Killer # 3: The 21st Century

Time machines do exist. If you were to walk into some of our rural churches you would feel as though you have gone back to 1950 or even 1900. The 21st century is killing some of us. Now, we all know that this killer is also tied to a stubborn and bull-headed attitude that says, “If it was good enough then, it’s good enough now”.

I have to be careful with this post because I don’t want any of you thinking that I am a “relevance” guy. As a matter of fact, I have a general disdain for pursuit of cultural relevance. We have cowboy churches for cowboys. We have Harley churches for motorcycle guys. We have country churches for those of you who like country music. We have contemporary churches for those of you who can’t get enough of Michael Bolton. I am personally going to start the first Southern Rock Southern Baptist Church (FREE BIRD! WOOOO SING FREE BIRD MAN! Rock On!)

I am not a relevance guy. I think if Jesus truly saves you, and the only church available to you meets in a cave with a worship leader who can’t sing his way out of a paper bag, led by a mono tone preacher, that’s where you would go. I do, however, believe that a church should strive for excellence. I do believe a church should update its facilities and at least review its methods at least once a decade.

I think the successful rural church is the one that can honor its rich heritage and press ahead as technology, methods, and styles evolve. A rural church can keep the stuff from its past that is endearing and meaningful while it keeps up with technology and methodology. It is possible! I have seen it happen! When a church can’t get past the idea of adding audio and visual in 2008, they are pretty much on their way out. When a church is unwilling to update its nursery with modern toys and furniture, they are on their way out. When a church just can’t get rid of that shag carpet and paneling from 1968, they are on their way out. If your church has a clean up day and no one will take the film projector donated by some dead church member to the dump. . . the 21st century is probably going to be your death nail.

If your excellent preaching is going to be heard today, you better have a decent sound system. Some of the best illustrations for sermons today come via and other web resources. For crying out loud, people. . . use that screen and projector! If you are going to communicate with people 35 and younger, you better understand their need to see and hear your sermon. Using technology doesn’t mean that you have abandoned the Gospel. It simply means that you are using the available resources to communicate better with your congregation.

Ministry methods. This one is tough because I serve a church where 1940’s methods are working in 2008. We are a throw back to a very simple, yet effective, style of church that I wished worked for everyone. Because of that, I might not be the most qualified guy to talk about methodology. I do believe though that programs and ministries ought to be effective. Some churches just can’t let go of that Sunbeam program from 1950. They are spending people and money on a bus program that doesn’t reach anyone anymore. They still believe the best way to reach the world is though puppets and youth choir. It may be time to reevaluate before the 21st century takes its toll.

What do you think?

Published in: on August 4, 2008 at 1:36 pm  Comments (10)  


  1. Gotta agree with you here. People ignore methodological and technological changes at their own peril. While the Gospel and the God of the Gospel never change, we must work very hard to figure out what is the message and what are the cultural trappings we’ve wrapped the message in. The problem is when we refuse to see a difference in the two. To miss an opportunity to reach a new generation b/c we’re convinced the methodology of the 1950’s is “biblical” and an unchanging rock is, I believe, a sin. This is a huge killer. I hope it doesn’t kill our church!

  2. Have you read this? Macdonald has written an excellent book on change. I have read only about half of it so far but I have been impressed.

  3. Tom,
    You are the second person who has recommended that book to me. I will have to get it.

  4. Best post!

  5. Thanks Perry. How are things in Madden?

  6. I just finished up two a days with the football team. (Remember, I am an incarnational reformed shepherd model pastor who is intentionally missional!!:) Now I can’t walk!

    Did I miss any KEY descriptions? Oh, Rural Pastor;)

  7. If you put hash marks on your church lawn you could also be “football team relevant”. Just kidding. That sounds like fun. Did you get to hit anybody?

  8. I have considered having the Church establish a mascot.

    No hitting, except for me slapping the boys on the back of the head.

    The sad thing is that what I am doing does reflect many of those buzz words but not intentionally so.

  9. Call it incarnational, missional, or mission minded but just go do it. I think my probelm with all these new words is that they sound like Oprah made them up.

    I think your mascot ought to be Martin Luther in full football pads.

  10. Archangel Michael in pads. Now that would be a mascot

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