“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:” (1 Peter 2:9, KJV)
See if you can answer this question: You are on a ski lift that is ¼ mile long (440 yards). The base elevation is 6,700 feet and the summit elevation is 8,540 feet. You are traveling at a rate of 3 yards every five seconds up the snowy mountain against a headwind of 31 m.p.h. What is the color of your ski jacket?
I always hated word problems when I was in school – they all seemed to me to be like this one! Obviously, my example above is a joke and makes no sense. But the key to solving a real word problem is determining what data is relevant and what isn’t. Typically you are given more information than is necessary…so you have to weed out the irrelevant.
Today it seems that many Americans have determined that the church is irrelevant. In American life, the church has been weeded out. Churchleadership.org gives some examples:
- Every year more than 4000 churches close their doors compared to just over 1000 new church starts.
- Every year, 2.7 million church members fall into inactivity. This translates into the realization that people are leaving the church. From our research, we have found that they are leaving as hurting and wounded victims-of some kind of abuse, disillusionment, or just plain neglect.
- From 1990 to 2000, the combined membership of all Protestant denominations in the USA declined by almost 5 million members (9.5 percent), while the US population increased by 24 million (11 percent).
- At the turn of the last century (1900), there was a ratio of 27 churches per 10,000 people, as compared to the close of this century (2000) where we have 11 churches per 10,000 people in America.
In fact, the United States now ranks third (3rd) following China and India in the number of people who are not professing Christians – China and India! If trends continue, the U.S. will soon be an “un-reached people group.” (Church Leadership)
You and I know just how relevant the Gospel of Jesus is. What Americans are rejecting is the church and her presentation of that Gospel. There are lots of reasons for this, not the least of which were the televangelists of the 80’s and 90’s and poor leadership described above. But I believe another factor is that the church is trying too hard to “fit in” to the world. Our message is: “You don’t have to be “peculiar”…you can still live the “American Dream,” just add Jesus.” It reminds me of the current Sprint ads on TV: “We’re basically the same as everybody else, just not quite as good.”
That certainly wasn’t Elijah’s message (as we’ll see on Sunday)…or John the Baptist’s…or Jesus’. People listened to them because they were peculiar: there was something different about them. They stood out in the crowd. They were bold, courageous, and spoke the truth in love. When the church returns to this, we will become relevant again.