The Quest to Keep Jesus Relevant

[Written by Joe Holman]

The next time you drive around the historic part of your neighborhood, slow down just enough to get a look at the old-time churches. They’re big and old, especially old. Hell, some of them are so old that if you had the right forensic testing kit, you might genetically match the dried tears of a hand-and-foot slave as he waited on his master, listening to the “nonsense” from the pulpit about some new movement called Abolition. How time flies!

These buildings are old, sure, but so is the worship that still goes on inside them. And much to the disappointment of those polished knobs known as traditionalists, the new crowds just haven’t connected with what our chastity belt-admiring grandfathers admired. Times have changed. Lucy and Ricky Ricardo having separate beds just doesn’t qualify as “with the times” anymore.  

We were driving around town recently and mother called my attention to a wonderful old cathedral with stained glass windows. She admired it and I proceeded to do the honorable thing of saying something derogatorily atheistic about what churches have done to the world. Mom lashed out: “Yeah, well, back in those days, people were pure!” I decided mom had endured enough for the day. I let her win. What’s life without compassion for those still living who love and cherish the times before words like “Santorum” came to be. My wildly unholy atheist self just had to accept the fact that Jesus’ followers are not dead yet, but they are seeing to it that Jesus gets dressed up for a new age on the way to the grave.

Jesus’ Life Raft – Counter-Culture Christians

Pastor Allen Speegle is the owner of In 2009, he did a sermon called “Church Haters.” This sermon can (and should) be viewed here, here, here, and here. This is the modern picture of the counter-culture Christian movement, which tells us that believers just can’t have Jesus lose out on the iphone-happy generation.

We begin with the first 1:50 of Part 3. In this wonderfully relevant piece, we learn a few things...

Firstly, that pastors think the youth will have a better chance of responding to their message if they sit informally with rolled-up sleeves. And no coat or tie because they give scary vibes to anyone born after 1980.

Gosh-darnit, he just refuses to conform!

And secondly, that if you use printed letters on a video screen crooked, this shows a Christian-friendly non-conformity that beats out those boring old straight letters like the gospel tracts of yesteryear.

Jesus ate with sinners, so he must LOVE crooked sentences!  

Jesus, Relevant for Today!

Looking beyond the rejuvenated take on the old Jesus, we have the same old song and dance about Jesus dying on the cross and the world needing to be saved. Christians are and will always be selling this product of salvation. Only now, they just want us to believe they aren’t competing for your soul. Their motto...

“At our Church, we love God. Make no mistake about that. At our church, we believe in God’s radical, unconditional, and unwavering love for us.
 At our church, we believe that Jesus is God. We also believe that you may or may not believe that Jesus is God.
We’re not asking you to change your belief system before you attend our church. We’re simply inviting you on a journey toward Jesus.
For years, churches have placed a high priority on Jesus as the get-out-of-hell-free card. At our church, we place the highest priority on Jesus as a live-life-to-the-fullest invitation.
At our church, we believe every person has a dream deep inside their hearts and that God put that dream there, not for our glory, but for his.
At our church, we’re not concerned with where you’ve been, but where you are going. At our church, we believe that the Bible is God’s Word. It is real. It is living. It is active.
We believe that people who don’t go to church anywhere are not the enemy. They are real people who need the perfect love that only God can give. We believe that God gives this love to, above all people, US.
At our church, we will not and do not display a holier-than-thou attitude toward anyone. We are all broken people, but Jesus is putting us back together.
And finally, and most importantly, at our church, we believe that Jesus really lived, that he really died on the cross, and that he really rose again on the third day. And we cannot and we will not candy-coat or water down that message. Ever.
Today, you’ve chosen to sit yourself in the middle of a very safe place to hear a potentially dangerous message. Welcome to our church.” 

Oooooh, that “US” used in caps in the fourth-to-last paragraph…how extra relevant!

What else did you get from this? Next to the fact that “Our Church” was mentioned so many times that you’d think the words should have been capitalized as an incorporated trademark of The Way International, I got that when you combine Jesus and any form of technology at all, it always feels new to the casual churchgoer. But it’s not new, not at all. It’s just a new brand of garden variety “Jesus is God,” “Bible Church,” pick-and-choose form of Protestant Christianity that is proud of going all out with well-stocked Coke machines and donuts to win souls.

All of that food is a bribe for the sinner to get suckered into church. Don’t take it from me. The pastor tells us to bribe sinners into obedience in exactly those words...

At 3:45 in this video, our very southern pastor advocates bribes. He says: “If you’ll come to church, I’ll buy you lunch or give you ten bucks.” (4:08)

Just ten bucks? How much is a soul worth, pastor? I’m thinking $25 as a starting rate at least. And to think that generations have gone by and this church for Twittering Jesus disciples has not had this wisdom is just wrong! And you’ve got to do enough soul-searching to realize that maybe – just maybe – it is its own form of pride when generations have gone by and you come around and tell other churches they’ve had it wrong for more than 70 years. I thought we weren’t judging?

Now to be fair, we need to give credit to the fact that this southern-twanged preacher uses some good humor to go with his pitch to make the perfect “pizza party” atmosphere where young people can use you and your facilities to socialize with secretly foul-mouthed kids instead of the openly perverted ones at public schools. But the big churches have made Jesus seem relevant, and not just to NRA members. That’s why as a minister I was almost jealous of so many 2,000+ member megachurches in the Dallas area. We could never grow preaching Campbellite Christianity. We could have, but we would have had to compromise our rigidness to do it. No go. Churches die from hard-nosed Christianity faster than they do from liberal Christianity. And the Church of Christ is still tiredly singing the same old worn-out tunes to congregations full of white-haired members today. It’s actually sad, but just a little more sad than this...

Pictured: A dude who loves to mock 70-year-old gospel music,
only in a shirt and tie and without pants.

The Churchable Heathen

The churchable heathen is used with the term we atheists often use (and which the pastor uses), “unchurched,” which of course means someone who is not churchgoing or attending, but not opposed to the idea based on ideological reasons. They fill most communities and are the “sheeple” that churches search so hard for to convert.

This type doesn’t want doctrine, but to talk about being in pain and struggling. You’ll find no doctrinal controversies, or any of that “What did Paul mean when he said ‘Not under bondage in such cases?” garbage here. Why? Because none of that stuff sells.

The good pastor throws around terms like “legalistic” and “Pharisee of Pharisees” and the same phrases found in every liberal or “progressive” church on this side of heaven. Nevermind that people generally approach pastors with issues because of their bible knowledge and confidence in having studied the scriptures to be able to handle them with confidence. You don’t get much scripture here and that’s because turning a system of doctrine with complex over-layings made from combining two religions into a motivational seminar is pretty easy.

And people love to talk about their problems. Take the quietest mute in the room and ask him about his problems and you will have created a verbal monster. Take a bunch of people “broken” by the normal struggles of life and tell them you’ll listen to their problems and you create this church and others like it.

What Hasn’t Changed

When we back up to (catch our sanity) see the big picture, we see that nothing has really changed; we have religious people who have to be told what to do and how to do it and that when the pale day of death comes, it won’t be final. “We want people without Jesus to come to our church.” Sounds to me like there is still a bit of old-time gospel sect competition in the mix after all!

Written by Joe Holman


My new readers may not know minister-turned-atheist Joe E. Holman (whose book is now for sale on this site). Joe used to regularly contribute to DC. When he's not reviewing movies or ranting on his blog, he'll be back here again. Here are some of his old articles...

  • A Great Man Has Died (tribute to George Carlin)
  • Alzheimers and God's Wrath
  • Back Down to Earth
  • Bring the Hate!
  • Captain Kirk on Atheism
  • Christian Composer Makes Good
  • Don't Be a Dupe!
  • Easter Sunrise Blasphemy
  • Fine-tuning Foolishness: Hammering Out the Stupidity
  • Funny...
  • God's Gift of Freewill
  • Join the Raptor Jesus Cult!
  • Of Trees and Men
  • Problems of Mountains
  • My Review of Religulous
  • Science and Religion: A Truce
  • Suit-and-Tie Atheism and the Churchification of the Godless
  • The Devil by the Pond
  • The Fathers' Foreskin Feast
  • The Rooster...God's Alarm Clock
  • Toilet Paper Preacher
  • Used Goods
  • What Would Jesus Hell???