Dear Beachside Family and Friends,
We often hear pastors and other Christian leaders speak about the need for the church to be "relevant", or have social relevance. We need to be relatable to the world they tell us, or we will not be able to reach unbelievers and get them into church. The past thirty years have seen much change in the church, and in church services in particular as we attempt to be "relevant" to society. A visitor in some of our "socially relevant" churches might feel that they are in a club where God is occasionally mentioned. They might feel comfortable in the non-confrontational atmosphere. They might enjoy grooving to the tunes and hearing about being good to each other. All this is really good, right?
God certainly does not reject worship over style. He is just as gratified by believers beating a pie pan and singing as He is with congregations worshipping to complex harmonies and the most rockin' band. As long as the purpose is worship, and not performance, God happily receives the musical offerings of all. When our goal becomes sounding and appearing like the world in order to attract the world, that is a different matter. What does the Bible say?
"Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you." (1 John 2:15)
To understand this scripture, we must understand love. The Greek word here translated love means commitment, not feeling. If we are committed to the world and its' ways, then we cannot be dedicated to the Father and His ways. The church becoming like the world in order to attract others to Jesus has never been the plan of the Father. Whatever we commit to, we will conform to. When we commit to the world, we cannot be committed to the Father. We will not be conformed to Him.
It boils down to this question: do we want to be socially relevant, or God relevant? If our priority is social relevance, then we will not confront sin or challenge people with God's standards of behavior. What we do not confront, we will become conformed to. The past decade has seen the the growing acceptance of immorality in the church and also the redefinition of marriage. Some churches have accepted these changes in order to be socially relevant. They have not confronted, but rather have conformed to the ways of the world. Becoming God-relevant requires a different course of action.
Paul wrote " And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Rom 12:2)
To avoid copying and being conformed to the world, we must change the way we think. We can only change the way we think by confronting our minds with the Word of God. Hip preaching about accepting people's sin will change the way we think, but not in a direction that pleases God. The slickest church production that does not conform solely to the WORD OF GOD, THE BIBLE, will only acclimate the participants to the ways of the world.
We find ourselves in the place we are today because we have embraced the church service as the place of evangelism. Some might differ, because no invitation to accept Jesus in given in their service, yet they say that removing confrontation from the service is evangelistic in itself. If people are comfortable, then they might keep coming to church and accept God. All of this comes from misunderstanding the purpose of the church meeting. From the outset, the gathering of the church was first and foremost about TEACHING THE WORD!
The initial believers met daily in the temple for the purposes stated in Acts 2:42 "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine (teaching) and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. From the beginning, the meeting of believers was not about getting people born-again, but teaching those who already were how to live victorious and effective lives for Jesus. When they acted on what they were taught, those around them desired to know the reason for their peace and success. Their family, friends, and business associates became believers as well because they observed the fruit of the gospel in their lives. Then they too came to church in order to be taught themselves how to be influential for God in the lives of those around them.
As we work to reach the world for Jesus, we must refocus on being relevant to God. Are we living "that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God?" Jesus never called the church to be "socially relevant" in the sense of conforming to the ways of the world. He called us to "..,go and make disciples (followers and students) of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. TEACH these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Will we be "socially relevant", or God relevant? The Church founded by Jesus must choose, and our choice will determine how quickly the gospel spreads. Think about it!