Is there something about yourself that you like? A quality you possess that you would point to and say, "I like this about me."? Is it your looks, your personality or an ability you have? Maybe you are gifted at something uniquely over others, or maybe you have worked really hard to grow a talent you have, or to get to a position you now hold. The truth is that we all struggle from time to time with wanting to have an attractiveness about us. We want to be seen, to be loved and desired. We want to matter. This is not only true for us individually, but it can also be seen at work in the church today. We have this message...this good news but how do we get people to listen? The buzz word of the day is "RELEVANT".
Many churches have awoken to the fact that if they are going to be effective, then they need to be attractive. In a movement led by churches like North Point in Atlanta, many churches are giving much more thought to their attractiveness. They are thinking through what they are actually saying to the culture around them by what they offer, what they say, and how they appear. At Calvary Church, where I lead worship, we like to say that we have the coffee, now let's make the cup look good!
In many modern, growing churches, you will find much attention being payed to things like lighting, haze, coffee, good signage, overall ambiance and a welcoming, easily accessible atmosphere. Much of the growing church has realized that we need to take seriously how we are perceived by the world around us. All of this, in my opinion has an important place and deserves our attention, but is there a line? We SHOULD care about how easy or difficult we make it for people to walk into our churches and hear the gospel, but can we go too far?
I really don't have any answers, and don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of lighting, haze, coffee and a good atmosphere! I can't help but wonder though, if sometimes in churches across North America, we get it backwards. Are there cases where we are going too far and are trying to make Christ himself more attractive, losing sight of the fact that it is Christ that makes US attractive? Paul hits the nail on the head when in Romans 7:18 he states that good is not found in us. While we may have the mind to want to be good, we lack the power to produce anything good on our own strength.(paraphrase) We don't have in ourselves, what people really need.
Are there situations where because of our desperate desire to be "normal" and "accepted", that we go to far? In 1 Peter 2:7-8 we are told that Christ, who is the cornerstone, is both a stumbling block and an offense to some. The gospel message is the ultimate hope for all to hear, but we need to remember that it is also controversial, counter cultural, and offensive to our very sin nature! Christ himself said that he did not come to bring peace but a sword. (Matthew 10:34) In other words, when you have a segment of people living for Christ, you will always have another group opposed to it. It can ruin families and friendships. It can cost you jobs and social status. Culture will not embrace people living for Christ and following His commands because Jesus commands us to be people who are radically loving, extremely gracious, full of the Holy Spirit and a people committed to living lives of holiness. If we are doing that as a church well, there will be opposition.
I guess where I come down on this topic is that YES, let's be committed to making our churches places that are welcoming, culturally relevant, and a safe place for people to come. Our churches should be harbors of safety! We should be loving because Christ loved us. We should be gracious because we were shown grace and because we were welcomed in, totally undeservedly, we should be the most welcoming people and places that exist. However, our striving to be relevant should stop at the gospel message itself. We can present the good news of Christ in relevant ways but let's never think we must add to or take away from it to make it "easier" for people to hear.
Let's never be so concerned about being liked by culture, that we begin to try to frame the gospel in a more "appealing" manner. If we begin to try to make Christ more palatable to the world around us, we have failed miserably. We are not in the business of making God attractive to people! He is in the business of making us attractive for Himself first and then to a lost world. We are to be light and salt and the only way that we can be, is if the world sees the glory of God shining through our lives. Let's serve good coffee, make a great atmosphere, and welcome people with open arms, but our ultimate focus should be on becoming more like Christ! Because, at the end of the day, the world doesn't need to see us or our shallow attempts to sell them anything, they need to see Jesus. He is by far, and forever will be, the most attractive thing we have to offer!