There are several trends I have seen over the last decade or so that have me concerned. Perhaps many of them are actually the same trend at some deeper level. One such trend is the concern that the Church be relevant. I suppose this is a valid concern: it's hard to see that the medieval Roman Catholic church would be able to relate to people in our culture very well. This would cause problems in evangelism, outreach, etc. It is certainly untrue that culture is irrelevant to the Church: we need to speak their language at a minimum, so we can tell them the Good News.
However, when I look at attempts for relevance, I can't help but notice they're often just worldliness repackaged. That is, the word "relevance" is used to mean "no different from the world around us". I've said before, the Church ought to transcend culture: to be tied into a culture (whether the culture of today or that of 50 years ago) means to be following the world, rather than the Lord.
Note I'm not even touching the question of "relevant to whom?" right now. That's an important question, and I think it cuts pretty deep. Right at the moment, I'm accepting the (wrong) assumption that the Church is here primarily for evangelism.
Here's something to think about: if I have to watch TV to understand an illustration the preacher is trying to make, there's a problem. I'm not saying TV is evil---we personally don't have one, but that might not be your conviction on the subject---I am saying that if your "relevance" just means being up on the latest trends, you're not really that relevant. Why? Because people don't need more of the world, they need Jesus. People need something fundamentally different than what the world offers: offering a "christianized" copy of what's out there isn't helping anyone.
To the extent that the Church exists to duplicate what the world offers, the Church is a failure. We aren't here to offer daycares, marriage counselling, and Christian schools. Those may be very valid offerings, but they hardly define what the Scripture teaches about the Church. The Church is here as the Body of Christ. We're in enemy territory: this is the same world that rejected the Son of God! We're here as an embassy from Heaven, not as yet another charitable organization: the world's already got plenty of those.
In the end, there's nothing more relevant to lost sinners than the Son of God. See, the problem is, we in the Church have nothing to offer the world except the love of God. To try and offer anything else is to step beyond the boundaries of our calling.
The justification I have so often heard for making the Church more "contemporary" is outreach: no one would come to a service with stodgy old hymns where everyone wears suits; if we offer people a comfortable place to come, where the music is more to their taste and we dress like they do, then we can present the Gospel to them. This sounds like a good theory, and certainly well-intentioned, but I have to question how Scriptural it is.
Let me start out by saying I prefer traditional hymns to more modern "Christian" music (although there are notable exceptions on both sides); but I never wear a tie. And no, the culture of 100 or 200 years ago was no more holy than now: there's no implicit value to "conservativism" in the literal sense of the word.
But to package the Gospel: to try and attract the unsaved with better music or a more comfortable setting is fundamentally dishonest. Our message is not comfortable, it's not trendy or catchy or hip. Our message is: you're worthless, but God loves you anyway. To attract people into a de facto concert and then spring the Gospel on them is bait-and-switch. People see through it, they resent it.
But honestly, even that would be better than what I personally have seen. My personal experience is, the places that put up a band and dress in jeans to attract outsiders rarely (if ever) actually give the Gospel: they more frequently give a pep talk, motivational speech, or some sentimental anecdotes. This is worse than useless.
And yes, I would say the exact same thing to a church that has stodgy hymns and wears suits in order to attract an older generation.
Here's an idea for people who are concerned about relevance. Try reading the Bible. Not a few minutes a day, but really reading it: say read it through once or twice a year. That's your relevance: you have in your possession the Word of God, and the world desperately needs to hear it. Don't worry about luring people in, worry about what they'll hear when they get there. If you're offering the Gospel, the message of the Lord's death, burial, resurrection, and ascension; then you're as relevant as you can possibly be. Sure, people out for some Sunday morning entertainment might not be interested; but you'll have answers for people who are looking for them.