I heard a telling statistic last night on our BlogTalkRadio show — a fascinating discussion, by the way, about the value of connecting with the writings and the liturgy of the first century Christians who are our brothers and sisters. It’s truly a boost to one’s faith to find out that though time and cultures separate us, the truth and the passion for the Lord is the same.
One of our guests was telling us how he had found, in a recent trade magazine for sound systems and stage paraphernalia, a top ten wish list for churches. (Churches are a major market now for staging equipment which used to service mostly night clubs and rock and roll acts.) Guess what was heading the list? The #1 most sought after item by churches for their sound and lighting needs: a fog machine.
Let that settle in for a minute while I share some thoughts about relevancy. I think being relevant is now overrated. Forty years of being relevant has brought us to this. I think we have a new generation of people who are done with it. I can say that because I’m one of the people who started this, so I should be able to stop it, or at least try.
In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, I was swept up in the power and excitement of what could happen when you took your passion for the gospel and wedded it to the music of the day, be it pop, rock, folk, folk-rock, country, “gospel” (the style, not the message) and soon to become: metal, punk, rap, hip-hop, scream, glam, etc.. I was excited about communicating the gospel in a relevant way, and I was taken by the number of people who wanted to hear the gospel when you presented it in a popular format. Little did I know what this was going to turn into — full-on rock and roll staging and lighting in churches with state-of-the-art sound systems and the latest video equipment … and fog machines. Pastors used to need associate pastors to help them do the work of the ministry; now they need a production manager.
I honestly don’t think I’m just getting old; I think I’m getting concerned. Gunnar Simonsen, our co-worker and social media expert, has a name for what I’m concerned about: chasing relevancy. It’s an apt phrase, because it carries with it what is the ultimate pitfall of making relevancy your goal: you will never reach it. Culture shifts too fast to always be on the forward edge of what’s hip.
I would say to a church that was contemplating purchasing a fog machine: don’t bother. By the time you build your show around a fog machine, you will be passé. You’re trying to reach the younger generation, and the younger generation is already over it before you start. They want to sit around the room with a guy and a guitar and sing worship songs. No sound system; no lights; no fog machine; no pyrotechnics. Or they want “stations” where they can move around the room and worship however they want. They don’t want to just watch it; they want to be a part of creating it. Or — can you imagine? — they might like to sing a hymn or two. They would actually be very interested in what our guests last night are creating using first century lyrics. They want something genuine no matter what era it comes from. They don’t want something relevant; they want something real. They want people in church (if they’re even going to go) to be real, too. Real is always relevant.
And what does any of this have to do with you, our Catch citizens? This one thing: Be real and you will communicate with anyone from any generation. Come out of the fog. Be true to yourself and you will be true to those around you.