Is The Church Relevant?

By Dudley Hall Published on October 1, 2017

The church in contemporary society is often criticized and even mocked by those within as well as those on the outside. There is much to be corrected in the church’s witness, but we should make no mistake: the church is vital. Without the witness of the church, society will rot in darkness. When the salt loses its preserving quality or the light no longer reveals reality, true hope is lost.

The church is God’s gift to the world. With all its imperfections, it does what no other institution can do. So many caricatures of the church have polluted the minds of the casual observer, that many are now concluding that it is so irrelevant as to be dispensable. Bad mistake.

Courting the Culture to “Stay Relevant”

Cultural relevancy is fluid. When the church has tried to change in order to be relevant to culture, it invariably loses its distinctive. It never catches up. Culture without the influence of the transcendent message of the church is always moving toward the exaltation of mankind. When any part of creation takes precedence over the Creator, deception and destruction is just a matter of time.

The aim of the church is to show how the timeless relevancy of the word of God applies to culture. To do less is to deny our calling. It is to show a lack of love for those around us.

In a culture that makes fun of biblical imagery, we cannot rewrite the Scriptures just to be relevant.

There is a great temptation to strike back when mocked. The church can’t afford to fall for that. It is contrary to our being. We must refuse to be embarrassed by our distinctive message and model. In a culture that makes fun of biblical imagery, we cannot rewrite the Scriptures just to be relevant. We must boldly interpret and apply the truth that confronts the skeptics and comforts the saints. We don’t shun the defense of our beliefs, but we recognize that argument alone is not our assignment.

Proclamation of the good news in Jesus Christ is relevant in any culture. Whether humans will admit it or not does not change the reality that we all know we will face judgment one day — and we tremble.

We intuitively know that we have fallen short of even our own moral standards, not only God’s laws. We are lonely at a level we cannot fully explain, and we are never satisfied with our achievements regardless of how great.

Let Us Look Onward and Embrace Our Role

It is not time for the church to be paralyzed by always looking inward. We are a forward-looking family of faith. We believe that because the gospel can change one person, it can change multitudes. As people are transformed by the grace of God, their moral intuitions will instruct the values and policies of the culture. Our love for our Lord and our embrace of his mission demand that we stand our ground as his church. The world will suffer if we refuse.

Let us not be embarrassed at the distinctives of the kingdom of God that the culture thinks strange. Let’s make much of the virgin-born Messiah that the culture labeled a bastard. Let’s glory in a small-town boy who was run out of his home town, but walked out of his own grave yard (a phrase I love, borrowed from Russell Moore’s book, Onward).

Let’s embody the truth of the gospel in the way we speak with kindness, work with diligence, war with courage and love without condition.

Let’s joyfully bow before a crucified Nazarene who now governs the world. Let’s salute the Cross as our national flag, identifying with the kingdom of God over all other loyalties. Let’s speak the word of God as articulated in the Apostle’s gospel, with full confidence that it is more powerful than any tyrant, and more effective than any sword of steel or opinion of man.

Let’s embrace our role as reflectors of the Son of man who served, suffered and sacrificed to fulfill his mission. Let’s embody the truth of the gospel in the way we speak with kindness, work with diligence, war with courage and love without condition.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes… — Romans 1:16 (ESV)

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever: Amen. — Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV)

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  • Kevin Quillen

    the church will become relevant when it gets away from the terrible gospel of “turn or burn”.
    Hell is a man made doctrine that harms the cause of Christ. God is love. Love does NO harm. A loving Father will NEVER torture His children! Would you? Are you more loving than God? Pantelism is truth.

    • Tim Pan

      You do realize that you are a heretic of the worst sort?

      • Andrew Mason

        Not sure that’s particularly helpful.

        Kevin, if God is love and accepts all into Heaven, are you expecting to see Hitler, Mao, Stalin, and Pol Pot? If not what grounds do you have for a loving God to torture (damn) His children for all eternity?

        Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying SS goons are precluded – I definitely believe some of the Nuremberg crowd are there, but salvation is via repentance and following Christ, not by virtue of being born.

        • Tim Pan

          One looks at a statement made by a person. Evaluates it and makes a judgement. I judged you to be a heretic. The judgement is accurate.

          • Andrew Mason

            Which statement convinces you I’m a heretic, my belief that Heaven has (ex) SS goons in it, or my asking if Hitler et al will be in Heaven? You are the one to state that God would never condemn anyone to Hell, which means you’re claiming that a God hating genocidal tyrant like Hitler must be treated the same as Peter, Paul, and the rest of the Apostles. Are you suggesting I’ve misunderstood your argument somehow?

            And what of Matthew 7:13-14 for instance which says that few enter into Heaven whilst many go to destruction? Or what of v21-23 where Jesus says that even those who claim Jesus as Lord are not guaranteed entry to Heaven, that those who use His name but do not know Him will be forced out? What of Matthew 8:12 where faith rather than ancestry is what will preserve a person from being thrown into outer darkness? What of Matthew 25:41-46? Jesus makes clear that those who do not serve Him will be delivered to eternal punishment. You may rightly have claimed the title heretic, but it is not a badge of pride. The opponents of Christ, or Luther deemed them heretics, but they were not – they were faithful to God. To be called a heretic by an enemy of God is not a problem, to be called an enemy of God however, or a heretic by God, is not a thing to be proud of.

          • Tim Pan

            You have molded God into your personal play thing. You as most Christian have placed yourself above God. Only those who know and love God will be in heaven. And you do not know him , you only knew the image of God you have created.

          • Andrew Mason

            Whoops – think we confused each other with Kevin. He was the one advocating Pantelism.

          • Tim Pan

            I am so sorry! The fog of battle!

          • Andrew Mason

            At least we eventually realised 😀

        • GPS Daddy

          Excellent question to Kevin but Kevin may not know he has a question from you. I recommend replying directly to his post.

        • Kevin Quillen

          Please read comment above to Tim Pan.

      • Kevin Quillen

        Yes I am a heretic. I wear the name proudly as I am in good company. Jesus, Paul and all, Martin Luther etc..
        John 12:32 says it all……in this verse “draw” in the Greek actually means “to drag”. Who are you to limit the drawing of Christ to this life only? There is Biblical reference to Jesus preaching to the “prisoners”. 1 Pet 3:19. Consider 1 Cor 15:22

  • “the Church” there is your problem, which Church are you talking about? Which of the 40 to 43000 Christian denominations are you referring to? Perhaps we are becoming irrelevant because the permanent break with the one true Church has done nothing but seed confusion and error for the past 500 years. It is not my intention to launch an attack here, just raise the question: How can we expect to be relevant when we do not have a consistent message or agreement about the meaning of said message within our own “faith”. If I don’t like what you say/believe, I can go down the street. What I have seen happen is people keep moving down the street looking for self-justification until they end up like Kevin Quillen.

    Kevin for your sake I hope you are correct.

    • Andrew Mason

      I think Hall meant the Bride of Christ – those people of whatever denomination who follow Christ. Some variation in message isn’t critical, the problem is when messages that directly defy what God has taught are taught as gospel.

      As for the break from the one true church, which true church is that? Note I’m assuming you mean a particular denomination as opposed to the Bride of Christ as mentioned before. Do you mean the Indian Church that existed before the arrival of the Portuguese and other Europeans? Or the Baptist Church that, according to one view, has existed in various forms since the time of John the Baptist? Or do you mean the Eastern Orthodox Church? Or perhaps various other eastern churches that have formed in the areas where the Christian message was first spread? Or perhaps you mean Catholicism which arose several centuries after Christ? If you’re looking for a particular true denomination you won’t find it – the apostles didn’t found denominations, they simply spread Christianity. As areas and individuals focused on particular elements differences grew. To a limited degree that shouldn’t be a problem. If one denomination is more focused on evangelism, another on missionary activities, another on righteous living, and another on helping the needy is it a problem? The real issue occurs when a denomination is seen to compromise or reject what Scripture teaches. What use is a church that preaches the way of Hell rather than the way of Salvation?

      • I purposely left out a specific denomination. However various denominations do lead to different interpretations of the Scripture which lead to very different beliefs. For instance some denominations embrace the LBGTXYZ lifestyle as valid and legitimate, yet other condemn it. Same for marriage, contraception, etc. So each fracture confuses the landscape, leading to a supermarket approach where you only take the teaching you like off the shelf.

        You are correct about early divisions but the original apostles fought against many of those because they spread error. Be it questioning the divinity, the trinity, etc. Some you mention are parallel but geographically fragmented, others are not parallel but divergent beliefs. Pick several different denominations and you will walk away with very different views of what Christianity is from each.

        If we share the same beliefs then why have different denominations? Why fragment?

        • Andrew Mason

          Sorry. Some people adhere to the notion that a specific denomination is the only true church. If I misunderstood your meaning I apologise.

          I’d say it’s more complicated than simply saying different denominations support different interpretations which causes different beliefs, though that’s true too. Consider for instance Methodists and Anglicans. Some are evangelical and could easily mix with Bible Believing Baptists, Brethren, Presbyterians, Pentecostals etc. Others by contrast are completely non-Scriptural and as you say embrace the LGBTIQ agenda. There’s a certain Methodist Bishop who exemplifies this, but the Catholic church is sending out some pretty mixed messages too.

          I would suggest some of the early divisions were unavoidable – the standard barriers of language, geography and culture. Consider for instance the issue of love. One of the current LGBTIQ arguments is that love is love, an argument that works in English, if you don’t think too hard, but would it work in Greek? Would that love be agape, philia, storge, or eros? We say that God is a God of love, but do we mean God is a God of eros? No! We mean agape, but I would suggest most Christians haven’t heard of agape, and even if they have they’re fuzzy about the differences, and those differences are significant. A quick skim of an article suggests that agape is used both for the love God has for us, that a husband should have for his wife and vice versa, plus that the couple have for their children. There will be shades of difference but it is an unconditional sacrificial love. Note there are negative forms of agape in Scripture – 2 Timothy 4:10, John 12:43 and John 3:19 where people sacrificed love of God for darknessthe worldthe praise of men. Sorry I’m going off on a tangent here but my point is that differences in language shape our understanding of God. This is not always a matter of heresy or seeking to diverge, simply a differently structured environment. Back to the original point though, yes if you selected the wrong denominations you would end up with very very different concepts of Christianity from each. Consider, if you selected the Mormons, Eastern Lightning, Catholics, an ultra PC Anglican church, and an evangelical Anglican church. They would for all intents and purposes seem to be different faiths, and yet they purport to be the same faith. By contrast if you select several Bible believing denominations you can find a lot in common, even if they disagree on the nature of baptism, or the gift of tongues, or the rapture, or various other such things. Since even the apostles were human and differed about things I don’t see that as automatic grounds for assuming something is wrong.

          Churches can share the same fundamental beliefs whilst differing in their understanding of non-critical elements – things not pertaining to salvation. And just as Christians may be feet or hands or eyes or some other part of the body of Christ, and be intended for a specific purpose, might it not follow that denominations can likewise be intended for specific purposes? Some denominations are known for opening schools, or hospitals, others are known for work with the homeless, and still others as mentioned before are known for their evangelism and mission focus. Could a church do all these things at once or is specialisation necessary? And what of the variation between hierarchical and independent churches? Must it be an either or model rather than both?

  • GPS Daddy

    Excellent article!

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