurch celebrities. Atheism isn’t difficult to combat when you know why you believe what you believe. The Bible belt can’t last much longer on borrowed ethics and cultural traditions when our universities are breeding grounds for atheist dogma and secular agenda. Researching the scriptures will do more than just return sound doctrine, it establishes a habit of constantly seeking out the truth. When you discover truth, you aren’t swayed when someone makes a paradoxical statement like, “What is true for you is not true for me,” instead, you respond with a question of “Is that absolutely true?” The people who are the most apologetically sound that I know, are also the most scripturally sound.
Equipping people with truth is primarily the church’s function throughout history. The Reformation was earth shaking because it revealed the truth of who God was and what the Bible taught on regeneration. Truth does indeed set people free, but it also sets precedent for reaching the culture. The myth of having to adapt to the culture has rang throughout evangelical Christianity and it has crippled our youth. I am also about to reveal a huge secret about millennials people wish they would have known 20 years ago; we don’t care about how relevant you are, we just want you to guide us to truth.
How we can REALLY reach our young people.
Preach. The. Scriptures. Don’t hold anything back. This culture is begging for leadership more than it is for youth pastors to be #Relevant. You want to earn the respect of the young college kid who is dealing with internal turmoil? Look him in the face and tell him fornication is a sin. Research is telling us that we are dealing with a unique generation that will tell you they are just wanting authenticity as opposed to entertainment. What better way to be authentic to a young person than sharing the good news of scripture? I can respect a man who looks me in the eye and loves me enough to tell me the truth. If we will turn from our stress of trying to relate, and simply preach the word with passion and genuine authority…we will win back the culture by default.
As a parent of two crazy young boys who fill our house with testosterone, my wife and I have decided that public school is not a risk we are willing to take. I remember my Biology teacher pressuring me in 9th grade on my beliefs, “So you believe that Jesus is the ONLY way to get into heaven?” My face turned bright red when I muttered the words, “Yes.” I remember the reaction to the class and I remember trying to figure out how to go back over my words where it sounded better and people would receive the message better…but why? John 6:44 tells us that no one can come to the son unless the father draws them near, so why are we trying to rely on our message being just right for the sake of embarrassment and a ‘better’ chance to reach someone.
The best way to reach someone is do what has been done since the Book of Acts; preach repentance based on scripture. If we truly believe that all the unnecessary accessories are going to give us improved methods of reaching people, we have the wrong motive at heart. Give me an old beat up white church house on some county road with a preacher on fire and congregation that greets visitors with love, because that church will reach the ones these modern churches won’t. Preaching love is synonymous with preaching against sin.
Hope for this current generation.
The good news still remains, this generation is more acceptable to leadership and truth than others give credit. Depravity within the culture is nothing new for the church, just ask the Apostles who died a martyr’s death. If we think America is in trouble because we have abandoned Christian values, we haven’t paid attention to church history. Under persecution, the church has always grown exponentially because the truth is what people crave. We cannot be discouraged when society turns against us due to how we view traditional marriage and how we feel on abortion. When people tell you that you should be more “Christlike” because Jesus was all about love and peace, calmly remind them that they crucified him because of his message to the people. We have to train our young people to be tougher than the culture as opposed to adapting to it.
If we can set the stage for millennials to not care what others think when we say that sin is sin, cultural relevance will be a thing of the past. Absolute truth exists, and it is our job to show people exactly what that is through effective evangelism as well as the scriptures. We can win the culture without strategizing in a boardroom with our youth pastors. The answer is the same that is always has been; preach the gospel with passion. If we truly believe that there is nothing new under the sun, we need to understand that people are depraved regardless of generation and in need of a savior. That my friends, will never change.