Saturday, April 5, 2008

Review - "Pop Goes the Church"

This spring has been an intense time of seeking, reading, and praying to better understand God's vision for our church. Calvary has been making the effort to clarify what we're doing and the vision path for the next few years. (I hope to present a lot more on that subject soon.) Pastor Chuck recently gave a great message on the importance of being culturally relevant and biblically sound. An excellent book on this subject looks specifically on whether or not to use references, music, clips from pop culture as a bridge to those in the community asking tough life questions. The author is Tim Stevens, Executive Pastor at Granger Community Church (In our home state of Indiana. Tim also has an excellent blog called Leading Smart) I ordered the book as soon as it came out from Amazon and would like to share my review:

Pop Goes the Church: Should the Church Engage Pop Culture
Tim Stevens - Power Publishing, 2008

Tim Stevens presents a strong case for the importance (and opportunity) of leveraging popular culture for building a bridge between those who see church as irrelevant and anti-culture, and the eternal message of redemption in Christ.

He begins with the problem of the church, so evident to those on the outside but a complete blindspot to many well-intentioned Christians whose focus has turned completely inward. Though not a theologian, Tim gives some strong biblical examples and principles to support engaging our culture, meeting people where they're at and sharing the good news - not in a watered-down diluted message but with the whole truth of the gospel.

The book also describes many examples of how his church and others have intentionally used music, movies and TV shows known to their audience to make a connection, and demonstrate that the questions they're asking are ones addressed by Christ and His church. It falls short of providing explicit help in 'how to' - but the sense is that creative people in the church with an outward focus will come up with their own ideas if just given permission to do so.

One of the most interesting parts of the book was an allegory of how five churches respond to a big pop culture event in their city. Churches may choose to condemn the culture, separate from it, embrace it, ignore it, or they may choose to leverage pop culture while staying focused on the Word of God and providing inspirational services that are relevant to the community as well as the church. The author presents a compelling case to leverage. Sadly, many pastors and churches will condemn and ignore this book, some will embrace it as rationalization for their watered down message. This book is not for them (and its tone may not even allow some to get past the first chapter). But for those who have been wondering why attendance in their church has been dwindling for years, why there are no members under the age of thirty, or those trying to understand how they become more culturally relevant while staying true to the gospel, this book is a must-read.