I have never met Skye Jethani…in fact, I'd like to meet him PURELY to find out how his family came up with that cool name. I've read a couple of his books and followed his blog for the past few years. Many of you know that I am a student of culture, church history and everything that pertains to the Jesus following movement throughout history. In addition, at least professionally, I've been blessed to have been a professional in churchworld for over 40 years. Because of that, I have a bit of wisdom on what the contemporary American church has become over the decades. Add to that, I've been exposed to a wide range of denominations, movements, para-church organizations and teaching ministries. What's going on in the contemporary church in the USA is going to be discussed, analyzed, studied and be the source of critical comment for decades to come. How culture over the past 50 years has impacted church practice and mission is almost beyond belief. The pressures of consumerism, secularism, pluralism and individualism have altered the religious landscape. In responce to that, there have been some who have not bucked trends but have embraced (even, from some perspectives, "sold out") to prevailing cultural tides. No matter what a local faith community has or hasn't done as they have traveled into the uniqueness of the 21st century is almost irrelevant to one conversation that Skye mentions in his two part blog post, "How Churches Became Cruise Ships." Here's that snippet:
A friend recently told me about a convicting conversation he had with a newcomer to his congregation. The man, from a Hindu background, came to the large church about a month earlier because he was curious about Jesus. “Everyone here has been very friendly to me,” he reported to the pastor, “and my family has been enjoying all of the programs. But I do have one question. When am I going to learn about Jesus?”
This scenario isn't just a mega-church or large church issue…it permeates all churches in all places that are more concerned with denominational loyality, theological purity, or who are more program driven than mission driven. We are living in an age where many people are not going to be impressed by the smorgasborg of programmatic elements that churches can offer to folks to retain their interest or to justify their existence. The bottom line in the 21st century is that people are searching for meaningful connectedness and someone, anyone for that matter, who can demonstrate that faith can make a differnce in life. How to get to heaven is not the predominant or presenting issue in contemporary living…how to make it through a DAY, sometimes even an hour, with meaning, purpose and peace knowing that they are inherently worthy and lovable, THAT is something people of which people are curious. People don't seem to care if they are entertained or whether we in churchworld have full calendars of activities. If you think about it, most of those efforts are, in effect, to keep the already convinced happy and content with a plethora of spiritual goods and services that they can consume. If there is going to be a growing sense of mission and a resergence of faith in God there are going to have to be more places and people who are MORE concerned about Jesus being the "destination" rather than a building in which people appear to be more focused on keeping the masses through entertainment, having offerings large enough to cover the overhead of sprawling campuses or presenting to adherents massive selections of available religous goods and services. There are going to have people and places where simple relational connections, conversations about God, and learning more about God are, as Skye says in his posts, the focal point of "church" effort – "no roller coasters necessary." Really, Skye is SO right when he remarks, "all we really have to offer the world is Jesus." From my experience, and believe me, I've been the captain of "cruise ships" before…Skye couldn't have nailed it any better.
Here's the article – read it and see what you think!