Saturday, June 11, 2005

C3: Innovative or Compromising

Last Sunday, the Raleigh News & Observer ran a feature (free registration may be required to view) on a fast-growing church located southeast of Raleigh in Johnston County, North Carolina, near Clayton. Cleveland Community Church, or "C3," as it's more commonly called, has a relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention and is pastored by a graduate of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. However, the 7-year-old, non-denominational church isn't anything like your typical Falwell-inspired Southern Baptist church, as the N&O's Yonat Shimron reports: . . .

Baptist in its roots, C3 works hard to draw in people who might otherwise spend their Sunday morning mowing the lawn or pushing a shopping cart at Home Depot. [Pastor Matt] Fry and his wife, Martha, try to dispel people's preconceived notions of church. They want them to feel comfortable physically, mentally and spiritually. The church's Web site encourages people to wear shorts, and the service, called a "celebration," presents a cheerful, hopeful Christianity with few strings attached.

Nearly each service includes familiar pop songs U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)," Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is" or Queen's "You're My Best Friend" meant to be heard in a new context. And Fry's sermons all touch on some emptiness in people's lives for which there can only be one answer: Jesus.

"The goal is not to be cutting edge," said Fry, 39, who has developed a late-night TV dress code black T-shirt, jacket and jeans with a microphone attached to his ear. "It's to be relevant. That's the value. Are we relevant to our culture?"

Despite its unconventional ways, C3, which is growing at a rate of 30 new members a month, states as one of its core beliefs in the Mission & Values section of its Web site, "We believe that the Bible is God's inspired word and is without error. While our theology is conservative, our methods are progressive."

Is Matt Fry and Cleveland Community Church on to something with their culturally relevant methods to reach people for Christ? Or have they crossed the line of being too much of the world and therefore compromising the message of the Gospels they are trying to convey?

Hat tip to the Christianity Today Weblog.

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