I have always heard that methods change but the message remains the same. For years I believed this and found no reason to doubt it…….until recently.
Over the last 10 years or so, there has been a push, a belief, teaching, even demand that the church become more “relevant.”
There are magazines that talk about being relevant.
There are websites dedicated to the pursuit of relevance in the church.
Being relevant has become the new method. Unfortunately, this method is starting to have detrimental, if not downright deadly effects on the church.
The method being used to figure out what is relevant or not is with the use of polls.
Politicians have used them to find out what people are most interested in.
Marketing companies have used them to determine what to sell people.
Businesses have used them to come up with new products and services.
There is nothing wrong with any of these in and of themselves. It is smart to know your constituents, customers, and their felt needs.
However when the church starts using polls to determine what people want to hear, and what they don’t want to hear. What beliefs they share and what beliefs they do not share, then there is a problem.
Examples of Relevance Becoming Your Religion
Stripper Poles and Pulpits
A while back, I read a story of how one pastor put a stripper pole, a bed, money, and other stereotypical objects relating to sex in the middle of the platform surrounding his pulpit.
Why you may ask?
He wanted to be relevant.
Now don’t get me wrong. I have no problem addressing issues of sex and morality. I have no problem speaking plainly about these issues.
However, I have a problem with attempting to become so relevant that there is no sense of decency.
Rock Concert Worship Services
Recently I have noticed that worship services in some churches look the same as rock concerts that I attended as a youth. The spotlight is on the singer and musicians. The fog machines are rolling, and the sound is so loud that you couldn’t hear yourself sing even if you shouted.
Again, I don’t have a problem with rock and roll.
I was playing rock and roll when the purple-haired old ladies were screaming it was a satanic devil beat from Africa.
I don’t have problems with fog machines and light shows. They have their place and purpose.
However, worship is not one of them.
The purpose of worship is not to watch a light show, pay attention to a singer, or to feel the beat all the way down in your bones.
When our focus is on the light show, the feel of the music, the performance of the musicians, then we are spectating and not worshiping.
We are not giving what “WE” have to offer, we are watching what “THEY” have to offer.
Relevance Causing Compromise
I think the biggest problem I have with the “Relevance Movement” is that they have started taking their cues on what the church should believe based on polls of what non-believers believe.
Romans 12:2 NLT
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Recently a fellow Pastor in the Association of Vineyard Churches who I am also a part of, released a book that basically went against 2000 years of Christian teaching.
He has decided that people with same-sex attractions should be allowed to be in positions of leadership while maintaining their lifestyles of homosexuality.
He based this in part on the belief that we will lose young people and will not attract the younger generation if we continue with the Christian tradition of requiring people with sexual sin to overcome that sexual sin before becoming leaders.
Now don’t get me wrong.
I am not one of those Westboro Baptist church types that thinks God hates fags.
God loves homosexuals.
Just like He loves adulterers, gossips, and gluttons.
He loved them so much that He made a way for them to overcome these behaviors. He has made a way for our lives, mine included and the sins that I have struggled with over the years, to be transformed and changed.
You see, he has bought into the idea that relevance is the most important thing.
He has bought into the idea that what young people believe must be adopted by the church.
He has bought into the idea that there is no way for homosexuals to change.
That somehow the Creator of the Universe, the one who fearfully and wonderfully made each and every one of us, made living according to His word impossible for a certain segment of us.
How To Be Relevant Without Compromise
I do believe that the church needs to speak to the relevant issues of this day.
I believe that if the church is going to be a viable force in the future, then it must do so without compromise.
Jesus didn’t take a poll to figure out what to teach.
He in fact, went against the cultural norms of the day.
In an eye for an eye culture, He taught to turn the other cheek.
In a performance-orientated culture, He taught relationship with the Father.
In a culture that was crucifying Christians and feeding them to lions, the Apostles taught humility, submission, and perseverance.
So going against the cultural norm is nothing new to the church. We just need to get our heads on straight and show some courage.
I think you will find that when we do, the church will influence the culture rather than the culture influencing the church.
So where do you get your cues from?
Is culture dictating your relevance or is Jesus dictating your beliefs?