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Dangers of the "Relevant" Church

Sometime last year Sunday’s LA Times Magazine featured an article on “Synaplex,” a Jewish Synagogue movement designed to attract more attendees at Synagogue on Shabbat. Not unlike the methodology of many churches in attempting to lure worshipers and potential worshipers to church on Sunday.

The goal, says Rabbi Hayim Herring, executive director of STAR, the organization that conceived of and funds Synaplex, is “to have the congregation become the place to be, no matter who you are, what you believe.”

“Halachically”—by Jewish law—”you don’t have to believe in God to be considered a good Jew,” says Herring. “Sure, it would be nice if everyone believed in God, but it is not going to happen. It hasn’t happened in the state of Israel, and they have a monopoly on the religion there. Getting more people to believe in God, that is not the goal of Synaplex. Getting more people to show up is not the goal. The goal of Synaplex is building community, because community-building has always been the genius of the Jewish people.”

Striking, isn’t it? That a Rabbi could possibly say that unbelief was compatible with Judaism is inconceivable. Maybe he hasn’t read the Old Testament where the fool is described as unbelieving. So here is the logical progression for Rabbi Herring to consider:

A: “The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God” (Psa 53:1)

B: A good Jew can say: “There is no God.”

C: A fool is a good Jew.

What nonsense we endure for the sake of tolerance, and to attract a crowd.

An advertisement for the grand opening of a new church was seen in our local newspaper the last few weeks. In the ad, there is mention of the first five Sundays activities:

Sunday 1: Tailgate party, free hot dogs, portable grill give away and NFL games on jumbo screens!

Sunday 2: $100 shopping spree giveaway

Sunday 3: Kitchen appliances given away

Sunday 4: Win a Cuisinart grind and brew coffee maker

Sunday 5: Hyundai 32″ HDTV LCD given away.

When did church become a carnival? “The Music Rocks” and “the kids will have a blast at Kid’s Planet,” we are promised. Their motto is displayed: “Connecting Lives and Empowering Success for Every Generation.”

No where on the ad is any mention of Christ, God or anything that would connect a person to the spiritual content of the church. Oh, but they will have Starbucks and Krispy Kreme Donuts EVERY Sunday.

From the Website: “We’re a church that wants to be enjoyed not endured. We believe that if Jesus came to give us life, and we have that life, then the experience of Church should be a blast!”

I guess having a blast and creating community (two things I thoroughly enjoy by the way) have replaced the mission of the church: to make disciples. “Boring” sermons are replaced with soliloquies on dating, fashion, football, stress relief…with whatever might not be boring, like Luke chapter 5.

Frankly, the problem is that we have replaced the foundation of the church: the person of Christ and the revelation of Him in His word with exciting, TV style events with very little resemblance to proclamation of the truth. Secondly, the benefit of community is the outcome of our relationship with Christ, not vice versa. I find it objectionable to not even mention Christ on an advertisement for church, and place the word in a secondary position at the main meeting of so-called community. It might work, but it isn’t the best.

Soon, we may be saying: “You can be a good Christian without believing in God.”

To quote the boring apostle Paul: “May it never be.”

Whatever we do to improve the church’s outreach potential and community potential cannot be at the cost of truth and the centrality of Christ.  Check out this challenge to preaching in favor of artistic expression: Under the Iceberg

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