I saw this article and it made me think. I would enjoy your thoughts in general on the churches attempt at relevancy in America.

Is church irrelevant?

Author and pastor Tim Stevens thinks so.

In fact, he believes that religious tradition advising the church to avoid “worldly” culture for its 2,000 year history is misguided and that instead churches ought to welcome culture into their buildings and services.

Stevens shares his take on culture in the church in a groundbreaking new book released nationwide titled, “Pop Goes the Church.”

Published by Power Publishing, the book outlines Stevens’ philosophy and track record of success at Granger Community Church (GCC), in Granger, Indiana, where he serves as executive pastor.  His church offers a revolutionary perspective on the 21st century church by designing services around movie and TV clips, drama and secular music during informal and quick-paced services.  That has translated into church services built on U2 and Beatles music and sermon topics featuring clips from movies like “Spiderman 3″ and TV shows like “24.”

Around Christmas the church offered a whole series on Beatles music.  “Our tag line was: ‘The Christmas Story According to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, George and Ringo’ and our overall theme was we want to start a revolution.  We’ve done U2 music and featured Bono sharing about his Christian faith, and we’ve used Madonna’s ‘Material World’ in a series featuring 80’s music.”

But in church?  “Absolutely!” says Stevens.

“Here’s the bottom line.  The Christian message never changes, but methods must,” Stevens explains.  “Studies show spiritual hunger in the U.S. at an all-time high, but church attendance at an all-time low and dropping.  A lot of people feel church is irrelevant-so it’s time to change.  Church can’t meet people’s needs if people won’t come in the front door.”

“People are obviously exploring spiritual things outside the church,” the pastor continued.  “They listen to songs, watch movies, have discussions with friends and try to make sense of the world.  If you listen you’ll hear spiritual issues under discussion-in music, in movies, on TV and among people.  So my contention is that churches should jump in on these conversations already happening in a context people understand.”

“You see,” he said, “songs and movies are talking about spiritual issues in ways that people really do understand.  But too often in churches we’ve talked about things people don’t get.  Language is a big thing.  Church people have ‘the curse of knowledge.’  We are talking about things no one understands.  We are answering questions no one is asking.  The church has lived in a bubble to a certain extent and no one is sticking around that hasn’t been in church forever.  We need to leverage culture to connect to people.”

In “Pop Goes the Church,” Stevens outlines innovative church services conducted at GCC where teachings are on topics carved right out of hot culture topics and TV headlines-money management, relationships and even sex.  In fact, one of GCC’s most effective marketing campaigns centered on the traditionally church-taboo subject of sex.

“We’d been looking for a way to present the topic of sex in the church because it’s definitely something people talk about every day.  The church ought to have something to say about it so we decided to enter the conversation.  After all, sex is God’s idea and is very good in a committed relationship.”

So, GCC put up four billboards around its community and surrounding area of 30o,000 emblazoned simply with the provocative image of entwined male/female feet dangling off of a bed with the words http://www.mylamesexlife.com.  No other info was included-no church name, no service times.  Nevertheless, within a couple of hours the church phone rang off the hook with interest and local media showed up to interview.  The series was even featured nationally on Fox News.

And, church attendance shot through the roof.  Attendance jumped 2300 people the first weekend, a 50% increase from the previous year and remained up 30% for the five-week series.  Stevens said GCC kept about half of those people over the long run.

“We started off our campaign with attention-getting billboards because if we had said ’sex talk at such and such church’ it would be an immediate turnoff.  Everyone would’ve thought they already knew what the church would say.  So we looked for a creative way to connect with people.”

And apparently the connection is still underway since Stevens says more than 85 churches around the country were inspired by the series and have offered their own sex talks.

Speaking at conferences and churches, Stevens lecturers nationally on the topics of church leadership and pop culture in the church. 


2 Responses to “Relevant?”

  1. 2 chrisbrewster
    May 11, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    “Church can’t meet people’s needs if people won’t come in the front door.” – Stevens

    “Yes the church can!” – Brewster

    I may just wait for your other post in response to this to say something else.

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