There is among the Christian community, especially among pastors who desire their churches to be "relevant" or "contemporary", a mindset that the "edgier" a ministry can be, the more effective it will be at its purpose (whatever that might be). I should add that the trend seems to be most prominent in younger pastors. It's an "anything goes" or perhaps more aptly, "everything goes".
I'm all for relevancy in churches. I believe most churches in my circles today, though they may be orthodox in their faith, are lost in the past, which explains their decline and inability to reach the non-churched population in their communities. The church I pastor seeks to be "contemporary in our methods yet unchanging in our message". Sunday, for example, our band (a full rock-style band) followed my talk (ie. sermon) with a secular song that worked perfectly with the message. So we do tend to be "on the edge" in many regards.
But what happens when you push the envelope over the edge? And Who determines where that edge might be? Here are some thoughts from an old guy leading a young church:
- Whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, it should all be for God's glory. Building a reputation for being the "shock and awe" church that is the most entertaining show in town is fluff if that's your goal. This implies that some things can glorify God; some things only glorify man.
- Church is meant to reach and build. There are many things that we can creatively do to accomplish those goals. There are some things that only serve to entertain. I don't believe entertainment at church is a bad thing. The alternative is to bore people. (Look up the meaning of "entertain" and contemplate on it before getting on a soap box.)
- It doesn't matter how good and slick our presentation if God's Spirit isn't the power behind it all. We strive at NHC for excellence. At the same time, if a church is poorly organized and led and flies by the seat of its pants I doubt God is involved. He does all things well. But it's not by might or by (our) power.
- When we get so enamored with our skills, our magnetism, our daring, our charisma and our perceived success that we as pastors begin to believe everyone who tells us how wonderful we are, we're ready for a big time fall. I've heard the pedestal called "The Glorification of the Worm". I'm not that good, no matter what others say. Ego and pride are dangerous traps.
- Just because we are bold enough to try new things doesn't make us superior. There are churches that are conservative and traditional in their methods and are knocking the ball out of the park. Chances are they are also not only practicing excellence but have found their niche in reaching a segment of their community that a church like mine isn't reaching. And that's a good thing. We're on a team here.
- When your search for relevance requires you to throw out all standards of what is appropriate it has become inappropriate. But who decides that? See my first point. I don't have to use certain questionable language, for example, to communicate God's Word even though in today's culture it is acceptable. Isn't part of what we do the idea of raising the bar?
Here's my point: if our purpose becomes being edgier than anyone else in town, could it be that we may very easily go over the edge and destroy everything, including people's lives and faith. Pushing it to the limit may go beyond the limit and bring it all crashing down.