Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Culturally Relevant

There is an increasing desire for churches to be relevant to society and their local community. Most pundits think this is a new concept but the Church and the majority of churches down through time have not only desired this but with it have also struggled.

On the one hand they admirably want to be true to God and His commandments and the message of the Gospel. At the same time they want to be attractive to the members of their community not attending their church. Sometimes proselytizing other churchs' members (some would call it poaching members) was the way to increase the membership roll, attendance (and income). Having a large church with thousands attending each weekend was just in itself an attraction which we see in the megachurches of today. If a church has thousands of members what are the inferences of what is actually being preached? For some churches it indicates man-made marketing ideas promoting themselves and for others it means that Christ's message of reconciliation is being heard.

What they tended to forget was that the message of the Gospel was Good News to the saved but to the unredeemed it was the worst news of all because it meant that the unsaved were doomed for eternal separation from God - or in other words the place of hell which doesn't get mentioned much these days. Why? Is it because that part is not attractive even though it is the truth? So many churches these days gloss over that part or worse still do not even mention the ultimate consequences of sin. Instead everyone wants to hear that they are going to be blessed and be prosperous.

How does the Church remain true to the message of the Gospel and be relevant to today. The Gospel itself does not need us to make it relevant to us. It remains what it is and should be told in full as it has been done for over 2000 years. When we delete, gloss over, placate, disregard, under emphasize anything of the Gospel message - then it is not the Gospel.
While we need to have a burning desire to take the Gospel to non-Christians, we also have to begin with an unwaivering commitment to the message, and a pragmatic realization that the message will not appeal to all. And we cannot compromise the message to those who will not hear it. Beyond that point we are no longer ambassadors for God, we're peddling a culturally-compromised message.
(Hat tip: Melinda - Stand to Reason)
Having and developing relationships with others is much more important than being appearing relevant. All the efforts to becoming culturally relevant tend to be facade constructions where the most pragmatic entrepeneur is the winner.

There are some great ideas of outreach and evangelism that have been used over the years - and there are equally some terrible ideas. Like come to church and win a car! Come to church - we have great music and pretty singers in the band!

There are some fantastic ministries that are made up of passionate people who work (even though they are dead tired) to serve the members of their church and their local community providing food, shelter, clothing, help and love. That is much more relevant than how many lights illuminate your church signboard.
Kindness is a potent weapon in combating spiritual darkness. Free gifts and acts of service break down barriers and build relationships; and as the barriers come down and the relationships build we should expect opportunities to befriend. As we befriend, we will on occasion find ourselves called upon to give that which has greatest value to us – our time; our schedules and ‘to do’ lists will need to be put aside as we seek to be relevant to that person’s needs. Sometimes all our spouse, our kids, our brother or sister, or our neighbour needs is a friend; and as we take the time to be that friend, God will reveal things to us that we otherwise would have missed.
It’s a fine line between gimmick and genuine, lifestyle and tool. Some cynical types will never agree that it can ever be anything more than a gimmick or marketing initiative, and while it is used and abused by people who treat it that way, such cynics will always have a case. However, I believe there is a quiet sub-culture of Christians who have been doing this stuff day in, day out, quietly loving their cities, communities, neighbourhoods and streets; they never shout loud about what they do, preferring rather to let their actions do the talking.(Hat tip: Andy - Servant Blog)
May we struggle against the influence of the world to be relevant and instead with the help of God and His sovereign will develop a servanthood relationship in living out the Gospel.


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