Being the Church

Being the Church

The following is an article written by my friend, Pastor Randy Jones, of Messiah Lutheran Church in Montgomery, AL. Pastor Randy’s article, I thought, gives interesting insight into where we are as the church at this time in the world. I enjoyed the article enough that I wanted to share it with you here. Thanks to Pastor Jones, for allowing me to share this with you.
In Christ
Pastor Mike

Rev. Randy T. Jones writes:

Recently, I was given an article from the August 13th edition of the Wall Street Journal entitled, “The Perils of ‘Wannabe Cool’ Christianity”, by Brett McCracken. Brett McCracken describes himself as a 27 year old evangelical Christian. His article is very informative, as well as very affirming for me.

The core of the article had to do with the mass exodus of young folks (especially between the ages of 18-22) from evangelical churches. Now for me there’s no big surprise here simply because many, if not most, youth cease regular worship attendance when they go off to college; face it partying takes its toll and sleep on Sunday morning is very attractive. Anyway, “Lifeway Research determined that 70% of young Protestant adults” stop going to church on a regular basis. As I said no big surprise there.

In response to this phenomenon many churches have tried many different things to either keep these young folks in church or draw them back. If you look at many of the evangelical churches today you will see what this article called “a total image overhaul.” Some churches have started meetings in theaters and bars, some have put up large projection screens, some have given their pastors complete make-overs to make them more hip (some even get $80 haircuts), some have gone so far as to embrace the internet so completely that they offer worship services on-line, etc. etc. etc. And that’s not all that’s changed.

Many of the pastors in these churches have taken to trying to be “more culturally savvy.” They quote the current cultural icons such as Lady Gaga and Stephen Colbert in their sermons in order to make their message more contextual, and sex in many of these churches has become a regular subject of sermons. “Oak Leaf Church in Gainesville, Georgia, created a website called yourgreatsexlife.com to pique the interest of young seekers.” While part of the task of preaching a sermon is making sure it is contextual, it is very easy to go too far and lose the central message of the Gospel — Jesus. Jesus is the message and he is apparently not being seen very often in these churches.

I have over the years been asked why we haven’t tried some of these things. I have always resisted simply because I don’t believe that worship on Sunday morning is about us giving God a make over. Instead it is first and foremost about God transforming us into the image of his Son, our Lord Jesus the Christ. It is about what God has done, is doing, and promises yet to do through the death and resurrection of Jesus. That is the message I was given to preach in my ordination and it is the message I will stick with until I die. St. Paul admonished St. Timothy with these words, “Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy spirit living in us.” (II Timothy 1:13-14) On occasion St. Paul got it right.

Mr. McCracken affirmed this for me when he said this in his summary: “If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it’s easy or trendy or popular. It’s because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true. It’s because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched — and we want an alternative. It’s not because we want more of the same.” Does that sound familiar?

My brothers and sisters this is an invitation to those of us who remain faithful to our Lord and worship him on a regular basis. This article is a wake up call to the church, to us, to tell the story of Jesus with our lives and with our lips. So, be on the look out for opportunities to remind folks that Jesus died for them and that God raised him from the dead for them. I promise you won’t get hurt. You may be rejected on occasion; you may have eyes rolled at you on occasion; you may even be called a Jesus freak on occasion. But remember what our Lord said about this, “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when the exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven.” (St. Luke 6:21-22a)

Rev. Randy Jones
Messiah Lutheran Church, ELCA
Montgomery, Alabama

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