Whoever marries the spirit of the age will soon be a widower. William Ralph Inge
Rachel Held Evans is an author with a progressive agenda aimed at Evangelicals. She’s written a book called, Searching for Sunday which is a journal of her experience leaving and then returning to church. A recent Washington Post article seems to be a synopsis of the book.
Rachel critiques a trendy approach to church she affirmed in the past called the Emergent church. Like every movement, it has some excesses. Now she seems to be over-correcting.
IRONY #1 When trendy is authentic
The Emergent church “branded” authenticity. It measured authentic worship by how current and relevant it feels, which of course is not very authentic! But you can’t paint every trendy church with the same brush. Some edgy church leaders sincerely (and authentically) have a style which happens to be current. Yes, relevance can become a false front or even cynical marketing. But some level of relevance is necessary to connect an ancient message to modern lives. Relevance without compromise shows how truth transcends time and place.
IRONY #2 When uncool is the new cool
Rachel’s reaction to trendy churches should be limited more to the half-baked efforts of seeking market share. Trendy culture itself is not the issue. Every church must live in some kind of culture. In fact, the style and culture of worship Rachel now affirms also could be considered trendy for Millennials. Some years back it was dubbed the “ancient-future” church. It’s the latest movement returning to history, tradition, and liturgy.
Searching for Sunday?
Rather than drawing sharp contrasts between styles, I think it’s helpful to consider the forms of liturgy and music as akin to languages. Some people connect genuinely with God through what the Psalmist celebrates as “a new song.” While traditionalists may perceive new music as self-indulgent, some people genuinely shift their focus from themselves to God through popular forms of music.
On the other hand, traditions and enduring rituals also can become personal and heartfelt. People do gravitate to it after few seasons of trying to outdo last Sunday. That pressure, whatever the style, eventually can “Jump the Shark.”
BUT, in “searching for Sunday,” let’s dispense with knee-jerk criticisms of trends and traditions themselves. In the end, God measures the heart.
The hour is coming…when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. John 4:23