Seeking To Become Relevant

I was sitting in a coffee shop the other day and overheard a couple of older gentleman discussing a sermon that one heard the past weekend.  He told the other gentleman about the “five points” the pastor gave and how it fit the younger generation completely.  It caught my attention well enough to think more about what they were saying.

Now, some might say the pastor did well as it seemingly had such a great impact that others were talking it about this “sermon” later that week.  But after hearing which church it was and the pastor who was preaching, I knew it was nothing more than merely trying to connect with and be “relevant” to those in attendance.  This isn’t an isolated instance, but one of those reminders of who isn’t doing these things today?? (As a side note, I have attended this church before and know firsthand about this specific church.)

It is very common to see and hear in churches and ministries today that try to appeal more to those in the world.  Often times people say that churches and ministries are so out of touch with people today that they are in danger of becoming extinct.  If they don’t evolve and adapt, they cannot effectively relate to the pressing needs, brokenness, and conditions of the day.

However, in an attempt to become “relevant”, most, if not all, have rendered themselves irrelevant.  When churches and ministries try so hard to become appealing to the broader world, they end up looking more and more foolish to the world trying to be something they are not; nor in reality should not try and become.  Or if they do succeed, it is because the world sees them as no different than themselves and no threat to their already established beliefs and lifestyles.  So with all this time, money, and pouring out of all kinds of resources into trying to become more relevant to people, the question has to be asked, what is really being accomplished??

Some might say that what I’m implying isn’t the case at all.  And maybe even quite the opposite.  “Isn’t it the churches and ministries that are the ones growing who are continually transforming with an ever changing world??”  “Isn’t it those that are keeping up with the trends and styles of the day that are truly able to connect with both people inside and outside of Christianity??”  “Aren’t they the ones that truly are reaching the needs of people??”

The problem with this type of mentality and approach in Christianity is that it really is a constant changing, trend-of-the-day, task to try and keep pace with the world for those in ministry.  With the world always changing and chasing after whatever is new and attractive, Christianity, the Gospel, and the Church end up looking less and less appealing if it is not presented in a more “favorable” light, they will say.  So the reasoning is that we must “meet people where they are” if we are to bring them into the Church.  In other words, we must become like the world if we are going to reach the world; the Gospel and the Bible is not enough.

That is why we see churches and ministries changing their names from old-school denomination names to more community and life applicable names, to flashy sermon series’ named after the chart topping shows and movies, to concert-like worship with lights and hyped up music; and the list can go on and on.  It seems that if you aren’t keeping up with the culture today, then you will quickly be left by the wayside.  All in an attempt to remain relevant to a world wanting less and less faith and obedience to Jesus and more and more wanting to feel better about themselves and affirm their sin and lifestyles.

Going back to my question about what is really being accomplished can really be summed up in one word: nothing.  Nothing is really being accomplished despite the outward signs of success through growing attendance, bigger buildings, and more cash.  It’s a “give the people what they want” mentality and approach to ministry.  In the flesh, it may have the appearance of accomplishment.  But in reality, it accomplishes nothing.

Nowhere in Scripture does it tell us to repackage Christianity to try and make it more relevant to the world we live in.  The only outcome of trying to become relevant is compromise.  It might not even seem like compromise at first, but in order to keep people and bring new people in, more and bigger compromise must happen.  Where God tells us about real faith, obedience, and sin in the Bible, pretty soon they end up becoming redefined to please the people and gain new people.  The abuses then are unending.

The pure preaching and proclamation of the Gospel and the Bible should be enough.  But for many it is not.  If people don’t find hope in Jesus through His death and resurrection, the forgiveness of sins, eternal life with the Lord, and the pure joy of walking in obedience and holiness to the One that has blessed us beyond measure, then what good will it ever do to continue to constantly seek to become more relevant??

For most, the risk of not having the outward success is enough to stop them.  We live in a time where instant gratification rules the day.  And it is no different in churches, ministries, and even denominations.  Goals are set, “visions” are casted (whatever that means), and plans are made.  The only outcome that is acceptable and shows that you are doing things “right” is if you are having an impact on a large and growing scale.  And the way to accomplish this is by becoming more relevant even if people don’t realize it ultimately leads to compromise.

As the distinction between true Christianity and the world grows greater and greater, we must not succumb to the pressures, temptations, or anything else to seek to become more relevant.  Those churches, ministries, and even whole denominations that continue to try and keep up with the trends of the day, will still continue to grow and show outward signs of success, but will be doing so at the expense of compromising the Truth.  People will still continue to gush over their pastors that spend more time coming up with cute catch phrases, the “five points” of sermons, and how great their churches are because they are so in touch with the world.  Those that continue to stand firm in the Truth will continue to dismissed as ineffective, out-of-touch, and divisive.  But the cost is way too great to not be greatly concerned.  The argument is not simply over methods or matters of opinion, but Truth and salvation.

My hope is that we would each carefully evaluate how we have been influenced and even compromised our own lives in becoming more like the world rather than faithful to the Lord and His Word.  My hope is that we would also carefully evaluate how the churches, ministries, denominations, and others organizations we have been a part of are going down the road of trying to become more “relevant”.  And if necessary, make the changes needed to adjust our lives according to God’s Word.  I fear that most will quickly dismiss this as another one of those blogs that I write and think “that is not me” or “not my church”.  But rather than dismissing these things, we each must humbly submit ourselves to the Lord and His Word by examining how prevalent this mentality has taken us hostage and kept us in bondage by thinking we must become relevant to the world for them to come to Christ.

If we are to earnestly “go and make disciples”, we must need nothing other than the Lord moving through His Word to lead people to repentance, faith, and obedience to Him.  All else is nothing more than distractions that become stumbling blocks that lead to compromise and ultimately, destruction and separation from God in Hell.  Therefore, let us all return to the simplicity of the Gospel and join with other believers that seek to live and grow in greater faith according to the Bible itself.