From: In Search of Relevancy
Source: In Search of Relvancy
Pastor Brian Houston, Senior Pastor of Hillsong Church, in a recent interview with Michael Paulson of the New York Times, said,
"And to me, the world we live in, whether we like it or not is changing around and about us. Homosexual marriage is legal in [New York City] and will be probably in most Western world countries within a short time. So the world’s changing and we want to stay relevant as a church. So that’s a vexing thing. You think, 'How do we not become a pariah?' So that’s the world we live in."
The gospel is always "relevant," always has been and always will be. Since the Fall, the universal condition of man has remained the same in every age and changing culture. Mankind is lost and in need of a Savior. I'm not sure that the relevance of the church in a changing world is as important as proclaiming the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit to a lost world.
In Paul's sermon to King Agrippa, he spoke of his encounter with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. He received this commission from Jesus Christ,
"…I am sending you to [the Gentiles] to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." (Acts 26:17b-18 NIV)
He then went on to describe the message he preached to those in Damascus, Jerusalem and the Gentiles. "I preached that they should repent, and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds." (Acts 26:20 NIV)
Paul went on to describe the result of his gospel message. "Some Jews arrested me in the Temple for preaching this, and they tried to kill me." (Acts 26:21 NIV) This was not an isolated experience. Paul's preaching was routinely met with opposition and violence. It was the rule not the exception. (For example see Acts 9:23,29; 14:3,19; 17:5; 18:12; 19:31; 20:3; 2 Corinthians 1:8; 11:23-26,32-33) Was Paul's ministry a failure? Was his message not "relevant?" Did he mind being a "pariah" (despised, rejected)?
These were two consistent results in Paul's gospel ministry, conversions and opposition, usually very vocal, violent opposition. Perhaps this is the explanation. "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18 NIV) He continues,
"...God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Corinthians 1:21b-24 NIV)
No mention here of the church being "relevant" to a changing world, instead two emphasis; the message of the cross - Christ crucified, a "stumbling block" to some and "foolishness" to others, and the power of God to save the lost.
Lives were changed through Paul's cross-centered message. Paul wrote these words to the church at Corinth, a city that rivaled, perhaps even exceeded the licentiousness of 21st century America.
"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexual immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Corinthians 6:10-11)
Apparently these words proved to be "relevant" to the pagans of Corinth with remarkable results. He went on to write,
"And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."
( 1 Corinthians 6:11)
My concern is that we don't let a concern for being "sensitive" to the seeker, or "relevant" to the world, lead us to take our eyes off the fact that God saves those he has called through the faithful proclamation of Christ crucified in the power of His Spirit.
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." (Romans 1:16 ESV)
21st century preachers are not going to improve on Paul's message or his method. The Spirit of God convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment through the reaching of the gospel. He alone regenerates the sinner's heart.
Nor can we modify the message for fear of rejection, opposition, even persecution or being a "pariah." That's where the apostles lived, as did Jesus, who said,
"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:11-12 NIV)
"If he world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first....If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also..." (John 15:18, 20b NIV)
Perhaps Paul's warning to Timothy applies to us in the world that "is changing around and about us."
"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry." (2 Timothy 4:3-5 NIV)