The Church - Irrelevant
A huge problem confronts the worldwide evangelical community
today. The local church is considered irrelevant to most who are
outside the faith, and church attendance seems to indicate that
this is true among many believers as well. While the vision of
planting churches around the world that provide every person with
the opportunity to attend an evangelical church is exciting, it
is disturbing that so many churches worldwide do not seem to be
attractive, effective or growing.
Why has the church become irrelevant in the minds of so many?
Success breeds complacency and complacency breeds failure. Did
the church become so successful that we stopped changing as society
and culture around us changed at a breakneck pace? Are we still
doing church the way we did it twenty, thirty and forty years ago?
Why are so many young people abandoning the church in record numbers
and becoming disillusioned with it?
We live in an exciting time of incredible change with unprecedented
opportunities to reach people for Christ. In the last ten years
internet cafes have emerged in places that barely had telephones
a few years ago. E-mail has made instantaneous, worldwide communication
a reality. Satellite television reaches all corners of the earth
with both good and bad images. A globalized workforce has enabled
interaction of cultures to solve problems and meet needs. Cultures
that have remained stable for decades are being transformed overnight.
Something will fill the void created by these rapid changes.
What will it be - Satan's selfishness, greed and materialism or
thoughts of a personal relationship with God? The battle rages
but is the church responding to the culture or retreating in a
spirit of traditionalism and rigidity?So what does this have to
do with the church? We need to consider a big question. Is the
church irrelevant to people or irresistible? Many people around
the world feel that church has nothing to do with their everyday
lives - that it is only there to tell them what not to do and to
take their money.
Like the Pharisees of Jesus' time, the church has become exclusionary-
a private place for believers to assemble; not a place that is
safe and attractive to those who do not have a personal relationship
with Christ. Christ was attractive. He found people where they
were and met their needs. He talked to the woman at the well about
water. He turned water into wine when a wedding party needed it.
He healed the sick. He taught about money, relationships, marriage,
work, and serving.
Culture is like the wind. It constantly shifts and, it is difficult
to harness but we see the evidence of its impact on how people
live and think. Like the wind, we can ignore culture and allow
it to blow people where it will, or we can use it like a sail on
a boat to lead people to Christ. Jesus never changed the message
of truth, but he presented it to people in a way that made sense.
He used the culture to teach people what was eternal. Relevance
is not diluting the truth, but using the culture to teach the truth
in a way that attracts people.
What does relevance look like in today's culture? It starts with
creating environments that are attractive to those outside the
faith. It may be a café for young people in Slovakia, a center
for cultural thought for university students and professors in
Macedonia, or a romantic night at church discussing marriage for
married couples in Bosnia and Herzogovina. It could be an exciting
production for children and parents in the community talking about
values from scripture.
In our churches are we talking about the practical issues of
life? Are we providing helpful information to people? Do unbelievers
that visit our churches feel drawn to come back or do they feel
they came to the wrong family reunion? Are we planning our services
with unbelievers as a central focus or are we only planning around
blessing our believing attendees? Jesus said he came to seek and
to save those who are lost. With all of the changes occurring around
us worldwide, the church must respond. Nothing is off limits. Our
God-given creativity is a tool that God has given us to make the
church a place where people want to come.
Our Heavenly Father is irresistible but Satan has blinded the
minds of so many and in some cases is using the church itself as
a barrier. God created the church to be His vehicle for bringing
His blessing to the world. God has given each of us the power of
the Holy Spirit - the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead.
He has given us creativity, wisdom, common sense and everything
we need to reach the world. Now is the time for the church to respond
in the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit by breaking free from
the bonds of traditionalism and bringing the message of truth and
redemption to the world in a way they can understand it. Change
is not the enemy, but irrelevance is.