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Cotton Candy Christianity

What happens when, in an effort to be "relevant" to culture, the Church ends up capitulating to culture? - Offering nothing different than culture, because it has become the culture? Christianity-lite, as Dick Staub calls it, offers its own brand of celebrity-adoration: preachers-performers who fill stadiums and mega-worship places. Or, you can find our own brand of 'cool' pop-grung worship leaders whose clothing styles, cool hair, and postmodern chic our local worship leaders love to imitate.

When we become culture rather than offer a meaningful alternative, we settle for mediocrity. Our current superficial art and artistry values self-expression and the self-indulgent rantings of the artist rather than enduring goodness and the mastery of craft that expresses an alternate Kingdom reality. Our lyrics, therefore, become vacuous and immature; and our music drones out the tired chord progressions and unthoughtful imitations that are now found in our churches as much as anywhere else.

When we imitate the surrounding culture rather than transform it, our preaching becomes driven by felt-needs rather than the thorough and glorious transformation of humanity. The richness of the Scriptures gets supplanted by sound-bite messages that offer nothing more than pop-psychology with a spiritual veneer.

When we give in to the reigning pop culture that surrounds us, we no longer have anything meaningful to offer. We have only the cotton candy gospel that tastes great but is less filling. It satisfies our sweet tooth but offers little nourishment. It's pretty but can't give life.

Solution: church leaders have to reconsider what 'relevant' really means. The relevance of Jesus means offering a meaningful alternative to superficial fluff. It means we must engage the whole person, not simply their felt needs. For, aren't we to love God with all our heart, mind, and body? This means leaders must decide to more richly engage their own minds, hearts, and bodies in the Kingdom habits of Jesus - rather than expending the majority of their energies keeping the ministry machine running smoothly.

As leaders, we must read widely and deeply - a broader scope than the top-ten evangelical best-seller list. What have the old ones who have gone before us said? What are the current Christian spiritual masters saying? We must read work that is substantial and rich in content - which does not have to imply intellectual headiness.

We must consider our art, worship, and artistry, as to whether it offers lasting and enduring meaning to our culture. Is it good art? Good music? Or is it simply indulgent self-expression - expression that hasn't been grounded in a deeper life. Or do we think we can call it worship merely because it focuses on God, yet doesn't reflect the brilliance of the Maker's Art?
We must remember why we got into this thing called 'ministry' in the first place. Surely, it wasn't simply to manage the machine and function as event-planners. We must return to a richer and more thoughtful life as citizens of the transforming Kingdom.

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