The challenge of staying culturally 'relevant' as a church and as the Christian faith has become like a bi-athlete trying to hit a moving target. The exhausting task of trying to figure out what "the kids are into these days" can be confusing, deceiving and hopeless for the ill-equipped. Merely locating the target is no longer sufficient, the mark must be struck on the bulls-eye, and the race must be finished ahead of the other competitors, which in the real world translates to: whoever thinks up something like Ice Bucket Challenge first wins. So then, how do we take all of the lessons, tips, hints and best practices of the secular world and use them to win our culture for Jesus Christ? First, take a step back.
What you win them with is what you win them to
I don't know the origin of this maxim (or at least the first three pages of Google didn't know), but I first heard it posited by a prominent minister not long ago. All too often, Christian organizations and churches get sucked into the carrot-and-stick method of gaining followers and hopefully new believers. Examples include: installing state of the art audio and visual equipment to enhance the worship "experience," holding conferences in trendy cities with the hottest speakers and a catchy hashtag, creating the coolest video that is sure to break the internet for Jesus and the list goes on. And while none of these tools and devices are inherently bad, many times the carrot-and-stick leads to a much more selfish destination than we would like to admit.
Very simply, this truism is a reminder that the end goal of our message is not to sell a product, it is not to increase giving, it is not to fill the sanctuary on Sunday mornings, it is not to entertain.
Our goal should be to win people to a relationship with a loving, redeeming, powerful, relational and real Savior who knows their name, died and rose again for us all.
Increasing attendance is great. Increasing giving is wonderful. Bright lights, crisp sound and engaging speakers are fantastic, but even Paul ran out of adjectives when he wrote to the Ephesians about the "love that surpasses all understanding" (Eph. 3:19). If our message does not clearly and wholly proclaim, and direct people to this idea, we have not won anything of value. We have built another house on another beach with a great view, but no foundation.Trends will change. Interests will shift. Mediums will evolve. Use what's available to point directly to Christ. God's Word is timeless, and He supersedes cultural trends. That's the #winning combination.