Relevance Ministry

Open letter to a megachurch pastor from a 21-year-old pastoral intern.

Dear Bill,
I’m sitting in the plush seats arranged stadium-style (they still smell new), waiting for the seeker service to begin. I know this is a state of the art media facility, designed to meet my needs as a seeker; the jumbo-trons and 80-foot speakers tell me that you are serious about this relevance thing. If this is the matinee, then can I throw less in the offering plate?

I basically know what I can expect: a rockin’ praise and worship band, Academy-nominated skits, and a non-boring, non-threatening, non-lengthy sermon with movie clips interspersed for good measure. I now that you’re aiming for relevance here; I’ll just bet you use the word relevance at least 2,349.5 times in your ministry team meetings. It’s sprinkled throughout your literature, I saw it in the name of your church, read it in the size of your has-it-own-area-code campus but I really knew you were serious about the whole relevance thing when I parked. You know, way out in lot W? I was feeling bummed about the half-mile walk to the sanctuary – excuse me, I mean “meeting place” – when Deacon George pulled up in his urban golf cart and offered me a ride. Told me there was coffee inside (I must’ve been shivering), and not just any coffee. It was Brand Name. I mean, how many churches do that?

But I thought I should tell you, Bill… if I don’t, who will? I know nobody wants to burst your bubble or anything, so I’ll lay it on you gently. You know this whole “relevance” thing? This whole “seeker service” designed to reach as many as possible with the Gospel? Well, I’m here, and I’m watching, and I think you ought to know: you’re losing me.

I know, you have a rockin’ praise band. But if you look really close, you’ll notice that it a bunch of thirty or forty something’s trying to be my age. They just aren’t, no matter how many times they say that Jesus is sweet, dude! They are turning me off, because all I can focus on is how the lead singer tries way to hard to be cool; it’s also hard to get past the bad highlighting job on the brunette-turned-blonde – you know, the one in the tight leather pants? Oh wait, they are all wearing… oh well, never mind.

And the power point? I learned that in fourth grade. It’s so nineties…but then again, it seems like most of your church is still stuck there, which isn’t surprising, since your average age in here is 40, twice my age. All these people my age here? They aren’t college kids who never heard the gospel but just walked into your service and said “Wow, dude, your service is so relevant that I was convinced Jesus is just alright and now I want to hang with you.” They are the leftovers from the youth group – the kids who grew up in church and weren’t in the 70 percent that leave church after high school. Sure, they like the technology – who wouldn’t, after being singing great hymns of the faith (like “Lord I Lift Your Name On High” times ten), and being forced to listen to Audio Adrenaline as an alternative to Nirvana in high school? I’m sorry…never heard of Linkin Park? Didn’t think so.

And the pastor tries way too hard to reach me. Way too hard. Love the video clips. Like the hairdo. He thinks he’s cool. I don’t. Who’s right? Oh, and the Corvette onstage is hard to top. But it’s not clicking, Bill. It’s not – dare I say it – relevant to me. You’re losing me.

Everyone these days is wishy-washy. Nobody takes a stand. Now you look like a knockoff of my high school, and a horrible knockoff at that. I wanted something different. I wanted something to stand out. I wanted something confrontational. I want to be offended. I picked up the Bible and read it; it offended me. It also grabbed my attention, and I wanted more of it. It’s relevant to me; you aren’t. Why not teach the Bible? I’d pay more attention. People my age that didn’t grow up in the church are looking for something that sticks out when everything else and everyone else fits in. Now you are trying your hardest to fit in, so why are you shocked when being homosexual sticks out and people my age flock to it like nothing else? You are reaching people our age, sure: loser youth group dropouts who try harder than you do to fit in by wearing that ridiculous knockoff t-shirts and listen to silly knockoff music. And my generation is tired of those who try to fit in.

The problem is, you just don’t know my generation. That’s why you’re losing us. Awesome job of being relevant. You lost me, and you’re losing us. I just thought you’d like to know.

Unchurched Harry, Jr.