I worked in a downtown church in Atlanta for all 4 years during my seminary education, and I found that it’s very popular among downtown pastors to talk about how to reach the “urban centers” of the world, and it seems that there were as many ways to reach downtown Atlanta as they were pastors in Atlanta.
Some would tell us, “It takes a certain type of discipleship plan to reach an urban downtown group.” Others said, “It takes a very un-offensive, seeker sensitive type of worship service to draw an urban crowd.” People even said, “It takes a cool, hip, and trendy pastor to reach a cool, hip, and trendy people group. If you want to reach them become like them – get skinny jeans, a skinny tie, a fohawk haircut, and thick rimmed glasses and watch, they’ll come to your church by the thousands!”
Now I’m sure you’ve heard these things too. Plenty of people within the Church today argue that we should be more “user friendly” and more open to those who’re outside, and I agree wholeheartedly – we must be relevant! But what I’ve found is those putting forth such strategies usually (sometimes unintentionally) soften the truth, not proclaim the whole truth, or even change the truth to compete with secular entertainment. Can the Church of Jesus Christ do such a thing? Never. We’re not in the business of clowning around to make ourselves relevant through entertainment! This would merely be using worldly means to reach a worldly audience. Let us never be a people who stunt the message of the cross out of some misguided belief that in doing so we’re making ourselves relevant. I fear that too many churches are yearning to be successful by worldly standards at the expense of being faithful by Biblical standards. I want us to reach worldly people in our city, but I want us to do so with the means God has given us to do so – His Word.
If you want to reach the cool, hip, trendy, and popular urban centers of the globe, more so, if you want to reach anyone in the world for Jesus, you do what Jonah did in Jonah 3…you preach the Word of God! This is how, through the Church, the Kingdom of God moves forward and grows in this world. Jonah preached the Word of God and the trendiest place on the planet in his day (Nineveh) was transformed, so much so that the king even converted! If we want to see the Church have an enormous impact in this city, this country, this world, during our lifetime, we must cling to the Word, believe the Word, live the Word, and preach the Word, in this world and before this world.