Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"I think relevance is a crock"

A post at internetmonk.com led me to this good interview with Eugene Peterson from 2005. The answers below that I selected deal primarily with worship:
What if we were to frame this not in terms of needs but relevance? Many Christians hope to speak to generation X or Y or postmoderns, or some subgroup, like cowboys or bikers—people for whom the typical church seems irrelevant.
When you start tailoring the gospel to the culture, whether it's a youth culture, a generation culture or any other kind of culture, you have taken the guts out of the gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not the kingdom of this world. It's a different kingdom.

My son Eric organized a new church six years ago. The Presbyterians have kind of a boot camp for new church pastors where you learn what you're supposed to do. So Eric went. One of the teachers there said he shouldn't put on a robe and a stole: "You get out there and you meet this generation where they are."

So Eric, being a good student and wanting to please his peers, didn't wear a robe. His church started meeting in a high-school auditorium. He started out by wearing a business suit every Sunday. But when the first Sunday of Advent rolled around, and they were going to have Communion, he told me, "Dad, I just couldn't do it. So I put my robe on."

Their neighbors, Joel and his wife, attended his church. Joel was the stereotype of the person the new church development was designed for—suburban, middle management, never been to church, totally secular. Eric figured he was coming because they were neighbors, or because he liked him. After that Advent service, he asked Joel what he thought of his wearing a robe.

He said, "It made an impression. My wife and I talked about it. I think what we're really looking for is sacred space. We both think we found it."

I think relevance is a crock. I don't think people care a whole lot about what kind of music you have or how you shape the service. They want a place where God is taken seriously, where they're taken seriously, where there is no manipulation of their emotions or their consumer needs.

Why did we get captured by this advertising, publicity mindset? I think it's destroying our church.
But someone else might walk into Eric's church, see him with his robe, and walk out, thinking the whole place was too religious, too churchy.
So why are they going if it's not going to be religious? What do they go to church for?

Of course, there's another aspect to this. If you're going to a church where everybody's playing a religious role, that's going to be off putting. But that performance mentality, role mentality can be seen in the cowboy church or whatever—everybody is performing a role there, too.

But we're involved with something that has a huge mystery to it. Are we going to wipe out all the mystery so we can be in control of it? Isn't reverence at the very heart of the worship of God?

And if we present a rendition of the faith in which all the mystery is removed, and there's no reverence, how are people ever going to know there's something more than just their own emotions, their own needs? There's something a lot bigger than my needs that's going on. How do I ever get to that if the church service and worship program is all centered on my needs? .... [more] [emphasis added]
Spirituality for All the Wrong Reasons | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction