Irrelevant Busyness

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                    April 18, 2012

Every church at some time, now or later…or both/and…struggles with irrelevance. It is not that the church is irrelevant, it is rather that some of the things the church does are irrelevant. To borrow an example that Jesus used, it is easier for a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle than it is to get a church to stop doing a ministry or a program that it has always done!

If church programming was like a person’s plate going through a buffet line, or more appropriately a potluck dinner, it would be multi-layered. There would be “fruit jello outreach programs” on top of “fried chicken committee meetings” laying beside men’s early morning prayer pastries that are squashed on top of mashed potato women’s missionary circle meetings.

We layer our ministries like food gluttons who seem to think we can’t get enough, more is better! We create churchgoing obesity.

A few years ago I remember a friend of mine saying he didn’t want to be a Christian. When I asked why, he responded that he didn’t want to end up like his Christian neighbor who always seemed to be going to church for this meeting or that group. My friend had gotten the impression that being a follower of Christ seemed to carry with it implication that he would always be pulling into the church parking lot.

It prompts me to ask the question “What is relevant?”; and the second question “What are we doing simply because we have always done it?”

I’m leading a team of people from our regional group of American Baptist Churches that is addressing those very questions. We’re dealing with the challenge of figuring out what is really important, and what isn’t important but we don’t know what else to do!

Crucial questions for our region, but even more crucial for each congregation. There are some things that churches do that our culture looks at and just shakes it’s head in bewilderment of the waste of time they see in it.

Our culture has a longing for intimacy, a desire to explore the mystery of the Holy, and a hunger for relevance, but also sees the value of time. If a church function doesn’t help them in deepening relationships with God and one another, or lead them in the serving and life-impacting of others, it will be seen as irrelevant. If it no longer has a purpose or a function, its following will be in danger of being based on guilt rather than purpose.

In essence, the church must continually ask the question “Why?” Most of the time, that question is much more important than “how”, “what”, “where”, or “when?”

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2 Comments on “Irrelevant Busyness”

  1. Ed Owens Says:

    In watching a YouTube interview with Rick Warren, he comments on the Reveal study that shows churches aren’t very successful in helping Christians grow. To paraphrase him (hopefully accurately) instead of committees we need to concentrate on helping people grow spiritually. He has suggestions on that… Instead of working so hard at attracting people to our programs and services, he states that people want to be a part of an organization that changes lives. It seems to me if we help people grow they will begin to represent Jesus well in their neighborhoods, work-places, families and the wider community. Perhaps that is part of the problem, we maintain Christians in immaturity and self-focus.

  2. Keith Tanis Says:

    I love your metaphor of “churchgoing obesity!” It does seem that there are folks who need to “push away from the table,” and others who need to eat something healthier. But for all of our consumption, both fat & thin churchgoers need to EXERCISE more–and I suspect that means working out OUTSIDE of the church walls!


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