I have been a staunch defender of my denomination (The United Methodist Church) throughout my life as a Christian. However, that being said, I have also been a witness to that very same denomination’s continuous descent into irrelevance. I get daily emails from our News Service detailing all the trendy projects that we have gotten involved with or how we have joined in with issues that are celebrity causes.
I am saddened by what has happened, but I cannot say that I am surprised. What, you might ask, has led this descent into irrelevance? In my humble estimation there is no clearer answer than that the church has become obsessed with being culturally relevant.
What do I mean by this? To me, it’s simple. The church has chosen to alter or set aside it doctrines and discipline in an effort to be more acceptable to the mainstream culture. While this sounds all well and good there are some serious difficulties that accompany such a strategy.
- The church was never supposed to conform to the culture. From its inception, the church was countercultural. The membership of the body of Christ is to “seek ye first the kingdom of God,” (Matt. 6:33 KJV) not to seek approval of the prevailing culture. The church is to be in pursuit of holiness.
- By pulling up its theological anchor and allowing itself to be blown about by the winds of worldly culture, the denomination has diminished its identity and become just another unstable institution in an unstable world. There is a longing out there for something that is consistent, steady, and willing to stand against the currents of our world. The church has always been a rock that people could stand on during turbulent times. But when the church seeks to appease the world by forsaking its doctrinal integrity, what you are left with is something built on shifting sands.
- Cultural appeasement is a slippery slope. If we acquiesce to the whims of worldly culture at points A, B, and C, is there a point at which the process can, and will, stop? Looking at other examples from mainstream Protestantism the answer appears to be, no.
This is something of a gripe session and it is late in the evening here, but it hurts me to see the way we have become obsessed with chasing after all the latest trendy projects while never looking back to make certain that we have not lost our way.
In the pursuit of relevance, we are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Let us return to our roots and consider our theological foundations that we may be better equipped to engage a hurting world. After all, if we lose our identity by tossing to the side our doctrine and discipline, then we are just another social group. And that is not what we have been called to be.