Friday, May 15, 2009

The never ending quest for relevance

The Wall Street Journal (of all places) had an interesting article on the struggle of "emergent" churches trying to adapt to being the establishment in many ways rather than being an alternative to the establishment, An Upstart Church Movement Wrestles With Growing Older . It is a fascinating look at the "growing up" of emergent churches. I found a couple of quotes to really capture the essence of their problem...

Trinity's "season of change," as Mr. Mathes describes it, is emblematic of the struggle that many religious institutions face as they reach a certain age: how to reach a new generation while remaining relevant to the needs of the congregation. But at churches like Trinity, which identify as Christian but deliberately choose not to connect with any denomination, the transition is especially challenging. These churches were founded by people in rebellion against established institutions. Ten years down the road, they have become the establishment.
Mr. Cron says Trinity was at a size and an age where "it needed a new set of eyes," to see new things. "You don't want to become ossified," he says. "You have to keep thinking freshly on how to do church."

When your main concerns becomes "being relevant", you quickly find out how fickle a concept "relevance" is. Your driving passion becomes finding out what the newest fad is because the worst thing that can happen to your church is not drifting into heresy, it is becoming passe and boring or GASP irrelevant. In many, many ways emerging churches have the same problem as traditional institutional churches: they focus on "how to do church" and that really is not what it is all about. The church is not something we do, it is who we are.

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