I like R.E.M.

I like a lot of rock music and R.E.M. is one of those bands with lyrics that go deeper than many. Do you remember their classic song Losing My Religion? The group never intended it to say anything about religion or even about Christian faith—the title actually comes from a Southern expression meaning to lose your civility. But I’m certain that many Christians were offended by the song and considered it anti-Christian to listen to it, just because of the title.

But consider this: When you blow away all the cobwebs that surround our thinking on what Christianity is, you will realize that the best thing we can do is to lose our religion—literally.

Lose our religion?

Absolutely, but keep the faith.

We may need to bypass the regular route to church and take another path. We may have to lose all our Christian furnishings and furniture, spit and polish if they keep us from reaching out to those who need the life-saving, healing, and renewing power of the Gospel. Jesus never intended following him to become another religion, but rather a way of life. Our life needs to reflect our faith. What we do and say and how we behave credit or discredit what we believe.

This is a new day. The old models of ministry that worked so well in the past don’t necessarily work in the new, fast-changing times and culture in which we live. If we don’t discern the shifts, move with the times, and keep up with the way things really are, we’ll be left behind wondering what happened.

Unfortunately, in many churches this is already happening or has already taken place. Our churches and ministries are dying out faster than we can even track them. Overburdened and distracted by in-house disgruntlement, church leaders often resort to promoting even more vigorously what people turned away from years or even decades ago. This is a perfect prescription for discouragement, blame, and burnout.

One thing we can be sure of—If we do only what we’ve always done, then we’ll get what we’ve already got. Intelligent and compassionate outreach is the crying need of the day, and we need to help communicate with a world that just doesn’t seem to care anymore.

Here’s where our hope lies: although the world may pay little attention to our great traditions, stained glass, creeds, choirs, or even our praise choruses, assemblies, and all the rest, many still care about the questions the Gospel answers and the disorders and sickness for which it is the cure. We need to learn how to communicate the one essential Truth in their language—we never change, dilute or compromise the message, we change how we share it. And how do we do that? A simple way to begin is by reaching out in love and genuine concern to those around us.