The Culturally Relevant Church

The suggestions that Sam Eaton, in his article  “59 Percent of Millennials Raised in a Church Have Dropped Out” , outlines for the church to become more “millennial” friendly is very well thought out and really embodies what I would call an attempt to actually be culturally relevant. The church has a tendency to think that being culturally relevant means playing “cooler music” or playing a popular movie clip or coming up with a clever topic based on pop culture.

When discussing the problem of seeing things as secular and Christian, C.S. Lewis used the image of sprinkling our lives with Christianity as one would sprinkle salt on food. We end up attempting to Christianize something in order to make it more spiritual, often in an awkward way. I recall an old book called “Faith-based fitness” that made suggestions like memorizing a verse while jogging. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that but it demonstrates a failure at true integration- that jogging could be spiritual in and of itself.  It is also this sloppy integration that causes this generation to bristle.

In consistent fashion, the church attempts to sprinkle its services with cultural relevance rather than attempting to be truly culturally relevant. The popular movies, music, art and books of every generation speaks a language meaningful to that generation. Unfortunately, the church and its presentation of the gospel is often in a dead language.

It’s amazing to see how persistent paradigms can be. I don’t know if the following were Eaton’s words or if he was quoting the research, but it falls into the same trap:

“Only 4 percent of the Millennial Generation are Bible-Based Believers. This means that 96 percent of Millennials likely don’t live out the teachings of the Bible, value the morals of Christianity and probably won’t be found in a church. This author goes deep to explain why.”

The irony is in the criteria by which Millennials are judged- “don’t live out the teachings of the Bible.” It’s a dusty, rigid form of Christianity that makes no sense to a generation not “acculturated” into Christian morality. Whereas previous generations have a clearer hierarchy of sin and litmus test for what passes as proper Christian behavior, the millennial Christian is more likely to ask- “Who really lives out the teachings of the Bible anyway? How do we measure that?”

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