This is a huge concern of mine for our church here in Moose Jaw. Christians tend to come across ‘fake’ to the world around us. We tend to have trite answers to the world's complex problems. Television evangelists with their slick salesmanship and gimmicks have made us look bad and increased this problem.
The church ought to be an authentic community of real people who love God, one another and those who are hurting. Of course becoming what we ought to be is a long process and a journey, and perfection is never fully grasped. Any group of Christians who decide to embrace the Biblical model for authentic community must be careful of sending out any signals that re-enforce the old stereotypes.
Authentic Biblical Community is a beautiful thing. Here is the way I have been trying to describe it lately:
a. Real people. (this includes authenticity, brokenness, humility, the sense that we are not better than anyone else, we have struggles, anyone is welcome and can come as they are without fear of being judged etc.) values: Authenticity, acceptance, people matter more than programs or plans
b. Real life. (this means that church is relevant and practical, it helps me with life throughout the week, with my family, work, relationships, etc.) values: Relevance
c. Real truth. (we are not shy of presenting the powerful realities of Christ and His gospel, we believe it actually changes lives, we are a high-challenge environment) values: Scripture, truth, challenge
d. Real love. (this includes loving the hurting, poor, downtrodden of society, it includes doing real, practical and visible things so our community can see we are actually doing something about what we believe. It also includes loving each other and having healthy relationships, servant hearts and true church community; this includes getting emotionally healthy ourselves!;)
I come from a generation (gen x/postmodern) that tends to dislike the lame attempts of the older generation to be “cool” and “relevant”. We are also mistrusting of anything that comes across gimmicky or slick salesmanship. This is a tension I feel in trying to be “thought-provoking” and “attention-getting” and yet not be gimmicky. There is kind of a groundswell of churches that are approaching church from this new perspective: here are some websites.... http://www.mosaic.org/; http://www.marshillchurch.org/; http://www.relevantchurch.com/;
There are no quick answers to this and any church/people who pursue it are apt to be disappointed at times at the lack of progress, but I believe it is a worthy goal! Let's pursue authenticity.