Summary: The Church was never called to be relevant or to conform to society. If your church wants to be cool, then find a real one.
Cool churches aren’t churches.
Let’s face it: If Jesus preached the same message 2000 years ago that churches do today, he would never have been crucified.
He wouldn’t have offended anybody with his message.
The Romans would have had no reason to execute him because Jesus wouldn’t have been seen to represent a kingdom and power that stands in complete opposition to those of the world including that of Caesar.
He would have told people what they wanted to hear.
Or perhaps Christ would have involved himself with the politics of his day in an attempt to bring about change.
Instead of proclaiming “my kingdom is not of this world”, perhaps he would have attempted to legislate morality and spiritual transformation through the institutions of his day.
Jesus might have held ‘interfaith dialogues’ with members of other religious sects including the Pharisees, and been careful not to upset members of other faiths and beliefs.
He would kept his identity and message as minimally offensive as possible.
The disciples would have been instructed:
“Offending people is not how you win people to the Kingdom”.
Evangelism would have therefore emphasized “building relationships” instead of confronting proclamation.
Who knows — maybe the rich man “who went away sad” (Luke 18:15-30) when Jesus told him to give away everything he owned would have instead been told to enjoy his blessings.
Jesus’ message of ‘abundance and standing on the promises of God’ may have become so popular that thousands of Gentiles would have raised their hands at his meetings.
They would have invited him into their hearts as their “personal” Lord and Savior.
And what would the apostles’ work after Jesus have looked like?
Well, Peter could have gone on to found a megachurch in Antioch raising millions of shekels to “expand the Kingdom”.
Paul could have had several international best-selling epistles on church leadership (on sale at the merchandise desk in the foyers of all the churches in Asia Minor) and John could have created a successful school of prophetic ministry, fully accredited by the Roman government.
They could have even given their congregations edgy, alternative names like iSee Church, Streamline, Liberti, Innovation and Blaze (these are all actual church names).
Do you see where I’m going with this?
Two of the Western Church’s worst enemies are excess and a desire for relevancy.
We are the most comfortable generation in the history of the Church and our services (both traditional and modern) clearly reflect that reality.
Take evangelical megachurches as an example.
Here you have churches that invest millions upon millions of dollars into turning their Sunday services into televised rock concerts with spectacular lighting (see my post about churches worshipping in the dark), sound and smoke machines, TV and web streaming that rival major secular networks, senior pastors with 6 or 7 figure salaries (also see my post about why I won’t get into paid ministry), and all while giving lip service to the Son of God.
The same Son of God who ironically came in the form of a penniless, homeless vagabond!
Let’s be honest: If Jesus walked into a Hillsong, Bethel or Joel Osteen service today and tried to preach the same exact message he did 2000 years ago, they’d call security and have him escorted off the property.
The tables would be flipped over.
And how many would listen?
Wealth itself is not the problem.
It’s our conformity to and appeasement of the spirit of this age.
The modern Western church is desperately clinging to relevance.
Until very recently in history, the Church dictated to and controlled the wider, Western culture (and its politics) but now that the Church has lost most of its power and influence, it’s trying to regain those things through shameless conformity.
And in the process the Church is ceasing to be the true Church.
As I alluded to above, we don’t want to be offensive to anybody.
Aside from the fact that offensive Christianity is dangerous, we’ve convinced ourselves that it’s impossible to be both offensive and loving at the same time. We know that the Gospel’s offence puts us in the crosshairs of the world (where Jesus said we should be) and that scares us.
The Gospel is supposed to deeply offend the world.
Your message is supposed to be so offensive that people around you want to do you physical harm.
And not just offensive on social issues but also being offensive through our unwillingness to participate in whatever gold statue the lemmings of the world are collectively falling down in front of.
Note: Read my experience at Liberti Church, run by Adam Ramsey [Truth On Fire] for a perfect example of this.
Christians have forgotten how to say quite emphatically:
“We want you to know that we will not serve your gods or the image of gold you have set up.”
— Daniel 3:18
Non-conformity is offensive.
But it’s the calling of all believers.
We’re not supposed to become a culturally relevant or “cool” movement. We were never supposed to be.
And we certainly aren’t supposed to conform and change our image to be more appealing to those outside looking in.
Your hipster outfit, light show and feel-good message aren’t bringing people to God.
They just make you a lemming.
And if anything, we should be seeking more irrelevance in this dying world - we’re here to show the world that everything that they value is in fact σκύβαλα.