Maybe I'm overly simplistic in my thinking, but the other day in a conversation with a few other clergy, the ministerial challenge of dealing with cultural norms of individualism, personal preference, and entertainment came up and one pastor in his frustration claimed, "I just don't know what we are supposed to do; if there were a right answer we'd all be doing it!" My reply was "there isn't just one answer other than do what we are called to do: preach and live the good news." Because of background noise, he clarified to make sure he heard right. "what and live the good news?" "Preach and live the good news." Part of a larger group, our discussion stopped there, and I was concerned that maybe I sounded flippant. I wasn't trying to be flippant or dismissive, and maybe it is overly simplistic. But I think part of our "problem" in the church is that we try to cater to those cultural norms and expectations believing (or maybe better said, not believing) that the power of the gospel is not strong enough to win out.
I get that as a society we have become a "me generation"--I am far from oblivious to that and I fully understand how that interferes with the work of the church--self-giving, sacrifice, dedication, commitment through difficulties....those aren't values that top the list of most folks in their quest for immediate success and abundant riches. Give up what I "earned"?? Ha! People scoff at such a notion. Give what is mine to someone who hasn't scrapped the way I have? That's their problem if they can't make it work. Those are the notions that I find anyway. So I understand that the gospel message isn't popular--but hasn't that always been the case? And if we don't believe that at their core what people really want is to make a difference, be held to a higher standard, achieve something of value, be worth something more than their image, then isn't the gospel message of hope and transformation already lost?
I do believe the gospel message must be made relevant--but I do not believe that means we have to do backflips to make the good news appealing--it has appeal in and of itself, and if we (meaning professing Christians) don't truly believe that at our core, then we MUST go back and take a serious look at our own beliefs, our own faith life, our own transformation in Christ.