Our faith is under fire like never before. In our postmodern world, in a spirit of neo-orthodoxy, we must intentionally display a clear message. With every institution under scrutiny, a popular question today is, “Is the church relevant?”
The answer lies in how you define “relevant.” In our secular age, we have seen many words “reinvented” to display a totally different meaning to fit culture and convenience. Looking at the church it may not be an obvious choice for trailblazing, but it is the life of Christ in the church that will shape our lives.
The church was not meant to compete with the world, but to rescue people from it. This idea of a “tailored-made church” drives a lot of churchgoers today. People often know what they want but don’t know what they truly need. The church should be creative but not at the expense of replacing the message. Marketing and gimmicks draw in people, but what will cause them to stay in the church? Entertainment may draw curiosity and interest, but in honoring the Holy Spirit and preaching the Word of Life, lives are transformed.
What is the Church?
Traditionalism is on the rise with a lot of young churchgoers today. History and formality give a sense of stability and trust, but is the message pointing to a living Christ? The original purpose the church is defined as “called out ones to Christ.” The name clearly shows us that the greatest purpose in the church is to help cultivate a relationship with God and share it with a lost world. The church is defined in 1 Timothy 3:15: “…which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” If we use it for any other purpose it can become obsolete and irrelevant. The church is the revelation of Jesus on the earth. It is a place where imperfect people gather around a perfect Christ.
Understood in this way, the relevancy of the church is timeless.
The book of Acts shows us the New Testament church in Acts 2:41-47. We see the example, attitude, and mission of the church. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had a need. Every day they continued to meet in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
The new testament church is more than an organization it is a living organism. It is alive and delicate. If only thought of as a business, then the work will crystallize and the glory of God departs. People are the most precious part of Gods church; this is why our message and approach must care for their souls. As we cherish God’s house as a house of prayer and honor His presence, miracles happen.
The church is a work of God, not a work of men.
Three Types of Church-Goers
In this impressionist age, we have a unique opportunity as the church to speak into lives with meaning and purpose. Jesus was the master example of this. He lived the same way He died—with His arms wide open. As the church, we must seek to understand rather than to be understood. Reliability and relevance are seen in genuine care and in a non-judgmental approach. We see this in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. The apostle Paul writes “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” We are the hands and feet of Christ ministering patiently through the many layers of the human soul. The church is a place of compassion, empathy and transformation.
The multiple impressions and decisions made as a guest walk through our doors are staggering. The genuine and transparent interest and love portrayed speaks volumes. Learning their story and helping them connect to Christ’s life is the privilege of our mission. Their perception and concepts are dissolved as authentic love and truth are shown; they sense they are welcome and accepted. They are loved in their place like family. Our relevant and personal message speaks to their heart and answers questions maybe they didn’t even know they had. This divine initiation causes new thoughts and interests to emerge. As growth begins, they progressively discover their eternal purpose and value. We must resist the tendency to be like “the world”; to woo the lost through our doors. People are looking for more than entertainment or to be amazed by some show—they are looking for real life, love and answers. The impact of a meaningful encounter with God is revolutionary. Let’s invite, love and mentor those that are willing.
There is no perfect church. Often people hunt to find the best fit. Choosing a church like we would be choosing a car, based on preferences and how we feel when we are there is subjective and often misleading. Eventually, people get offended and migrate from place to place. If we take and consume things based on our wants and needs only, then we are stunting our potential growth. Growing in the church happens as we are submitted to the teachings and grow in obedience. This takes time and consistency to learn to bloom where we are planted.
Today, a popular concept prevails that Robert Bellah calls “expressive individualism — the belief that identity comes through self-expression, through discovering one’s most authentic desires and being free to be one’s authentic self. This powerful belief has weakened all institutions in society.” This sounds good at first, but—in the absolute sense—it is flawed thinking. If it is all about what I need, think and want, we are just consumers; we take what we need without regard to the needs of others.
We can also be “hitchhikers”, selective and noncommittal, always moving around without real roots anywhere. The church is meant to be a generous lifeline that connects us to the life of Jesus.
Spiritual hitchhikers are like nomads, migrating from place to place without roots. It is easy to have this happen when we are not accountable. The average Christian has three different churches that they “dip into” for their spiritual walk. Thank God for technology and resources but who is personally speaking into our lives? Who is correcting us? What do we do when we hear a hard saying? How we answer these questions determines whether we are hitchhikers or not.
Will we “hit the road” or settle in and seek the Lord?
Everything in my life is affected by my walk of faith, family, career, and relationships can be rooted in me or in someone that is eternal. As we build our relationship with Jesus Christ we sense Him actively increasing in our everyday lives. His scarlet thread of redemption is through the center of life. We can be a monument of culture or trophies of God’s grace, both pointing to a very different entity. Culture is fickle, but God’s grace is never changing, it is the same yesterday today and forever.
When we bend to culture and move away from reliance on the Holy Spirit, we lose something—our impact and witness. In today’s post-modernistic world, we see humanism which deifies man and underestimates God. Coupled with relativism which declares a personal interpretation to justify a lifestyle. This in turn births secularism, redefining terms to usurp absolutes and promote tolerance. How has this impacted the Church? The Emerging Church is born and an ecumenical gospel—without the cross and sound Bible doctrine—is preached. Through this progression, the unbeliever is desensitized to the things of God or in most cases doesn’t learn a clear picture of who God is and ultimately doesn’t see their need for Him.
Guarding the church against worldly ideologies is important in preserving the future of the church. One popular foundation is liberalism; me at the center. This system of thinking impacts churches were my rights and liberties dominate the understanding of privilege and responsibility. We are not to hide from the world, secure in our four walls, but our message and heart of love must be clear and powerful as we go forth into the world.
Here are some recognizable systems of thinking:
- The end and means focus on securing happiness.
- Egoism exalts the body over the soul.
- Liberalism exalts the temporal value system over the spiritual unseen reality.
- Hedonism promotes subjective belief that the goal is fitting the Bible into your life rather than surrendering to the Bible.
- Pop-culture rallies herd mentality, this mocks the outspoken convictions and quiets the person, so they “don’t rock the boat.”
- Personal expression rules over proven principals at the expense of logic.
- Secularism redefines terms for tolerance and dismisses absolutes.
In contrast, the message of Jesus is life-giving. This message is one of a personal cross, where Christ at the center of my life, as in Colossians 2:13-15.
- Sacrificing self-preference produces contentment.
- We are not our own, we live for another who is infinitely greater.
- Ultimately standing before a Jesus defines our decisions in time.
- Christ is at the center of our priorities not sacrificing the eternal on the altar of the immediate.
- Speaking the Truth in love without legalism.
- No overestimation of self-importance, we are not the ultimate issue.
- Hold-fast the Word of Life, our eternal purpose—we are God’s billboard.
You are important in the Kingdom of God. Your portion is part of every joint that supplies a healthy spiritual body in Ephesians 4:16. The church is a hospital, not a country club. It is designed to be a mission center for mobilizing the believer to be trained and sent out to serve, love and heal. Kindness is a powerful weapon that helps open the heart of the recipient and is a “tangible” demonstration of the love of Christ.
Our world is lost. Jesus is the Light that shines to those who sit in darkness in Luke 1:79. In the gospels, we see in Matthew 5:13-14, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its savor, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they set it on a lampstand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”
People are drawn to the light and life of Jesus. Religion kills and complicates the pure simple message of Jesus. Jesus is the beginning, middle, and end of our faith—this is the glorious gospel. A dear pastor shared with me words I will always remember: “Our message of Jesus is our ultimate method.”
Preaching the heart of Jesus as an open hand and not a clenched fist, will draw all men. (John 12:32)
Our mission affords us to be gatherers and educators of Jesus. Complications and pain arise as we make our mission about ourselves. We must not gather around personalities or a “celebrity Christianity” but around an old rugged cross where we die and Christ reigns. The psalmist in 115:1, “Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.”
The mission of Christ is powerful. The first letter in mission could stand for “momentum”—the inertia of an object that is catching speed as it moves. As the object moves, the velocity increases determining its ultimate distance. In missions, it is all about being moved in the Spirit. As we discover the “go” in the gospel, momentum begins to happen. Step by step, word by word, God gives the increase. Here is where the mission of the church is found in scripture: Joshua 1:3-6, Deuteronomy 28:13, Matthew 28:19-20, Luke 19:10, John 7:38 Acts 4:12. Here are the nuts and bolts of our mission:
- PREACH a clear message of salvation.
- TEACH to equip ministers of life in marriage, family, and neighborhoods.
- REACH hands to the needy.
- SERVE our communities by being the hands and feet of Christ.
- CULTIVATE discipleship, mentorship and accountability in our walk of faith.
- SHARE our faith, going into all the world.
We are on this earth not to be like the world but represent the kingdom of God. One day soon we will stand before Him. Are you prepared? We are either impacting the world or we are being impacted by the world. To be in the world not of the world is our mission.
How do you see the church? Is it your lifeline? or is it something we could be critical of and have a “take it or leave it” attitude. The church is a gift and a secret in today’s cynical world. “Where two or more are gathered I am in your midst” in Matthew 18:20. We must all realize that the church is full of imperfect people gathering around a perfect Christ. Celebrate the life of Christ, celebrate other believers and be part of a church community where you grow and make an impact for eternity.