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3 Ways to Stay Relevant… Without Losing the Gospel

Man Giving Public SpeechIt is one of the greatest debates going on in the church today. The questions is this: Will we be relevant to our culture or will we be committed to Biblical integrity?

The problem involves Christian leaders who feel it necessary to adjust the way the Bible is communicated. Our culture is increasingly uninterested in living a biblical lifestyle, and, for some leaders, this as an indicator that we need to make adjustments. Others, who are concerned that these leaders are compromising the purity of the Bible react negatively to these adjustments. The divide is very deep; many Christian leaders find themselves in one camp or the other. And many believe that never shall the two meet.

Rather than concentrating on remaining on two separate pages, let’s try to understand that we are really on the same page–we are reading the same story, just in different ways.

Is the Gospel Relevant Today?

Dicitonary.com defines relevant as “Bearing upon or connected with the matter in hand; pertinent.” Of course the Gospel bears upon and is connected with real life. It is pertinent. If not, those who communicate the Gospel have done something terribly wrong! So, this is an important discussion for pastors today.

Here’s the thing: the Word of God is eternal (Isaiah 40:8; 1 Peter 1:25), and we can’t improve on something that is designed to last forever. If modernization means making the Bible understandable to people, that’s great. If modernization means removing some of the meaning of the Bible, that is a dangerous thing. If what you are doing is not working, do something different, as long as you don’t compromise God’s Word.

The Bible Is Never Irrelevant, But Our Application of It Can Be.

It is incumbent upon us to “rightly divide the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). In terms of the Gospel, while the ingredients must never change, the “packaging” should always be flexible. If the Bible does not make sense, it is not the fault of the Bible. It’s usually the fault of the communicators. Enough said.

However, my experience is that most pastors who attempt to connect the Bible with culture do a good job of maintaining the integrity of the Word. Unfortunately, those who do a good job making the Gospel relevant often face criticism. The irony is that some who are against relevance have enjoyed the relevant presentation of the Bible in their own lives. Yes, we must defend the integrity of the Word of God, but we shouldn’t be so defensive about methods. Because someone does ministry differently than we do doesn’t mean they have watered down the message. Instead, we should weigh the content, not the method.

The truth is created by God and, therefore, sacred. Methods, on the other hand, are our ideas and subject to change. If the method attempts to reduce the integrity of the Word of God, refute it. If it is simply another way of sharing the Word, support it. Remain allegiant to your tradition, as long as your tradition doesn’t make it more difficult for people to go to heaven.

The Gospel is nonnegotiable; there should be no debate about our content. It’s how we communicate that content that can cause issues. Our methods should be flexible, depending on the people we are trying to reach. God’s Word never changes! How people hear the Word of God does change.

Learn from Jesus

Think about how the methodology of Jesus changed based upon His audience:

  • Sometimes He spoke in parables.
  • Sometimes He turned over tables and used a whip.
  • Sometimes He wrote in the dirt.

His message never changed, His methods did!

So how can we be sure that our message doesn’t change but our methods are relevant to our culture? The answer is not in fighting each other. Instead, fight for the integrity of the Gospel and at the same time fight for better ways to share the Gospel with a lost generation!

Relevance or commitment to the Gospel? The obvious answer is, yes! We must focus on both!

About The Author

Rick Whitter is the State Administrative Bishop for the Church of God in Minnesota. He also serves as Director of International Orphan Support (iorphan.cc).

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