Being Relevant in Ministry:
Another example from The Emergent Church, besides being a people who are doing church naturally, is that they are being the church naturally. They see needs, come up with solutions and do it. It is a church in action, a church that is active in many ways in its community.
This is, as Tim Morey describes it, “Embodying our Faith.”
By [embodying our faith] I mean an apologetic that is based more on the weight of our actions than the strength of our arguments. This is an apologetic that is high-touch, engages people relationally, ordinarily takes place in the context of an ongoing friendship, and addresses the needs inquirers have and the questions they pose. It provides the weight to our answers that reason by itself cannot.2
An embodiment of Christianity therefore will focus on investing in relationships and showing the unchurched the transcendence of Christ and the community and purpose that we have only in Christ. To accomplish this, the church, and ourselves, need to restructure our thoughts and practices of evangelism and discipleship.
What this means, as Gabe Lyons pointed out in his book, “The Next Christians,” is obeying Christ’s commissions of living that run counter intuitive: this demands sacrifice, and requires doing the right thing even when it’s hard and inconvenient. Sometimes you might even wonder why God called us to these hard places when we’ve been told that the closer you are to God, the greater your health and wealth. But tell that to the average missionary, and look no further than our own Bible to see just how convenient and prosperous our early church fathers’ lives were.
To engage in a relevant Christianity, we must be committed to obedience and sacrifice. Sometimes the only person who sees what we do is God, the person whom we are serving and who we are serving with (Heb. 6:10). But before we become obedient, we should cultivate a love for the people whom we are serving, as well as a love for God. This culture of love must be exuded in every area of the church’s ministry. Lead by example. Lead with love. Love is relevant.
According to Barna Group, only one third of young outsiders believe that Christians genuinely care about them (34 percent). “To rebuild our lives and restore our nation, we have to recover love and concern for others.”3
Rod Parsley put it well when he said, “It is time for the church to arise—in love, action and purpose. It is time for God’s people to lay aside the weights of self-centeredness and comfort-seeking and shake a nation with an unignorable demonstration of love, power and service.”4
The best place to start its community outreach is to seek out what programs are already in existence within the community that the church can plug in to.
The reason for partnering with these organizations is fourfold: 1.) It is helping people who are in need and are already lined up to receive help through a well-respected organization (this is good for the church because it ties the church with organizations that are credible); 2.) it is giving a helping hand to organizations that need volunteers; 3.) it is a witness to the world (these are not inherently religious organizations, so those who see us, work alongside us and receive blessings from our efforts are likely unchurched); 4.) and finally, though these efforts are not religious or evangelistic in nature, serving in this way is still being Christlike and obedient to the calling of the church by meeting the physical, financial and emotional needs of people regardless of their spiritual condition.
This is practical ministry that is relevant by meeting people right where they are. That is the essence of relevancy in the church. Love is relevant.
All ministry is about people; and this love for people needs to be extended outward from the church, not just inward. This is the essence of being relevant–of being salt and light.
13. Ye are the salt of the earth. Salt preserves from corruption. The disciples of Christ preserve the world from general corruption. Whatever becomes utterly corrupted is doomed to be destroyed.But if the salt have lost its savour. Salt is worthless if it has lost its qualities. It preserves no longer. It is fit only to be cast out and trodden under foot. So, too, if those who are the salt of the earth cease to communicate saving power, they are fit only to be cast out, and Christ will cast such out of his mouth (see Rev. 3:16 ).
14. Ye are the light of the world. The business of the church is not only to save, but to enlighten. Christ is light, and his disciples must be light. A city set on an hill. Anciently cities, for the sake of defense, were placed on hills. Such cities are seen from afar. So must the church give forth its light.
15. Light a candle and put it under a bushel. A lamp, in the Revision, which is correct. Candles and candlesticks were not used in Scripture times. It would be foolishness to light a lamp and put it under a bushel measure.
16. Even so, let your light shine. Like the city set on a hill, or the lighted lamp on a stand. We are told, 1. To let our light shine. 2. Before men. 3. By good works. 4. That they may glorify the Father in heaven. Christ is the Light; we will shine reflected light if we walk in his light. If we give forth light it will honor God.7
1Morey, Tim, Embodying Our Faith: Becoming a Living, Sharing, Practicing Church (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books), 24.
3Kinnaman, David UnChristian: What a new generation really thinks about Christianity…and why it matters (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books), 219.
4Parsley, Rod Culturally Incorrect (Nashville, TN; Thomas Nelson), 154-155.
5Kinnaman, David UnChristian: What a new generation really thinks about Christianity…and why it matters (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books), 210.
7People’s Commentary on the New Testament “Matthew 5” Biblestudytools.com http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/peoples-new-testament/matthew/5.htmlcommentary (accessed Nov. 15, 2014)