We Are Not Called to Be Relevant: An Easter Post

March 29, 2013

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The customer is always right.

That’s the saying.  Even though it’s not true.  Customers are usually wrong.  But we say that the customer is right and set out to satisfy them so we’ll keep their business.  It’s really a mantra of capitalism.  Give the customer what they want so they’ll keep giving us their money.  Whatever it takes.

But the smartest businesses don’t give customers what they want.

And neither should churches…especially this weekend.

The Customer is Always Right

There are plenty of businesses that do all right with “the customer is always right” mentality.  The customers demand something, and the business fills that demand.  Customers want a giant burger with four patties, three strips of bacon and five pieces of cheese?  Give it to them.  The customer is always right.

But those businesses are always chasing the customer, always catching up, always one step behind.  These businesses are the middle-men.  Sure, they make a living, but they aren’t leading. 

Smart Businesses Know the Customer Is Wrong

Then there are businesses that know the customer is not right.

The customer does not know what they need or want.

Those are the businesses who are in the business of telling the customers what their needs are, of giving customers things they didn’t know they needed, and now can’t live withoutThese are business that disrupt the marketplace.  They are in the business of surprising, not meeting expectations.  Businesses like Apple, who are too smart to listen to the customer.

The Real Meaning of “Relevant”

Churches in America are obsessed with being “relevant.”

I think that’s church-talk for “the customer is always right.”

That’s why churches are always chasing the customer.  That’s why churches this weekend will give customers what they think they want, with massive, pastel colored Easter Egg parties and equally pastel colored self-help sermons.  The customers demand something, and churches will try to fill the demand of the ever-fickle American consumer.  Next week, churches will find out…again…just how fickle the American consumer really is.

Not Called to Be Relevant

Very few churches will lead the American spiritual consumer this weekend.  Very few will ignore what the customers think they want, and give them something they didn’t know they needed.

Tell me, what is “relevant” to our culture?  Giant hamburgers.  Self-help books.  Anti-depressants.  401Ks.  Big trucks.  Guns.  Cable subscriptions.

There is nothing about the crucified corpse of a Jewish carpenter laying in a tomb that is in any way “relevant” to our 21st century American culture.  There is nothing “relevant” to our self-indulgent culture about taking up a cross and embracing self-denial for the sake of that Jewish carpenter.  But we are not called to give the customer what they want.  We are not called to be “relevant.”  We are called to be counter-cultural.  We are called to offer people the Christ they don’t know they need.

We are called to be witnesses.

Happy Easter, everyone.

17 responses to We Are Not Called to Be Relevant: An Easter Post

  1. Maybe I’m a bad Christian, or maybe I’m biased because I’m the mother of young children, but I won’t be worshipping “the crucified corpse of a Jewish carpenter lying in a tomb” this Easter.

    My kids will be having the “pastel colored Easter egg parties”, sorry. They will also be digging up the “hallelujahs” that they buried in the church garden last month, and ringing bells, and having a good time. Because we’ll be celebrating the Jesus that rose from the dead–isn’t THAT supposed to be the reason to celebrate Easter?

    Maybe it’s just me, but I’m kind of getting bugged by this morbid fascination that evangelicals are getting with the crucifixion itself. Take my parents. My dad is the only guy with long hair and a beard at their church, so he’s been roped into playing Jesus in their passion play this year. My mom’s been doing a lot of work on it too and I’ve been getting a lot of updates on all the effort they’re putting into the sets and makeup. But I’ve mostly been hearing about all the work they’re putting into making the crucifixion scene look as “real” as possible–they’re using tons of fake blood, and choreographing a scene with the guards so it looks like my dad is getting the snot beat out of him.

    My mom has been saying that she hopes I can come see it some time, and I’m counting myself lucky that it’s a long drive and I’m on call that weekend. I mean, I appreciate all the work that they’ve been doing, but is it wrong for me to say that I don’t really relish the idea of watching their play? Nor do I feel that it’s a good idea to take my little boy to watch Grandpa get crucified? I mean, people who wouldn’t normally allow their kids to see an R-rated movie are taking them to this production, and it strikes me as a little sick. If that makes me a wimpy, dishwater, “customer is always right” type of Christian–well, sue me, I guess.

    I guess I always thought that our focus was supposed to be the resurrection. Yes, Jesus died a horrible nasty death, in large part because that’s what happened to folks who pissed off the wrong people back then. But the truly wonderful thing is that HE CAME BACK TO FREAKING LIFE. It was the ultimate act of giving the finger to death and sin and despair. So why not celebrate that with candy and happy children instead of torture porn?

    • Don’t get me wrong, Abby. I can’t stand watching depictions of crucifixion. It’s awful. I’m more just pointing out the lengths so many churches will go to attract people to a party who have no real interest on engaging a relationship with the risen Savior.

      • Mark H. Hendricks April 1, 2013 at 5:42 pm

        Here’s the problem. NO ONE is looking to be confronted (challenged, MAYBE). Let’s get them in the door and show them that life in Christ is indeed more than wailing and moaning. Let’s become all things to all people. In the process, they will be challenged. Nearly every church making a difference in The U.S. today was either influenced, or started by, a bunch of hippies that decided, ‘The Devil Shouldn’t Have All The Good Music.’ I remember hearing folks complain that those Gaithers went too far when they added, “pagan drums and electric guitars”. “We oughta picket any church that agrees to have them play!” Yep, that really happened and BTW, we are STILL ten to twenty years behind the times in a whole lotta ways. That is what you are really seeing.

      • @Matt–

        Maybe it’s just me, but you have this pattern that you follow with some of your postings, and it seems to have a tendency of setting me off. You start off with a gripe about a sort of nebulous trend or group of people, and then contrast that with what everybody should be doing instead.

        This post the gripe was with churches that are “trying to hard to please everyone” or trying to hard to be “relevant” or whatever. So, I read that and the first thing I think is “Well, my church had a brass ensemble on Easter sunday and some activities for the kids afterwards–is he saying MY church is trying to hard? Or maybe he’s saying we’re watering down the gospel because we’re not shoving a dead body in everyone’s face?”

        Like I said, maybe it’s just me.

        • If after reading Matt’s post you immediately referenced your own church it is probably because your church DOES fit that description.Sadly, most do.

          Many(not all) churches today seemed more concerned with being relevent and making members rather than making disciples. I am ready for the day when the church as a hole moves beyond the ‘basic principles’ of Christ. The death, burial and resurrection of Christ, along with eternal judgement, repentance, etc are all elementary principles.

          Rather than hearing about it all the time, we should be living it. Our lives should reflect a risen Christ, 24/7 as much as we can, to those around us through our love for one another.

          Great post Matt and congratulations on your new book!

  2. Today (Good Friday) is the day to think about death and why He had to break into the prison. Enter the sewer, so to speak…that we might have life in Himself.

    We hand people that message in various ways. Whether they want to hear it…they need to hear it.

    “If you would gain your life in this world you must lose it”, Jesus said.

    And then He is raised from the tomb. And the party begins!

  3. ” We are not called to be “relevant.” We are called to be counter-cultural. We are called to offer people the Christ they don’t know they need.”
    -Amen.

  4. Matt, I clicked on over from Glynn Young’s piece about your new book (which looks intriguing). This is a spot on post–our pastor has been talking about how the blood of Jesus is not the most popular topic these days–all that dying and messy sin and all–but that’s all there is to preach, folks. That’s it.
    Thanks for writing the truth here–give me real and small any day. ‘Relevant’ can be big and empty….

  5. Good Word Matt.

    Reminds me of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:1-2:

    “You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified” (MSG)

  6. Thank you for writing the truth. Yes, Christ was raised from the dead and yes, He lives, but it cost Him more than anything we as humans could and will ever do for the sake of another. The Gospel, salvation, redemption and celebration are about what Christ did for us. Easter is about “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” so that we may once again have the privilege to go before the throne of grace to worship God without any barriers. We were created for Him, for His good pleasure, not just our own.

  7. Does anybody here know that Easter (or Ishtar) is a pagan goddess who married into the lineage of Noah? Does anyone here know that she deified her son Tammuz (who was also known as the ‘sun god’? (Check the book of Ezekiel) Does anybody here know that she claimed to have been ‘reborn’ through an egg which fell from the sky and into the Euphrates River, thus the existence of the ‘Easter egg’? Does anybody know that her son Tammuz (the acclaimed ‘sun god’) had an affinity for rabbits, thus the use of rabbits in ‘Easter celebrations’? Does anybody here know that rabbits DO NOT lay eggs? Does anybody here know that queen Ishtar (or Easter) held a yearly ‘feast of fertility’ which coincides with the Catholic 40 day fast for lent?
    I really wish that believers in Christ who know these things and who the meaning behind these pagan traditions would not use or ascribe these pagan names to our holy seasons and our holy God. We celebrate His RESURRECTION and NOT Easter; Easter has no justifiable place in this.

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