Our world is constantly changing. Sometimes we forget that reality because we are changing right along with it. If we take time to reflect on where we have been and where we are now, there is now escaping the fact that things are different. In some cases they are radically different.
In the last 30 years we have witnessed giant strides in technology. It is hard to believe that computing power of an average smart phone is more sophisticated than the average home computer. In the 1980s the average TV was big and bulky, but now it is sleek and slim and the picture quality is hundreds of times better. Things that come standard on cars now weren’t even thought about when I was going up. Things have changed.
One of the changes that have happened is that the Church has lost its relevancy in culture. Far too many church families did not keep up with the changes that were happening around them. Instead they tried to be places of stability, anchored in the past. The result is that we have become irrelevant to a whole generation of people. Think about your church family. How many 14-34 year-olds do you attending? I know in my church family we have just a handful. The millennial generation (those people born between 1980-2000) are leaving the Church.
I am told that when first responders arrive at a scene of an accident they will ask the victims a series of questions to gauge their mental awareness. They ask questions like: “Who they are?”, “Where they are?”, “What time it is?”, and “What just happen?”. If the victims can answer those questions they are said to be alert and oriented times four. The first thing to go in a traumatic event are recent events. A person who can recall all the information except what just happened would be alert and oriented times three. The last thing to go is our identity, and so if a person doesn’t know who they are then they are said to be, alert and oriented times zero.
This is the description that fits many church families today. We are alert and oriented times zero. The world around us has changed, and we are struggling to get our bearings. Sometimes we don’t even know who we are anymore.
Think about the changes in culture that have happened in the last 30 years. Who would of guessed in 1980 that same-sex marriage would be legal in as many states as it is? Who would have known that between television, video games, and this thing called the internet, that young people relate to other people in a totally different manner, have shorter attention spans, and a vastly different moral standard. We can think back when the church pews were full and now we look around and wonder: What happened? Where am I? maybe even Who are we? -We are alert and oriented times zero, when it comes to our place in culture.
What this means is that a great many churches today are unhealthy. They don’t know how to respond to a culture that no longer respects them.
How are we to respond?
- We need to resist the urge to fight back. One of the things that happens is that Christians look at the changing culture and immediately jump to the conclusion that they change is bad. What ends up happening is that they want to engage in a “culture war” to save the culture. The problem is that the culture doesn’t necessarily need saving, and in the process of fighting the culture war reveals to the world how out of touch Christians are to the world.
- We need to admit that we need help. I hate asking for helping. I like to try to figure things out on my own. The major problem with this is that I often get frustrated because I don’t know what the problem is. The more I try to fix it the more frustrated I become, because I realize that I don’t understand the problem at all. A similar thing happens with churches. They want to figure things out for themselves, and the more they try they more frustrated they become, because nothing seems to be working. What they need is a fresh set of eyes and the advice of someone who has been through similar experiences.
- We need to seek new ways to engage people. Old ways are just not going bring the same results. The last church I ministered in believed that if they put out the sign for VBS and place a notice in the paper children will come. We had a total of 2 children not associated with the church attend VBS. This requires that we begin meeting people right were they are. We don’t water down the Gospel, but begin to build bridges with people so a dialogue can occur.
Our church families do not need to be alert and oriented times zero. It is possible to understand our culture and engage the people living in it. We can a positive impact on our culture, but we have to humble ourselves in order to do it.