“The Church is Irrelevant”

I have been hearing/reading this quite a bit lately. The church is losing traction in current culture. Numbers are declining. Alarms are being sounded. Hands are wringing. Church folks are scrambling in attempts to respond. Too late though- comes the word from some circles. The church is doomed.

But I am not buying into the rhetoric.

There is no doubt that numbers are trending downward. There is no doubt that culture has changed. There is no doubt that some churches are way behind this curve and are suffering greatly.

But the church doomed to irrelevancy?

Doesn’t it belong to Christ? Did he not promise that the “gates of hell” would not defeat it? Is not heaven fully vested into kingdom work which is to be carried out by the called out?

I am not worried about the future of the church. I am excited about it.  Christ’s kingdom (of which the church is a part) has always been effective in engaging, challenging and impacting culture- and it will continue to do so until this kingdom’s mission is fulfilled and Christ gifts it to his Father. (1 Corinthians 15:24)

So what is up with all the hand wringing? Just look at our younger generations in the church.  I see a godly energy and spirit of discipleship within them that is incredible.  God is already doing amazing things among them. If that looks a little different then what we are used to- that’s okay. That is God using his people- as he has always done- to  engage culture with his Word.

The church will never be irrelevant. Maybe our version of it is in trouble, but the destiny of God’s church is connected to victory not defeat.


9 Responses to “The Church is Irrelevant”

  1. Royce says:

    I think that to begin this discussion perhaps both sides of the issue need to refresh their minds on this question. What is the church? If we think of it only in terms of what the traditional attractional church gathering looks like, then yes it might be becoming irrelevant. But, when you view the church as any gathering of Christians, (even the most non traditional are still the body of Christ)then you might get a different answer.

    Bottom line is, the church is in great shape for one giant reason, Jesus Christ. It depends on Him and not us, He promised to build it and even hell itself can’t stop its progress.


  2. dannydodd says:

    You are right, Royce. And you have hit on part of the relevancy struggle.

    The traditional attractional church model you mention is having a huge problem tryng to figure out what to do in our ever-shifting cultural landscape.

  3. Jordan says:

    Why are the numbers declining?

  4. dannydodd says:

    For all kinds of reasons Jordan- from within it can be anything from lack of true discipleship to suffering through a horrible church experience. A recent Barna poll listed the latter as the main reason why former church folks stopped attending.

    From without- many are turned off by the impersonal institutional approach of churches. They see churches as being more concerned with protecting self-interests than serving hurting people (the current Catholic controversy is a perfect example of this). Many churches have been too slow to respond to shifting culture and come across as being out-of-touch on current issues.

    We are definitetly at a crossroads for our churches, but I believe God can handle it and take those in his kingdom who are willing down the road with the future.

  5. dholman says:

    I think the big challenge for churches is that our major inroads into society now have competition. First the entertainment industry provided an alternative to the “only show in town,” and later various groups and interactions provided an alternative to “fellowship.” We have tried hard for the last half-century to compete with the world on their stage… and not done very well.
    Over the next century I see the church having to re-form itself, but not dying out. Those that refuse to change may become like the Amish, but some will find fresh and new manners to being the church. In the end, there is still a lot the church offers that the world can’t and that will be our “open door.”
    I see the church needing to be more relational and less institutional. I also believe that our refusal to sway with the winds of ideas will eventually work in our favor. People will get weary of the media’s “crisis of the day” and seek out the more steady message of the church. I also think the preaching and exhalting of Jesus will fare better in a postmodern world than it did in the modern world.
    I think of Augustine’s “City of God” and how everyone was so sure the church was going to die alongside the Roman culture.

  6. Edward says:

    I have a lot of thoughts about this, but my dissertation would be too long, so I’ll just say this:

    I believe that the way in which Jesus called us to live our lives (i.e, the ‘kingdom’, as it were.), and the Jesus fan-club known as the church, or Christianity are two separate entities.

    Jesus’ intentions may have been embodied in the early believer’s lives for a very brief moment after Pentecost, but once it became an organization or institution, as is often cited, things went downhill from there and have continued on the downward slope ever since.

    The current form of the church will pass away, and blossom into a different, hopefully more beautiful form, and I for one and am excited about this. It’s time to tear down the institution so that Jesus’ teachings can shine.

  7. Jordan says:

    I’d rather meet in houses with small groups of people, myself. I can’t say for sure that this is where the church is headed, but I can tell you that I’ve heard this idea from a lot of people and they, for the most part, seem to like the idea as well. There’s a guy I’m friends with on Facebook. He attends/facilitates something called The Gathering in Denver. They meet in homes and talk about Jesus. Simple. Just like Jesus.

  8. dannydodd says:

    Jordan, I think you represent what many in your generation feel. You guys see the failures of the tradtional institutional church and are bold enough to talk about it and are reacting to them- IMHO.

    I beleive God is doing and will continue to do amazing things with your generation.

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