I love Wile E. Coyote…can I just admit that here? Yes, I know. There’s too much violence in those cartoons for our enlightened sensibilities…but consider: He is steadfast in his mission, possessed with enviable durability, and profoundly unable to learn from his mistakes. It’s a combination of characteristics that has kept me chuckling since I was a kid.
Does it ever seem to you that the Church is a lot like Wile E. Coyote? Steadfast. Dedicated. Durable. Unrelenting. But all too often, not very adept at figuring out, that no matter what latest and greatest device you buy from Acme Church Supply, there’s always an oncoming truck or falling rock.
Case in point: the church wants to be more culturally relevant in order to speak the Gospel message to a post-enlightenment, post-Christian culture. Good idea. But the church buys into the cultural norms of a consumerist society in order to pull that off. Bad idea. Why? Because things like sacrifice and obedience and humility don’t play very well in a chest-bumping, fist-pumping, satisfy-me-right-now kind of world. Enlightened self-interest may fill arenas for good music and a hip message, but it is stubbornly resistant to the change of heart that is at the root of the Christian life. The result: a shallow faith that offers little in the way of sturdy Christian identity and is even less able to discern what the priorities of the Christian experience might be.
By the way: ignoring the need for cultural relevance is an equally bad decision. Hoping for a return to the good ol’ days is a nice exercise in nostalgia, but a lousy strategy for mission.
So…what do we do? How do we keep from getting blown up by bombs of our own making yet again?
I wish I knew for sure what the answer was. But I have an idea that it is deeply linked to the way in which we form communities that nurture Christian experience…something that our traditional methodologies no longer seem to do effectively. Our ideas about Sunday schools and confirmation classes and adult Bible studies need to be revisited. Strategies that rely on worship as the chief attraction and entry point must be challenged…not only on the basis of whether or not they work, but whether or not they’re even faithful. And what it really means to be in community needs to grow beyond the buzzwords and platitudes about being organic into concern for being connected first and foremost to Christ (see John 15) and, through Christ, connected with the neighbors whom God loves enough to die for.
It’s funny when Wile E. Coyote gets run over by the results of his own poor judgment. But (for me, at least) it’s painful when it happens to the church you love. And while it won’t be easy to alter something so firmly established, it is worth the effort…and it sure beats falling off a cliff.
Original 7May2012; reposted