Is The Church Relevant?
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 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)