By B.J. Rudge, Ph.D.
Churches in bars, drinking and getting tattoos to raise money, ESPN sports center entertainment, a nearly naked cowboy dancing, modern rock songs as part of worship, Star Wars characters on stage – yes, this is just a sampling of the many efforts taken by churches today to make Christianity relevant to our modern culture. Church growth experts tell us these “adjustments” are necessary if we want Christianity to not only be relevant but to survive the tides of cultural change. While I will not question the motives of the men and women who participate in these events, I do question their methodology. A methodology that always ends up either altering the Gospel message itself or the way we are to live out our faith.
When we begin to approach Christianity in the above manner, three drastic results always follow.
First, Christianity becomes a man-centered system of beliefs. Thus, like a person picking and choosing different foods at an all-you-can-eat buffet, each of us can pick and choose what we want to include in our own version of Christianity. Also, just as church is “cool” and “fun”, so too we can be cool and have fun enjoying the things of this world, while at the same time identifying with the person of Jesus Christ. A far cry from the call of self-denial by Jesus Christ,
“‘If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it'” (Matthew 16:24, 25).
Second, Christianity loses its power. The focus of bringing people to Christ begins to center around the latest trends and church growth methods. These are placed on a pedestal as being the key to unlocking the hearts of the “unchurched.” As our culture changes, these will also change so that we can maintain a message that is appealing to our present day audience. Definitely a different evangelistic approach than the Apostle Paul:
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
Third, Christianity loses its uniqueness. When the Gospel is presented with all of the regalia of cultural relevance and excitement it loses its distinction. Instead of being a channel of transformation in our culture, it becomes transformed by the culture (see Romans 12:2). Thus, the Christian faith merely becomes another system of thought that, like many others, merely blends into the cultural landscape. What a sad reality when we have the opportunity to share with others the unique message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes… For in it the righteousness of God is revealed…” (Romans 1:16, 17).
The message of Christ is still as relevant today as it was during the time of the early church. The problem of man is still the same that he is a sinner who needs a Savior. So while the message should never change, we should be careful of how we live out our faith and how we share it with others. Simply put, always speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).