shallow and narrow

Okay, so let’s return briefly to this topic of church and relevance (see here, here, and here for some recent discussion).

I’ve talked about it before, but a term floating around that describes one particular attempt at ecclesial relevance is Hipster Christianity - where church and cool collide.

In his book, Hipster Christianity, Brett McCracken defines this attempt at relevance like so:
...a faith more concerned with its image and presentation and ancillary appeal. It assumes that mere Christianity isn’t enough or isn’t as important as how Christianity looks and is perceived by the outside world.
In a recent interview, McCracken makes another observation that should cause all N.A. church leaders to pause in our attempts at cultural relevance:
Lest we overemphasize its importance in worldwide Christianity, we should remember that hipster Christianity is a rather narrow subset of the faith: mostly white evangelical, mostly economically well-off.
Two words come to mind after reading McCracken’s assessment: shallow and narrow.

I wonder sometimes, especially in a period of financial struggle, if the N.A. church has the wherewithal to redefine success? Or redefine relevance? Maybe we’ll be forced to! Alan Hirsch, in his book The Forgotten Ways, highlights how much of the N.A. church “is built on the ideals of comfort and convenience (consumerism), and of safety and security (middle-class).” Hirsch continues his scathing critique by noting how after nearly 40-years of “church growth principles and practice,” the N.A. continues to shrink. Relevance isn’t working. “We plainly cannot consume our way into discipleship.” Like I said, shallow and narrow.

Yet shallow and narrow doesn’t mean the N.A. church isn’t complex. We have vision statements. We have core values. We have boards, committees, and task forces. We have programs. All these things (none bad by the way) fall under the “ministry” of the church. They keep us busy. But I continue to be amazed at how complicated all these things can become. In all our busyness, we lose the basis for what we do. And we can become... shallow and narrow. But perhaps more troubling, is how rarely we appeal to the most basic call on our lives as followers of Jesus:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Mt. 22:37-38).

Before you say, "yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that," pause and assess all you or your church does through this grid: loving God and loving others. Let’s stop complicating relevance. Wherever you find yourself, figure out this simple way of faithfulness: love God and love others.


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