Summary: With so many changes taking place in our culture today, IS THE CHURCH KEEPING PACE? Our MESSAGE must never change, but our METHODS do in order to reach the culture we’ve been commissioned to reach.
October 13, 2002 – Covington, IN
BEING CULTURALLY RELEVANT
It is a common mistake. Pastors and churches can be trapped by this misunderstanding and never know it. Specifically, that the church must do little more than open its doors on Sunday, and the non-Christian will come. Research over the past decade undermines this mistaken notion. People are staying away from churches in record numbers. It is time to ask why some churches are not vital links to the unconverted and what can be done to change a faltering outreach to the lost.
In some cases, Americans are turned off to both the message and messengers of organized religion. Too many, the church has appeared narcissistic and self-serving. Leaders often leave behind shattered lives in the wake of their compromised leadership. The church’s reputation was dramatically eroded and confidence in church leadership greatly shaken by the scandals of the 1980’s. In 1974, nearly one half of the adult population expressed confidence in religious leaders, but that number plummeted to 22 percent by 1989.
The church must consider the serious question of relevance. In the early 90’s, a denomination surveyed a southern city where it wanted to plant a church. The survey centered around a single question: Why don’t you attend church? 74% of those surveyed indicated they felt there was no value in attending church. 34% believed the church had no relevance to the way they lived. While the church does not exist to accommodate secular definitions of relevance, we must also face up to the dilemma framed in the lyrics of an old song: “Why spend our time answering questions no one’s asking?”
There is a high cost of not understanding a generation, not doing the homework necessary to gain a fair hearing of the gospel. We must understand that it is possible to be culturally relevant, and at the same time biblically sound in our approach to the unchurched. These two ideas are not mutually exclusive.
It has been said, “The only person who likes change is a baby with a wet diaper.” That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but from my own observation, most people have some hesitancy toward change. Change takes us out of our comfort zone, it doesn’t allow us to relax, it doesn’t give us the assurance in life we long for. It’s like one deacon in a small Midwestern church said, “Change is sin, and we sin as little as possible around here.”
A. Those who have reached the age of 100 have seen radical change in their lifetime:
Ø They are unexpected witnesses to an era that brought forth Band-Aids & penicillin, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes & Camel cigarettes, the World Series & Reader’s Digest, jazz & the theory of relativity.
Ø They remember not just when man landed on the moon but when he first soared into the sky.
Ø They remember the terrifying toll of the worldwide influenza epidemic of 1918 & the wrenching despair on the soup lines of the Great Depression.
Ø The last century opened w/the first telegraph message being sent across the
Atlantic & concluded w/millions of e-mail messages being sent around the world everyday.
B. The moral climate has also seen radical change.
Ø 50 years ago, who would have believed we would have abortion on demand, legalized homosexual marriage in some states, physician assisted suicide, open nudity on TV, that performers like Madonna, & talk show personalities like Howard Stern would not only be tolerated, but admired & adored?
Ø Who would have ever guessed that these types of changes would take place?
C. Even though we are uncomfortable, & should be uncomfortable, w/many of the changes in our culture, we must also understand that this is the culture we have been called to minister to.
Ø This is our world, & God has placed us here for such a time as this.
Ø We have been called to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of this generation.
Ø If we are going to do that, & if we are going to do it effectively, we must take Paul’s example as our own, & present the message of Christ in a culturally relevant fashion.
Ø I believe the church should be culturally relevant while remaining doctrinally pure.
Transition: Before we examine some specifics concerning cultural relevancy let’s consider some things that never change.
1. SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE
I am well aware that some are uncomfortable w/the subject matter this morning. I am also aware that it is very easy to be misunderstood when talking about something like cultural relevance. So I want you to be assured that we are not talking about political correctness, or about watering down the gospel, or anything of that nature. And I believe it is important for us to realize that some things will never change at First Assembly of God or in our Christian lives: