Written by cycleguy on October 28th, 2014

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Relevance will always be an issue or a question…depending on your side of the fence.

There will be those who say the church has to stay relevant and individual believers must stay relevant. That can lead to all sorts of broad interpretations. So we will hear of pastors who smoke, drink, chew and all sorts of others things in an attempt to stay “relevant.”

There will also be those who question relevance. How up-to-date should a church/individual be? Clothing? Type of worship? Approach during the worship? That too can lead to broad interpretations as we have smoke machines, sometimes music w/ questionable lyrics, guest speakers from heretical groups…all in an effort to stay “contemporary.”

Matt uses the word “contextualization” instead of relevance. His explanation is when you use language of a culture, you are contextualizing. When you deliver age-appropriate messages from the pulpit and the children’s ministry, you are contextualizing. When you wear a suit rather than a tunic, you are contextualizing. His point? Everybody does it.

However, as has often been said, the end does not justify the means. I personally believe this is where we need to “right the ship.” In an effort to be “all things to all men” we have become “nothing to anybody.” I am not saying the church should be stuck in the Dark Ages or Renaissance era. But there has to be a distinction. I do like what Matt does when he shows how it works.

Over-contextualization- affirm too much of the surrounding culture and we lose our distinction.

Under-contextualization- affirm too little of the surrounding culture and we lose our clarity and connection.

Contextualization- contend for both the message and the mission.

As so many have found out, it is a slippery slope, one easy to take a ride on. But also one hard to get off of.

The Jesus-centered church is a church that holds firm to the message of the gospel while strategically affirming cultural practices. They become like the ones they want to reach, but they also hold to the truth, which gives them something with which to reach the culture. (p.209)

How do you see relevance? Does your church do a pretty good job of reaching those around you?


21 Comments so far ↓

  1. Daniel says:

    I once visited a church with someone that was a “reformed Lutheran” church (I have no idea what that signifies), but it was the most uncomfortable church I have ever been in. I can say that it was so alien to my sensibilities and approaches that I don’t think that I could have come to know God in a place like that. I definitely needed something that spoke “my language”. However, I have been part of several churches in the last ten years that have completed resonated with me that did not cut corners or sacrifice Jesus (so to speak) for the sake of relevance.

  2. the Old Adam says:

    We don’t care one wit about “cultural practices”.

    The culture ALWAYS get it wrong when it comes to the things of God.

    We believe that it is the church’s job to be ‘counter-cultural’.

    We don’t want to hand the sinner back to themselves…but rather to be encountered by something that is truly different from themselves.

    Many don’t like that. But we won’t give them what they want…only what they need. And the Spirit will do what He will do.

    • cycleguy says:

      I think Matt is not talking about “cultural practices.” He is referring to reaching people with the gospel so they can understand it. But i do agree with you in that man cannot change himself…only the Spirit can do that.

  3. jeff says:

    Relevance is a matter of making a difference or being important. The concern churches have is that they are relevant to a decreasing number of people. They are still relevant to some but not as many as they used to be.
    Churches, mosques, temples, etc. are not relevant to me. I am sure some are not relevant to you. It wouldn’t matter to me what gimmicks they tried they still wouldn’t be relevant to me. I simply have no need for what they are selling.

    • cycleguy says:

      I think you are right in your idea of importance Jeff. Tragically, you also show why so many churches are on the “outs” these days…they are not reaching people. You are obviously one of them. Makes me sad but you already know that. 🙂

      • jeff says:

        It’s not a matter of being reached. I have been reached. I know what churches are trying to sell. I know what they say they are about. I just don’t believe they can back up what they say with facts and outcomes that matter. I simply don’t buy the sales pitch.

  4. Nancy says:

    Where does God draw that line? God draws the line,, what was pertinent in His time on earth, is pertinent now. Times have not changed that much. Immorality, acceptance of behavior not according to the Bible was at an all time high when Jesus walked the earth. He didn’t change to fit in and reach the people but He went to the people and accepted them in love, not their sins. An example is His stand on sex and marriage. God says sex is a gift to those who are married. If not, one or both the partners will be harmed physically, mentally or spiritually.. This gift is a gift that includes rules, love one another as thy self. This is where theology and morality should be inseparable.

    So where is God’s line on this? Is there a test? Casual dress has brought many to church who didn’t have Sunday best. As we pass out the Sunday Programs, do we ask have you sinned this week and turn them away at the door if they have sinned over the line? How many of us would get in the door each Sunday?…but, but, but I didn’t sin very bad like prostitutes, thieving tax collectors, adulterers, pornographers, sexual predators, murderers, I took the Lord’s name in vain, I gossiped, I hated, I spread rumors, I wished/ prayed something bad would happen to someone who wasn’t nice to me, I got six more piercing this week because my life is full of holes…., I dis-honored my parents because…I found out that…, I called a “so called Christan” a bigot because his sins are worse than mine…. Who gets in? Who do we compromise for and who do we not? If your sins are not hanging out, shouting out, protesting out in your dress, behavior, words or making us uncomfortable….

    Is this a test,Bill? I don’t know the answer but I’m going to claim the, uh, Jn3:17, The Mk2:17, the 1sam15:29 and keep working on the Jn13:34 and looking for where God draws the lines…. And answering blogs that grab me but I find out maybe they are speaking to me, not grabbing me… Thank you Lord for bringing this to my attention today! …and you , too, Bill!

    Repeat, He looks at my heart, He looks at my heart, He looks at my… my cousins and having lunch with them in 40 minutes, it takes 40 minutes to get to Red Lobster…I better get dressed… Have a blessed day everyone!

    • cycleguy says:

      you said a mouthful Nancy! The church’s message has not changed. The gospel has not changed. It is still the same: God loves you and sent His Son to die for you. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. We need to stop playing God and start looking in the mirror. God’s Word has not changed. Sin is still sin. Also glad my blog grabbed you today. Hopefully it let you go long & soon enough for to meet your cousins. 🙂

  5. floyd says:

    Seeking to measure the things that cannot be measured by merely physical means always seems to stir the pot so to speak.

    I like the fact that author is directing people to search their heart before God… In the end the old adage probably still carries some weight; “Different bait for different fish.”

    • cycleguy says:

      I think you sum up well what Matt means by contextualization Floyd with your last “quote.” We put out the bait with the gospel but God brings the fish home. 🙂

  6. the Old Adam says:

    He looks at my heart, too.

    But He loves me anyway.

  7. Kari Scare says:

    Being relevant for the sake of being relevant seems a bit to much like enabling to me at times. On the other hand, never changing seems a bit against the Gospel message, which advocates change toward Christ-likeness. Just my initial, gut reaction without a lot of thought, which isn’t like me, but I’m trying something new 🙂

    • cycleguy says:

      True fact Kari. Too many do try to be relevant for relevant’s sake. Changing to be more Christ-like…not that is a reason for change.

  8. We do a lot of things to reach out to our community: Turkey Shoots, Food Pantry, Clothes Closet, Hunter Education. The gospel is proclaimed throughout.

  9. Steve says:

    I think the important thing is that, as the church, we listen to and obey the Holy Spirit’s voice. If we do that, I think the relevance will take care of itself.

  10. Deb Wolf says:

    Wow, so much to think about here in both your post and the comments following. I struggle with the whole discussion on church relevance. I sometimes worry that in an attempt to be relevant many church groups have become nothing more than gathering places or clubs. Then Rev reminds me that the church is the body of Christ. It is the people. And that Jesus came and made the message of God’s love visible. Not only by giving hope for the future, but by offering a better way to today.

    I wonder if that isn’t still the best message to share. God cares about our forever and He also cares about our right now. Loving and caring for each other and reaching out to love and care for our communities.

    Well Bill, It looks like you can tell you hit on a subject that many of us think about. Blessings!