Relevance. There are magazines built around it, and staff meetings consumed by it. Churches want to be hip, young, cool, attractive, relevant. It's the word du jour.
I’ve sat in meetings talking about what should be done to the stage or the sanctuary or how loud the music needs to be, all in (heart-felt) attempts to remain relevant. Large churches now spend time with graphic design and video to supplement sermons (not just in an attempt to be relevant, but it's part of the reason). I've heard discussions of the need for position papers on the issues of the day, to firmly establish who we are and who we are most decidedly not.
And yet, I have to wonder… how many churches this Sunday actually took the time to talk about Ferguson, Missouri? How many churches actually took the time to talk about Robin Williams and his suicide?
How many churches, whether they're non-denominational or denominational, heterogeneous or homogeneous, traditional or contemporary, took an opportunity to speak to things that are actually going on in our world? That are relevant to people sitting in the pews, or the school chairs, or cushy auditorium seats?
The Church should be speaking to issues like Ferguson and Robin Williams and ISIS and Israel, because our faith speaks to them, and our God cares about them.
Perhaps in our pursuit of cool, we've lost track of what it actually means to be relevant. Perhaps in our pursuit of trendy, we skip over what is actually trending.
We claim to follow a God who cares about the details of our lives, and who is actively involved in the events of our Earth. And yet on Sundays like this past one, many churches and pastors remain silent. We say that Jesus' humanity means that His life has something to say about ours today. And yet when an icon takes his life, or racial tensions explode in a town, we stare at our shoes and we clasp our hands and hope that maybe we can just pretend it's not happening.
Pastor, you don't have to know everything that is going on in Ferguson to set aside time to pray for that town at the start of your service. Pastor, you don't need to be a psychiatrist to realize that suicide is horrible, and it affects far too many people, and that Williams' death may have resonated with people who have either thought of suicide before, or who have lost family to it. You have a chunk of time on a Sunday morning with a captive audience, and you can choose to pretend like these hard difficult things aren't happening, or you can speak to them, from a posture of humility, grace and a desire to learn. You can stop, pray, and lead your people in praying for God's kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy, to come to earth.
I pray that we, as the Church, would learn to be brave, and speak, albeit imperfectly, about the things that are happening today. What is our heavenly faith worth if it does not speak to the things of life on earth?
I am grateful for my pastor, Brett Fuller, who took time to talk about and pray for Ferguson at the start of his message on Sunday. We are a multi-ethnic, diverse church. And so I guarantee you that there were people in the audience who wished he said more, and there were people who wish he hadn't said anything. But he, with grace and humility, acknowledged that while we don't know everything, there is real grief for the Brown family and for the community, and there are real racial tensions that are lying under the surface in our country. His prayer for the Church to be the peacemakers we are called to be is a prayer born out of truth and a life lived as a peacemaker and reconciler of men.