One of the reasons many people have abandoned the church is that they view it as irrelevant to their lives. They believe the church is answering questions no one is asking today. While that may be true for some churches, that is certainly not the case for most churches. Perhaps part of that perception comes from the way some churches seem out of step with the world in which we currently live.
Last year I preached a revival in a church in which I mentioned my use of the Internet. In one service I mentioned that I had a website, a blog, a monthly e-newsletter and was on Facebook and Twitter. I talked about much I enjoyed my I-Phone and I-Pad. After the service a young college-age woman came to me and asked if I really used all that technology. When I said I did she said, "I just didn't think people your age used things like that!" She went on to say how many churches seemed frightened by technology. Although I didn't appreciate the "people your age" comment, I was glad I was able to show her that some "more mature" church leaders are not afraid of technology and are willing to use it for ministry.
Would you like your church to have a world-wide impact? All it takes is a website or a blog, and you can minister to people all over the world. Do you want to have faster communication to your church members? Twitter can be a great tool to send out instant messages to everyone in your church with a Twitter account. Would you like to communicate to more people in your community? That can be done with a simple telephone answering machine that gives callers the times of your services and an emergency number to call when no one is in the church office, which for bivocational churches is most of the time. Churches that avoid using technology will lose the opportunity to minister to growing numbers of people in today's society.
Church language can cause unchurched people to feel that we are living in some distant past. Do most of your church guests know where the narthex is? Probably not, so why not use language that makes it clear what we're talking about? Spend some time thinking about all the "insider" church language we use and how archaic that has to sound to unchurched people. Read your church program from the perspective of a visiting unchurched person. Does any of it have to be translated before that person can understand it? Read through the songs you plan to sing next Sunday. What images of Christianity will the words in those songs create for unchurched people? What about the phrases you'll use in your message? Will everyone know what you are talking about if you mention that you can have your name written in the Lamb's Book of Life? If not, you better take time to explain it. The same thing is true for being "washed in the blood of the Lamb." The words we use will create mental images in people's minds, and unchurched people who have no Christian frame of reference will struggle with some of the language they hear when they visit many churches.
In the course of your announcements or message next Sunday how will you challenge people to live out their faith? It is important to deliver a message that helps people grow in their faith, but it's also important to give them concrete ways they can live out that faith in the coming week. Young people especially want to be challenged to do things that will have a positive impact on other people's lives. Many of them complain that if the Christian life is true then they do not understand why it doesn't have a great effect on the lives of those who claim to follow it. This especially applies to how we live out what we claim to believe. Many unchurched people may not be familiar with the verse that says "Faith without works is dead," but they believe it. A church that does not call people to action will seem uncaring and irrelevant in a world with such great needs.
Of course, the truth is that the Gospel message is relevant for all times. The challenge for the church is to demonstrate that relevance through our teaching and our action. How will your church demonstrate that relevance to the skeptic in the coming months?