The Emergent Church: Cultural Relevance At the Expense of Sound Theology

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Several years ago I knew a man in his 40's, married with two teenage children, and a manager in a Fortune 500 company. This man was a very active member on the worship team of his church and was one of the most talented musicians in that church. His life-long dream was to be in a rock band. He started getting hundred dollar haircuts at a trendy salon, wore skin-tight jeans, pierced both ears, and dyed his hair purple. I must say that his band was quite good and I was impressed. He not only had the look, he had the talent to go with it. He was living his dream and had it all - a family, a dream job and he was in a rock band. There was one problem that he was oblivious to - he was the butt of jokes of his colleagues at work and teenagers saw him as an old dude who was just trying to be cool. People were impressed by what he could do but were turned off by his persona. To them he was just a fake.

This is exactly what I see happening with the Emergent Church movement. In their attempt to be culturally relevant and cutting edge, they are becoming unpalatable to the audience they are attempting to reach. When the Church dresses like Hollywood, sounds like Usher and Beyonce, and offers a nightclub experience, the people on the outside will see right through the facade. What people are really looking for is authenticity. Say what you want about Usher, Beyonce and U2, but they are authentic. They aren't copying anyone else. In fact, they are the ones setting the bar. Can that be said of the Church? The Church's mission isn't to copy what everyone else is doing. Our mission is to show the world the real thing - what true authenticity is. We need to show them that what we have to offer is real and will last. Young people today are experts in the area of what is real and what is fake. They might flock to see our latest gimmicks but as soon as they realize it's just a cheap copy, they will head for the nearest exit. A warning here - the Church has also gone to the opposite extreme of the Emergent movement and that is another reason why the 20-something crowd is leaving us in droves. If we refuse to be a 21st century church and our music sounds like the music of our grandparents, our buildings look like museums to the past, and our language and attire are reminiscent of the 50's, we are making the same mistake the Emergent Movement is making, just from the other end. The ideal is balance.

If we want the world to accept our message we don't need to be cool, we just need to be real. That is what they are looking for and they will know it when they see it. As a dad of a teenager, I've discovered the startling reality that the more I try to be cool, the more I become irrelevant. Is this what Jesus was really getting at when he said "you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free"? This should be the new axiom of Church leadership - It's not hip to be cool. It's hip to be real. To read more about the Emergent Church movement click on these links:
The Perils of Hipster Christianity
Why We're Not Emergent
The Emergent Church: Jezebel spirit, weak men, and the “Oprah-fication” of Christianity 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you mentioned that not being up to date, is just as 'bad' as being too cool. Because I believe it is important to have the 'look of the culture' and be relevant so as to attract those who are lost . Because I feel that a lot of 20 somethings are looking past the church because it is not attractive. They view it as old fashioned, traditional, for my parents generation, etc. etc.
It is the responsibility of the church to make sure that once they are drawn, there is enough genuine Christianity to keep them there!

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