I’ve laced up my asbestos suit and waded back into the firestorm I’ve created by daring to mock North Carolina pork products.  Two things are very obvious from the last post:

  1. You tarheels are passionate about your piggies.  And by “passionate,” I mean, “please stop saying ugly things about me, my children, my state of origin, and my mama.  I was writing about a dead pig, for crying out loud.”
  2. There’s a whole lot of pagans who read this blog that would sooner comment about pork than posture.  I think I’ve found my target audience.

Now, on to today.  Today, I sit in a Staples parking lot, accessing their wifi because my in-laws have this great new device called “Satellite Internet.”  The way Satellite Internet works is, you attempt to log on to the web, then you go brew some coffee, get a shower, watch a few reruns of Monk on USA network, read the Left Behind series, discover the cure for cancer, scale Mount Everest, and then return to the computer to see the screen that says, “Logon attempt failed.  Please try again when you realize you were ripped off by the Satellite Internet people.”

Editor’s note: Let’s all pray he’s joking about those Left Behind books.

But I digress.  I am accessing Staples’ wifi, because (a) I can, and (b) no, I don’t feel bad about it, because I bought school supplies for the kids here last night.  True, they were having an incredible sale and I got six spiral-bound notebooks and ten pocket folders for a whopping 32 cents, but I bought something, dang it.  However, since the store manager will probably call the cops any minute to report the vagrant with NC tags sitting in the loading dock area (because it’s shady and it’s 278 degrees in North Alabama with a heat index of 7,121), I should probably get to the topic o’ the day.

Typically, when I am on vacation, I follow a pastoral rule that says You Avoid Going to Church at All Costs.  I know.  It’s an unspiritual rule.  But think about it…if you are a dentist, how many times are you sitting on the beach thinking, “You know, what I’d really like to do is walk over to that guy with all the back hair and check out his overbite.  Oh, and then I’d tell him to put on a shirt.”  If you’re an accountant, you don’t want to spend your off time balancing the books for the office manager of the mountain retreat where you’re staying.  Me?  I typically don’t want to show up at church.  You should understand that I love my church.  Heck, I love church, period.  But church for me is more than an adventure…it’s a job.  So I encourage my family to take two Sundays a year to sleep in late on Sunday, or at the very least, feel sorry for our families that we are visiting, who are getting up, putting on their Sunday best, and heading off to Sunday School.

Editor’s note: and then he lets them watch Harry Potter movies and poke little old ladies with sharp sticks.

So imagine my surprise when last Sunday, we attended not one, but TWO churches.  Sunday morning, we checked out a relatively new church that my wife’s brother and sister-in-law have started attending.  Sunday night, we visited my dad- and mom-in-law’s church.

You should know that when I violate the Avoid Going to Church at All Costs rule, I end up being a compulsive critique-er and note-taker.  I love getting ideas from what other churches are doing well.  On Sunday, I was not disappointed.

The two churches that we visited are only 25 miles apart, yet, there was a world of differences between the two.  One is in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by cow pastures and cotton fields.  The other is right on the edge of North Alabama’s version of Research Triangle Park (sound familiar, Summit peeps?).  One had worship that was led by a bunch of rockers at heart, the other sounded like I had fallen into a Truth concert.  One met in a gym while they build a new auditorium, the other met in an old, traditional, renovated, land-locked church building.  One had a pulpit that could have been used as a bomb shelter in case of nuclear attack, the other had a metrosexual table that was just picked up at Pier One. 

Both of these churches are growing like crazy.  One is doing it by small groups meeting in homes, the other by traditional Sunday School.  Both have pastors that can “shuck the corn” (it’s a North Alabama thing, you wouldn’t understand).  Both are friendly, hey-how-y’all-doin’, make you feel at home churches.  Both are places that I would recommend without reservation to people who are moving to this area.  Both churches are completely different, but both churches are completely effective.

By “effective,” I mean this: each of these churches knows who they are.  They are each reaching people within their spheres of influence.  Metrosexual Pulpit Church isn’t going out of their way to force cotton farmers into their target audience.  Trombone Worship Church isn’t scampering to have the latest, coolest media and countdown clocks.  And neither church is wrong in their approach. 

Too many times, we get hung up on silly arguments about worship styles and delivery styles and demographic reports and…and…and the big “R” word: relevance.  And all the while, the unchurched world watches and smirks and wonders when we’ll ever get our stuff together.  What we must understand is that relevance doesn’t mean the same thing in all contexts.  You can have a wide range of relevance within the same state…or city…even the same neighborhood.  Within a two-mile radius of the Summit, there are various churches that are reaching various people, and that’s okay, because there are various, one-size-does-not-fit-all people within a two-mile radius of the Summit.  We have to realize that we are simply spinning our wheels until we’ve first determined who we are.  If your church leans more towards being a contemporary-styled church, then go all out in perfecting your contemporary style.  If you feel more comfortable being a suit, tie, and hymns church, then slap some inviter cards down on the counter at Men’s Warehouse.  Once you know who you are, you’ll have a much better chance of reaching those that you need to reach.

Ahh…I feel better after getting that off my chest.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to head back to my in-laws house.  The Satellite Internet has almost loaded.

(By the way, my long time friend Mike has a little bit of a different take on relevance in one of his latest posts.  You can read about it here and then decide which one of us you like best.  Just kidding.  I think.)