As a pastor I have had the wonderful opportunity to serve in three distinctively different churches. Looking back its amazing to how God has every kind of church to reach every kind of people.
My first church was a small church on the island of Okinawa made up of Japanese people, US military, and people from the Philippines. What made this church unique is that we did worship in a way that connected with all three groups of people. The band was made up of 5 or 6 different nationalities and played with an international flair. There were certainly things that were a bit odd to me. I remember the Sunday where our special was a tambourine dance. It was completely outside of my comfort zone. That said, it connected with the culture we existed in. It was here that I learned a distinct lesson, the church is not built around what I want, it is built around what most effectively brings the gospel to the lost world around it.
From Okinawa we moved to Oklahoma. In Oklahoma we served in a small church mostly made of folks over the age of 75. We found early on that our church was not built to connect to the culture around it. Our church was built to reach a culture. It was built to reach a culture that passed 40 years before. What I learned at this church is that no matter how hard you try, the church will have an incredibly hard time reaching the world if the world has culture shock walking into the doors of the church.
My third church is quite different. Our worship center serves as a gymnasium during the week. As to worship, our lights go down while we sing, we sing music written in the past year and we dress casual. Why? We worship the way we do because we want to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We strive to be a Christ centered, Scripture driven, culturally relevant church.
Around our church we have one phrase that defines us. It’s not about you, it’s not about me, it’s all about Jesus. The way we worship is driven by the fact that we are all about Jesus. Our goal together for our church is that everything would be built around Jesus and His mission. As a church we are intentional in the way we do things. We do them because we love Jesus and we want other folks to love Jesus as well.
Every church exists in a culture. We just don’t want our culture to get in the way of people seeing Jesus.