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Sunday, August 28, 2005


I recently wrote (here) about what Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church refers to as a "holy discontent." I wrote:
I feel a passion to do great church: to make it relevant, engaging, and connecting. I want church to be exciting - an event, if you will - that draws people to respond to God. I want to stand against dull, uninspiring, irrelevant, and unmotivating church services.
I was asked a couple of great questions in response by Ryan and Shaun. Here is what they had to say:
I agree with your discontent of churches who don't engage with their people. But, in your owns words what would or could a church do or not do to become "dull, uninspiring, irrelevant, and unmotivating?" Sorry about the awkward wording of that sentence! (Ryan)
Can you define "relevant" for me as you mean it? (Shaun)
Thanks, guys for your questions. I will try to give you a picture of what I mean.

Here is the short answer: I want church (more specifically the truth of God's word) to speak to the lives of people right where they are at - right where they live. Truth should be understandable and applicable. The Bible is for today. It should draw people in, not push them away. It should make them want to move forward in their spiritual journey. And it should connect them with God and other people.

OK. That's the short answer. Here it is fleshed out a little more...

Relevant: The dictionary defines "relevant" this way: "having significant and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand."

As it relates to church, relevance for me means taking the truth of Scripture and presenting it in such a way that 1) it is understandable to the hearers - they know what you are talking about and what the passage means; 2) it is actionable - they know what to do with what they heard. In other words, you have helped them to understand how a 2,000 year old passage of Scripture works in their life today.

I also believe that it is critical that the truth that you communicate is in keeping with the historical context of the biblical passage. In other words, you don't proof-text to get a nice idea across. Rather, you let the context of Scripture be your guide to how it would have been applied specifically in the historical setting, while extracting the timeless principle for today. I'm all for topical preaching, as long as the passage you pull a particular verse out of actually refers to the topic at hand. But I digress...

Engaging: The dictionary says that to engage is "to hold the attention of" or "to induce to participate."

I believe that church is not a spectator sport. People should and can be engaged to participate (and want to participate) at all points on their spiritual journey. Whether they are someone who has not yet "come to faith" or they are a long-time believer, church should draw them in to cause them to want to be a part.

And what they should want to be a part of is not what WE are doing. Rather it is what God is doing. Church should open a window on the heart of God and His heart for people. It should portray God and the Christian life as something that is vital and powerful and abundant, not dull and boring and weak.

When people leave on Sundays, I want them to feel as though they have been drawn closer to something that is far bigger than themselves.

Connecting: Once again, Merriam-Webster has this to say about connecting: it is "to become joined."

We are made... we were created for relationships. Church should facilitate building important relationships.

First, it should connect people with God. If we are not doing that proactively, we are failing. We cannot just expect it to happen, although it might. We need to create an atmosphere that is conducive to people connecting with God... an atmosphere that reduces roadblocks... an atmosphere that gives opportunity - in their own way - to take the next step in their relationship with God, even inviting them to do so.

Additionally, church should foster community - connecting people with people. We are called to live out our faith in community with other believers. Church should foster community by communicating the importance of it - that it is not just an option. More importantly, its leaders need to model living life out in community.

Finally, the church should foster relationships with "the world." We are also called to connect with those outside the faith by being the "light of the world and the salt of the earth." Again, the church should both communicate the non-negotiable of this truth and its leaders model it.

Thanks, guys for the great questions. Hope this answers them to at least some small degree.

Photograph by Jules Frazier
Image #tr002753, from gettyimages


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