When working on this blog post, I knew that it would be a challenge, but I had no idea what kind of challenge it would be. I knew that I wanted to research this particular topic because, as someone who is both a pastor and an artist at heart, relevance and culture are topics that resonate with me (David Kinnaman might put me in the ‘Exiles’ category).
I had thought “relevance” and “current” were the same, but as I delved into it, I found that they are, as the saying goes, the same thing only different. ‘The church being current with the times’ is a subject that has more to do with the inward ministries of the church, i.e. how we treat those who come in the door and what we have to offer them and how we go about offering it to them.
I had thought ‘Relevant in ministry’ was primarily the same thing, but after researching this topic, I found it has more to do with the outwardness of the church—reaching the lost through means of honest and humble servitude in a loving Christ-like manner.
Therefore, the blog will be presented in three parts; but these three parts can be boiled down into one cohesive statement: for the church to be current with the times and relevant in ministry, the church must make a concerted [concentrated, collaborative] effort to be salt and light to the world:
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matt. 5:13-16).
Matthew records Jesus telling us that we are the salt and light of the world. This is interesting because it also says that we can lose our flavor. As Pastor Michael Cavanaugh recently stated in a sermon at Elim Gospel Church, salt cannot actually lose its saltiness unless it has been mixed with other ingredients, i.e., it has been compromised.1 This is a very convicting statement, and in today’s society, we must be careful not to be filled with cultural compromises or succumbed to liberal theology.
In addition to being salt, we are the light and Jesus tells us we shouldn’t hide it. Notice the propensity to hide it is implied in this verse. Jesus calls us to stand out. But in what ways? Do we look for a specific context to be applied according to the world in which we live? Yes and no. This may be more true for ‘current’ but not so much for relevant. Relevant means that what we believe is acted out in our lives in such a way that is convincing and convicting for those who watch and scrutinize Christianity based on our example.
Yes, it is true that today’s world is different than it was fifty years ago. Just as Baby Boomers created a culture different than their parents’ generation, Generation X and Millenials do things differently than Baby Boomers. It is for this reason that well meaning people disapprove of current methods that churches use to shine the light. They say things like “modern churches are too worldly, too loud, too casual. They’ll let anybody in their church. They don’t take a stand for Godliness.” And since well meaning people disapprove, the topic of how to go about rightly being salt and light in the world today has become controversial. There is no one specific way of being salt and light—there are many, so long as Biblical principles are not compromised (remember, compromise is how we lose our saltiness). But the best overall way for the church to be current and relevant with the times is really not such a current statement at all—it is to love (Matt. 22:36-40; 1 Cor. 13:13).
So beginning next week, we’ll delve into this further.
1Cavanaugh, Michael “The Power of Commitment” Elim Gospel Church http://www.elimgospel.org/th_gallery/bring-the-love-3/ (accessed Nov. 16, 2014).