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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Real Relevance Revealed

Relevant – rel-e-vant adj. relatable. Culturally Relevant. – n. 1. Causes middle aged pastors to wear spiky hair, un-tuck their shirts and wear flip-flops. 2. Hawaiian shirts. 3. Dimming the lights at church. 4. Being offensive to Jesus in order not to offend culture. 5. Putting the consumer’s needs over Biblical truth.

* By the way, the cartoon to the left is courtesy ""

In my jaunts around the Internet, I read several blogs; some are really good, while others just seem to make it their aim to annoy Christians. Blogs about about "the culture", "being relevant" and "reaching the unchurched". One recent post that I read spewed it's typical vitriole towards "regular Christians", you know the ones who don't drink Starbucks while singing U2 in the "auditorium".

Jesus came to seek and save the lost; that's an absolute fact. Why is it that some pastors and churches ONLY concentrate on the lost? Speaking of that, why is the only way that they concentrate on reaching the lost... um, unchurched through osmosis? You know, just hang around them and they'll become a Christian.

The reason that we have so many Christians "riding the pine" as my pastor would say, is that Churches aren't equipping the saints. You see, the people who are already Christians aren't outcasts as some would try to make us out to be. We are the body of Christ.

Maybe another look at the Great Commision is in order...

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."

An interesting article that I read recently states,

Relevance has become king and I find it disturbing that it’s the very thing that many ministry leaders are most concerned with in the church...

First of all relevance is fleeting. If I’m going to be culturally relevant and still maintain my dignity – to whom shall I try to be relevant to? Seniors who are above the age of 65? Young black males between the ages of 18-25? Young middle class families who have children? Upper middle class professionals who have no children yet? The obvious point is that all of these groups of people will find different things relevant that the other groups will consider irrelevant. I know pastors who have scrapped the suit and tie for goofy (in my humble opinion) Hawaiian shirts because they thought that would make them relevant. They have forgotten that the power of God is not found in style – it’s found in substance. And Jesus taught us that teaching the substance of His Word brings His manifest presence. Suits don’t bring the presence of God anymore than un-tucked shirts and sandals do. After awhile the latter will become contrived as well and the next generation will go back to suits.

Secondly, cultural relevance as defined by some smacks of being consumer minded, as in, I’m putting the needs of the consumer ahead of Jesus. Shouldn’t the King of Kings be the number one guest in our churches whom we seek to please first and foremost? I recently heard a pastor who follows the seeker-sensitive model complaining about consumerism in his church. I thought to myself, “Duh - Then stop feeding that mentality!” There is nothing wrong with utilizing all of the latest technological gadgets of our time in church and I’m certainly all for being relational, building relationships and certainly the scripture calls us to a relational style of ministry. But we must remember that God has called us to reach this culture, not mirror it. We must recapture that prophetic edge that calls sinners to repentance and stands against the ills of culture. A.W. Tozer said, “We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum."

Thirdly, the definition of cultural relevance for some spells the diminishing of the truth. In John 14:21 Jesus taught “he who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.” We are expected to obey our Master and to accept His Word without exception. Some of the well known and foremost ministers claiming to be culturally relevant (paging Brian McLaren and Rob Bell) have unleashed cavalier questioning of the explicit statements of Scripture regarding the necessity of the new birth, the priority of biblical proclamation or the binding authority and sufficiency of Scripture. This cannot and will not build a stronger, more Christ-honoring church. I believe that critiquing the church is a good thing, but disregarding or diminishing the revealed truth of our Creator is wrong, no matter how ‘sincere’ or ‘authentic’ the people are who do it.

Finally, culture doesn’t come to Christ – people do. In the past few years the church has analyzed our culture ad nauseum. Baby Boomers, Gen-X’ers, Post Moderns, Mosaics, blah, blah, blah. Cultural analysis has become an elitist substitute for preaching the Gospel and that is usually in order to sell books and fill the latest “be relevant” conference. The truth is we are only talking to ourselves.

The conclusion of the article is what is all boils down to. You see, the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ penetrates all culture and people groups. We need to simply speak the Truth. The Holy Spirit will do His work. It doesn;t matter the time, place, age or style. God’s Word will cut to the heart of sinners and change the lives of those who are hurting right now. The harvest is ripe and ready for harvest.

What we need is less babbling about being culturally relevant, and more reaching out with the compassion of Jesus Christ. Even when culture is rightly discerned, it still isn’t the answer, Jesus Christ!

Like the old song says, "Jesus is the answer for the world today. Above him there's no other, Jesus is the way."


1 comment:

Diana said...

Ahh WOW, I guess you have been thinking about this a lot lately. Hmmm I really don't know what to comment about except that it is nice to finally see you popping the cork and letting all that you have been holding in, out!
Love the "riding the pine" comment.
You know what you get doing that don't you? Splinters.
As always, speak it, "Because Truth Matter"