I’ve been reading all sorts of books and been in dialogue with colleagues about how the church is changing in the 21st century. No one knows exactly what it will become, but we’re all pretty sure it won’t be the way we’ve always known it.
One of the things that I hear all too often is that churches need to be relevant. Relevance is what the church needs in the 21st century in order to somehow magically grow. The word seems to have taken on a life of its own. People say it the way a lost soul in the desert would cry out for water.
I disagree with seeking relevance. As soon as we claim to be relevant, we’re not. It’s like the 40 year-old who tries to dress like the college kids so he can look cool and hip and with it. Right away he calls himself out as neither cool, nor hip, nor with it.
I believe the church needs to get beyond its own self-interests and get back to the mission Christ set us on so many years ago. Instead of trying to be relevant, we ought to be responsive (if you need another R-word). The church is at its best when we are responsive to the needs of the community surrounding us.
Whatever it is we become in the coming generations, none of it will matter if we’re not engaged with the local context. The church is the creation of the Holy Spirit, not our creation. So long as the Spirit is directing this change (and so long as we’re willing to follow her lead) the church will continue to be alive and well, because God is all about engaging with God’s people wherever and however they are.