Over at Faith and Leadership, Timothy Larsen has posted a withering critique of the church’s never-ending pursuit of the Holy Grail of “relevance.” It’s a pretty short article, and well worth the read. If you are at all involved in church leadership and recognize some of your own experience here, perhaps you will be emboldened and spurred on to determined new heights of (appropriate) irrelevance. If nothing else, perhaps it will evoke a kind of grim laughter for those who have spent any time at all in and around certain expressions of North American church life. Here are a few memorable quotes from what I found to be an insightful (if disturbing) article.
On the problem of “relevance” as a goal:
In other words, the value of “relevance” can easily degenerate into the shedding of the real, solid, indispensable features of the Christian life in a demeaning chase after the latest fads. Such an undesirable outcome is perhaps merely a manifestation of a larger tendency, which has gone on for several decades now, to remake church life in the image of the tastes of 12- to 16-year-olds.
On the ambivalence of youth and the flight of twenty-somethings from the church:
I suspect that they long to encounter something bigger, deeper, older, wiser, steadier and more grounded than themselves, not a sad parody of their own adolescent distractions. Twenty-somethings are unlikely to respond to a sad parody of the trivial cultural preoccupations of the current crop of junior-high-schoolers.
On what our fascination with relevance might say about our approach to the received wisdom and tradition of the church:
“Relevant” can be code for the practice of holding the deep wisdom and resources of the church hostage to the immediate interests of the least discipled and spiritually formed among us.
And finally, on entertainment and the church:
If there is one thing our culture does not have in short supply, it’s entertainment. People do not need to get up on a cold Sunday morning, get dressed, get the kids ready and drive to another building to hear a bit of comedy or see a well-produced skit. Diversions devised by the best professional entertainers in the world are easier to procure than that. Amateur hour from some local wannabes who have forgotten their real mission will not win this competition.
Quite a diagnosis, to be sure.