Friday, March 18, 2011

why my ministry will never be relevant for ‘today’s’ pop culture

relevant – as I understand the cultural/Christian working definition it is the assertion that for a church to be relevant the messages need to be sound-bitable and have catchy titles that relate to the people while using movies, TV shows, sports events, or current events as spring boards to communicate them.

Here are a few reasons for why I can’t imagine ever being able to be relevant like that:

1. Quite frankly – simply thinking about trying to keep up with all of the stuff that’s out there makes me tired. But I’d not only have to keep up with what’s out there, I’d have to do that and be able to craft a Bible study, sermon, or Sunday school lesson out of what was going on. With the time and effort that I (try to) put in to any given lesson for pre-school kids, college students, or whomever, I can’t imagine adding a whole other critical process into the mix.
2. $$$ Cha-ching $$$ - To be up on the culture like that, and to truly be relevant, I’d have to:
a. watch movies the week they come out (or at worst, in the first two weeks), and that’s $10 or so if I go by myself and don’t have any snacks
b. watch some (if not all) of the popular shows on TV, and to do that I’d need to have some high-end TV package…and they aren’t cheap
c. listen to the current most popular music in who knows how many genre’s (I’m sure that even my genre category titles are a decade out of date), and downloading songs gets expensive even at $0.99 or $1.99 each
d. read all of the books, papers, blogs, that come out on any number of subjects (tech, theology, philosophy, current events, etc). Even with a Kindle, that’s very pricey and time consuming.
e. listen/watch all of the popular to the talking heads (serious or satire) who keep me up to date with current events around the globe and what I should think about them
f. keep track of which celebrity was arrested for doing what, or which one yelled at their kids on a voice mail, or who is getting a divorce and why, or whatever…and that costs me ounces of sanity with each dumb story

I’m sure I missed some, but I couldn’t afford one or two of those, much less all of them.

3. Time? Who’s got the time? – I’m a husband, a father, a committed member of my church, a deacon, a (part-time) seminary student, and…oh yeah, I work full time too. And that’s just the stuff that I’m obligated to do – privileged to do too, yes, but if I don’t work hard on any one of those things up there, there are pretty serious consequences.

Now you may agree or disagree with the lists that I’ve given above, and you likely have things you could add to them. Some might say that I’m stretching ‘being relevant’ to an extreme, but I don’t think so. In order to be relevant in my ministry I would have to be very diverse in what I take in. There’s not just one stream of modern pop-culture in my world, country, city, or area. What’s relevant to the single-mom who’s a new Christian is different from what’s relevant to the 80-year-old widow who has been a Christian longer than I’ve been alive. What’s relevant to the out-of-work father is different than what’s relevant to his teen-age kids who always have their iPod headphones on. And not everyone is interested in or will watch every TV show or movie (or any TV show or movie), so I need to know what is going on in the romantic comedies, the sit coms, the adventure stories, the sci-fi epics, the family programming, and the sports events.

Because the moment I claim to be relevant but I miss where group A or person B is at or what they like – I’ve lost them. Or if I get them the next time, I’ve lost another group who could care less about this other thing.

The only way to be relevant to the hippie, the druggie, the church choir member, the pastor, the child, the father, the president of the United States, Ghengis Kahn, Stalin, Hitler, Mother Theresa, Ghandi, the Pope, or whoever is to get to the root that everyone has in common. And that’s not found in pop culture. That’s not the latest gadget. That’s not the latest book. That’s not the economic crisis or a natural disaster. It’s this: man is sinful and wretched, God completely holy and loving, and sinful man deserves God’s wrath, so the God Jesus lived and died as a sinless man and bore the wrath of God for sinners. And by repentance of sin and faith in Christ, a sinful man’s unrighteousness is replaced with the perfect righteousness of Christ Jesus, and now the redeemed sinner lives in light of God’s grace and love and imperfectly strives to honor the one who saved him.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Copyright © 2005-2010 Eric Johnson