A friend of mine celebrated one year of sobriety today. We got to talking about Alcoholics Anonymous and how helpful it has been to him. He said that from a marketing standpoint AA is hopelessly antiquated. The material was written in 40’s. It uses sexist language, outdated illustrations, and awkward syntax. Yet countless people from all walks of life come to AA and are given the tools they need to make a change in their life. Nobody gripes about the way AA does things. As far as my friend knows, there is no feminist agenda within AA to update the masculine pronouns of the Big Book. There are no young people campaigning to make AA more relevant to their generation. At AA those things are not issues. AA is made up of a bunch of alcoholics who have hit rock bottom and have no other place to go. This reality allows them to see past the irrelevance and grab onto what really matters: a plan that works and a group of people who understand and are there for you no matter what. I guess when you’ve got those things, relevance isn’t that big of a deal.
I wonder how much of our effort in churches to stay relevant, to be hip, and act cool is actually a sign of how little we really understand the gospel. If our churches were full of people who have been grabbed by the gospel—what it means to be lost, what it means to be saved from sin, what it means to die someday and give account to our creator for the mess we’ve made of our lives, what it means to join God someday around his banquest table in the new creation—then would they really care how relevant we are? If they could come to our churches and have their lives changed, really changed, would they gripe about the length of our services? If they found in our assemblies people who really cared and welcomed them into the family and loved them into a relationship with Jesus, would they hop from church to church looking for better music? I don’t think so.
Rock bottom alcoholics aren’t looking for a cool program. They’re looking for one that works. Sinners in search of salvation aren’t looking for a cool church. They’re looking for one that can show them the way to salvation.
Until we understand this, everything else is irrelevant.