Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2 NIV.
The big surge in the church world right now, and over the last few years, is a commitment to “Relevance”. My favorite magazine even goes by that title. If only the church can be “relevant”, then we can compete with the world for the hearts of the unsaved. I do not feel that relevance is enough. As Christ-followers and more specifically, as worship leaders, we must be INNOVATIVE and CREATIVE.
Paul tells us not to be conformed to the pattern of this world. That sounds a lot like relevance, doesn’t it? Instead, he tells us to be transformed by renewing our mind! This sounds a lot like creativity, doesn’t it? Let’s try reading this verse in the NLT:
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. – Romans 12:2 NLT.
Wow. “Do not copy the behavior and customs of this world.” Instead, “let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” This passage most typically applies to the way a Christian should live his or her life. So it is not a big jump, when considering that worship is absolutely a lifestyle, to say that this verse applies to how we worship.
Too often, what the church calls relevance is simply a ripping-off of pop culture. How many sermon series have you seen that are based on the premise of a popular TV show? How many times do you feel like you are at a second-rate concert in a worship service? Church staff is often very guilty of plagiarism of culture. This is a problem for two reasons:
1) It makes us lazy
The verse before our text, Romans 12:1, tells us to offer our bodies as a “living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him” (NLT). In an effort (and I believe it was an honest, although misguided effort to truly reach people) to be relevant, the church has become lazy. It is very easy to rip off a TV show, to copy and paste a nice logo, and to learn the most popular worship songs. It is very easy to reproduce what already exists for Sunday morning. However, when we innovate and create, it places on us as church members and leaders a real responsibility to work and a commitment to excellence. If we commit to a worship style of innovation (new ideas, songwriting, etc), church members will finally be able to reach the pastor five days a week, even after 3:00 pm (let’s face it, that’s almost never possible).
The commitment to innovation takes real work. Relevance is an easy goal. The second problem with relevance is:
2) It is so often second-rate.
Let’s face it, would you rather watch an episode of “Lost” or listen to a sermon series with the same title? You can wax theological all you want, but the answer to that question for 99% of us is to watch the TV show.
So often, when we strive as church leaders to become relevant to culture, what happens is that we a) imitate culture and b) do it poorly!
So here is the call. Here is what I feel God is teaching me out of all of this.
If we are called to not copy the pattern of the world, to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, and to offer our bodies as living sacrifices….then we are called to work hard and be innovative and creative. We are called to be BETTER than pop culture! We are called to be more effective, more creative, and fresher! We are called to come up with new ideas and write new songs.
You might suggest to me that you are not creative. That is not true. You may not happen to be artsy, but that is not synonymous with creativity, as is often confused. There is somewhere within you a talent, a gifting that God put in you for worship. It doesn’t have to sound like a song or look like a graphic design. Whatever it is, though, God is calling you to make it new…to offer it to Him in worship…and to do it well!
The fact is that culture will not respect an idea that has been done before and lacks originality. It might give us some Kudos points for trying, but it will never be DRAWN to it. If we offer people something new, something fresh, something creative, innovative and fun…they will be DRAWN to it.
We should be, one, embarrassed that we have to follow everyone into the important issues of the world. And second, we should be inspired to pave the way, to lead the way, to create the path. We shouldn’t be known for cheesy movies; we should be creating the best movies in the world. We shouldn’t create a category called Christian art; we should be the best artists in the world. I just can’t imagine Michelangelo, Raphael, Mozart or Brahms wanting to be famous in the Christian music or Christian art worlds. I think they were pioneers and the standard for art and music in the world. And that is what we need to step back into. – Erwin McManus
Sometimes relevance just doesn’t cut it…
Grace and peace.