10 Rules of Raw That Will Make Your Church More Relevant, Part 1

Raw is the best way to articulate the new relevance of church. Keep in mind that the term itself has varied definitions, most of which are helpful in describing mindset of church leaders that are better at reaching people in their 20s and 30s.

Raw =

  • not processed, undiluted & unvarnished
  • frank, overt & stark
  • powerfully impressive & hard core

For this post I will not reference demographics, but summarize the ambiance I see regularly in churches that have a stronger edge in attracting and sending younger leaders. To provide illustration, I will use a recent service I attended at The Austin Stone.

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#1 Integrity of self-expression is stylish.   Raw = Don’t try to hard

If you haven’t noticed, it really doesn’t matter what your style is, it just matters that you are true to whoever you are. When that happens, the passion and the “being good at being you” factor, trumps genre.

At Austin Stone for example, an African American worship leader led a primarily Anglo congregation. At one point we sang a hymn, at one point we screamed our heads off, chanting recently written worship choruses.

#2 Honesty is the new quality.   Raw = Be vulnerable

Does “excellence” really matter anymore? In some ways yes and in other ways no. The basic expectations of our culture bring a “quality threshold” that a public gathering like a church should meet. But people don’t notice when you have it. It’s a permission-to-play thing; they only notice it when you don’t. What they do notice is the vulnerability of the leader. If he or she is refreshingly honest, there is respect and attraction.

When Tyler David bookended his message with an illustration, it wasn’t just helpfully clear and it wasn’t just funny. It was revealing. He was willing to make fun of himself and that made a huge difference with his audience. When it came time for serious application of the text, sharing his own weakness was natural.

#3 Influence is proximate or not at all.  Raw = Get closer than comfortable

The hunger for relationship and connection not only requires honestly but proximity and access. People want to be up-close with others. You can impress people from a distance but people don’t want to be just impressed, they want to be known. And they probably want you “closer” than you realize.

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At the Stone, platform leaders stayed around and mingled. The put up slides to introduce their leadership- they wanted to be visible. The greeters were incredibly engaging. After-the-service opportunities to connect were very clear with people-savvy people “lining the way.” Albeit a large service (I am guess over 2,000), the environment invited people into relationship.

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#4 Bold is beautiful.  Raw = Magnify reality

The opportunity to be bold is related to the first three rules. So don’t try to be bold if your not being real. But when it comes to the overall tone of your organization and your leadership style, boldness is desirable. This is not the time, or the generation, to shield the truth about sin, or leave the benefits of the gospel understated. Don’t paint in muted colors; show more contrast and create higher definition in all you do.

The message at Austin Stone had many short punchy statements that carried a boldness factor. The lyrics and the volume of worship could be described as bold. Perhaps the first bold impression  is the name of the church itself. It is not “Austin Stone” it is, “The Austin Stone.” Does that sound too arrogant to you? Maybe it’s just being bold in a way that you’re not used to.

#5 Direct gains respect.  Raw = Don’t spin, don’t schmooze

Model preaching during my years of seminary carried an “indirect factor.”  We looked for metaphors to carry the force of a point. For example, you didn’t say, “You need to be more accepting.”  You tell a story about someone who took down their fence, and say, “Take down your fences.”

Today it is possible to be too indirect.  Some specific statements in Tyler David’s sermon include:

– You can’t see God, you can’t see Jesus, you can’t see the Holy Spirit…What can you see if this Gospel is good? You see community.

– It’s easy to think you are loving when everyone you love is like you.

– Some communities simply feed our egos and hide our arrogance.

– Without mission our communities turn our gifts on each other and nitpick in the name of holiness.

Sometimes a go-for-the-throat style is more appreciated. Have you noticed this trend over the last few years?

THE NEXT FIVE RULES…

In the next post I will unpack the next five rules of raw:

#6 Keep it simple or throw it away.  Raw = Make it obviously usable

#7 Challenge is expected.  Raw = Go hard core

#8 No acceptance, no good.  Raw = Take everything “as is”

 #9 Young is smart.  Raw = Let the rookies play

#10 Feel something.  Raw = Move me

Read Part 2 here.

Read more from Will here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Mancini

Will Mancini

Will Mancini wants you and your ministry to experience the benefits of stunning, God-given clarity. As a pastor turned vision coach, Will has worked with an unprecedented variety of churches from growing megachurches and missional communities, to mainline revitalization and church plants. He is the founder of Auxano, creator of VisionRoom.com and the author of God Dreams and Church Unique.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

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