Deep down, I must hate myself a little. You’re probably wondering why I might say such a thing. Well, it’s because I continually read articles on church trends. In doing so, I find myself sarcastically proclaiming, “Oh, this is just what the sweet baby Jesus needs! Finally, something that will fix every problem in every church. This author has done it! He/She has found the ‘Holy Grail’ of church growth! I can’t believe we haven’t been doing this for years.” Then, I throw up!
You see, every-single-freaking-day I receive an email, a mailer (seriously, who still sends things in the mail?), or see something on Facebook or twitter or whatever that proudly proclaims “THIS is how your church can reach THIS particular group of people.”
Too often, these articles are based on little, if any, research. The author will have visited one (or, at most, two) churches that embrace a particular “style” or “structure” and they decide that this “style” or “structure” is THE answer.
If you dig traditional worship, you can find numerous articles that say, “high church liturgy will solve all of your problems.”
If you dig modern worship, you can find numerous articles that say, “Is that freedom rock? Well, turn it up!”
If you dig the more contemplative approach, you can find articles that say, “Use lectio divina or Taize-style worship to reach more people.”
If you are a trendy hipster, you can find articles that say, “Wear even skinnier jeans. Use more product to make your hair even taller. Buy weird eyeglass frames (whether you need glasses or not).”
You’ll find articles that proudly proclaim, “Want more families? Do this”. Or “Want to reach millennials? Put these 6 things into practice.” And, on and on and on and on it goes.
And, to be honest, too often we are fooled. We want to catch the wave of the next big thing. We want to be ahead of the curve. Of course, if we embrace something after Carey Nieuwhof or Thom Rainer (both great, very insightful guys) or Nadia Bolz-Weber or Rachel Held-Evans (both, great, very insightful women) have blogged about it…we’ve probably already missed the wave.
What clergy and church leaders need to do is find an appropriate balance. Yes, it is important to be well-informed of church trends (even the ridiculously stupid ones- I’m looking at you skinny jean wearing, Starbucks drinking sinners!). However, it’s more important to be in-tune with God and your environment.
Rather than spending an appropriate amount of time in prayer, study, and out in the community, pastors are prone to turn to the latest book or blog and say, “Well, it worked there. I’m sure it will go over like gang busters here!” Sure, we can and should learn from others and pay attention to what’s working somewhere else. But, we need to be in tune with who God is calling us to be in our place and time.
To me, the overall key is being open, honest, authentic, and true to ourselves. If we are attempting to be someone we are not, it will show. If we are not fully sold out to a “style” or “structure”, we shouldn’t be surprised when it crashes.
But, if we are open and honest, if we are authentic and true, if we operate with a great sense of integrity, if we are following what God lays on our hearts, that will show. So, just be yourself!
And, for the love of God, if you are a pastor or worship leader who has embraced the skinny jean trend…just stop it! If you feel called to the skinny jeans, this is the one area where you should not be true to yourself. Seriously, God is not calling anyone to wear skinny jeans. They (skinny jeans), like Starbucks, are of the devil and should be completely avoided!