Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Falling off The Edge

The wealthy rancher needed to hire a new driver for his family's carriage. Three applied for the job. The interview consisted of one question: "You are driving my family on a mountain road that had no shoulder, and going off would mean certain death. How close to the edge can you drive my carriage and feel safe?"

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?
Back to the story. The first driver said, "I could confidently drive within 1 foot of the edge and feel safe". The second driver said, "I could confidently drive within six inches of the edge and be safe". The third driver said, "I would stay as far away from the edge as possible." He was hired.

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.


mikemikeburns said...

I agree. I am a relatively young man, but I have already found out that "cool" is a miserable goal to shoot for. As you know, I worked for a VERY extreme fundamental church (no drums, King James only, etc.) and we won hundreds to Christ every year. We averaged 100-200 baptisms every year. So, the style doesn't dictate the results. However, unity is a must within each congregation. There are needs for many different types of churches, but each church has to make sure they are not schitzophrenic...with multiple philosophies and direction. You think?

Rick Lawrenson said...

"As you know"...Littleme,but I don't know who you are!

mikemikeburns said...

Sorry.....Mike Burns

mikemikeburns said...

from Coinjock

Rick Lawrenson said...

Thanks Mike.

Bob said...

Good words, Rick.

Looking back at some things I attempted when I was pastoring I think I spent more time with Barnum and Bailey than with God!

I remember when the series' about improving your sex life became popular, I kicked the idea around. In the end, I had to admit I'm no expert on the subject (rim shot).

Kevin said...

Very timely and important words Rick! Thanks for sharing!

jasonS said...

Very good wisdom here. Thanks!