I like what Bred Powell (Senior Pastor of NorthRidge Church in Plymouth, Michigan) said when discussing how to be culturally relevant so that your town or city will listen to you and your message –the Gospel of salvation.
“Of course, there are a number of key disciplines necessary for learning to communicate God’s truth in a culturally relevant way. We must become honest students of God’s truth. We can’t allow ourselves to continually accept and embrace what we’ve been told. We must honestly investigate God’s truth on our own. We must become students of people. This is the only way to insure that your ministry (and life) is connecting to the genuine needs of people. And finally, we must become students of the culture.”
1> Become students of God’s Word – read and realize
2> See Scriptures through new eyes – honestly investigating God’s truth – remove and reveal
3> Become knowledgable of the people around you – reconnect and relate4> Know and understand the culture you are working in – research and relish
As believers and as churches – to reach out and touch the lives of those who are lost and who do not personally know Jesus as Lord and Savior – we must work hard and consistently as there are a number of major changes that we are needing to make. I believe, right now, that most churches are “culturally irrelevant” and that is why so many people choose to simply ignore their existance.
From what they know of the Church (and it gets less and and less with each new generation) they see little to no value in spending time with this group called Christians. They do not know our message and because of the way we have handled ourselves in our culture they do not believe there is any need to come to know the message. In fact, the impression they have of us (the image we are publicly portraying) is so far from the true Christian message and the real issues that they face daily that they have simply written us off.
So, seeing that the Church is God’s idea and that Jesus said He will build His Church (through us), it would be a good idea to become serious students of God’s Word. A fifteen minute devotional reading of some passage in the morning (a jolt of God along with a jolt of coffee or a Red Bull) simply won’t do it. We need to READ and study, delve into the Word of God and come to realize and even practice the wonderful truths that are found there. The Word needs to be read, studied, understood, and applied daily to our personal lives. We – the believers – need to come to REALIZE that the Bible truly is living and active and powerful (Hebrews 4:12 and Isaiah 55:11) and that we cannot live spiritually without our “daily bread” … and we need to hear from God daily what He is saying today for “man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” To offer life to others we must be experiencing it ourselves.
We must see God’s Word through new eyes – we have to REMOVE the colored glasses through which we now view the Scriptures. We all see the words of the Bible and understand them through colored eyeglasses. We see them through the lenses of what we have been taught over the years – some of which has been good and some has been tradition. We see the Word of God through the lenses of the religious group that we grew up with – and every group has an “axe to grind” or a reason they exist and thus a slightly different slant on key teachings of the Bible. We have our own opinions based on our experiences and these are often non-biblical. We need to become honest with ourselves and become ruthless – throwing things out and making room for God to REVEAL new truths from His Word. Of course, it won’t be new – just new to us.
Thirdly – to become evangelistic and effective soul-winners – we need to get to really know those we are going to be reaching for Jesus. We need to RECONNECT and RELATE. We need to really live among them, spend time with them, listen to and come to understand them, and simply come to know who they really are beneath the busy lifestyle and what their deep concerns and fears are.
Often believers live in their own little world relating to other believers (we call it fellowship) and interact with the world in a superficial way because we are so busy in the Church and with the Church. It is time to become part of our local communities and connect with people. It is time to learn their language and stop speaking in a way that only believers can understand. It is time to become involved with the things they are involved in so we can come to know them in their natural surroundings. And, it is time to change the way we present or deliver our message so it relates to and can be understood by those who think we are ancient history and wish we would simply go away.
And finally, taking a larger look at the people we have come to RECONNECT with and now RELATE to we need to come to know and understand the “culture” we find ourselves in (or are ministering to). We need to RESEARCH and RELISH the society… the historical roots, the make-up of the society (the cultural mix), the traditions, the activities, the modes of entertainment, the standards by which they operate, their beliefs… Because you are an “ambassador for Christ” you must understand the culture that you are representing (the Christian faith) and those to whom you are presenting the message (the culture). You are to “be in the world” without being sucked in to being “of the world.” You are to be a valuable part of the culture in which you find yourself – dress like, look like, speak like, and live like – but basing what you do on the unchangable standards and message of the Christian faith. So, enjoy the culture you find yourself in as you are a cross-cultural missionary to them and so RECONNECT and RELATE to those you are called to minister to in the Name of Jesus.
Sound like a lot of work? Yes, it is! But even if one soul is saved and enters eternity knowing Jesus Christ it will be worth it. And, if the church that you attend and love wants to survive and even thrive – fulfilling God’s plan and purpose for it – then it is absolutely necessary that you and others begin to change and become active in the only task the Lord left His Church (you and I) to accomplish – seeking and saving the lost.
If your church is not growing and seeing new converts on a regular basis – then this blog is for you. Take it personally!