The church’s mis­guided quest for rel­e­vance

The Catoosa County News - - WORSHIP DIRECTORY - Bo Wag­ner

Rel­e­vant: ap­pro­pri­ate to the cur­rent time, pe­riod, or cir­cum­stances; of con­tem­po­rary in­ter­est. (Google dic­tio­nary)

Very rarely does a week go by in which I do not hear about the church ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a gen­er­a­tional up­heaval. It nor­mally goes some­thing like this: “If we are go­ing to sur­vive in the modern world then we are go­ing to have to change along with it. Young peo­ple will never come to a ‘tra­di­tional’ church. If we do not tailor it to their de­sires, we can­not hope to win them.”

More churches than I can count have seen this push re­sult in splits and hard feel­ings and bro­ken hearts. The tragedy of it all is that the very at­tempt it­self is a mis­guided at­tempt.

A few years af­ter we were mar­ried, my wife came to me ut­ter­ing those two words that at once make a heart soar and lock the stom­ach up in knots: “I’m preg­nant.” That be­gan an in­cred­i­bly pre­dictable process, one that has been the ex­act same ever since God cre­ated man and woman.

Her body be­gan to change in or­der to sus­tain this new life grow­ing within her. She got big­ger. And some nine months af­ter con­cep­tion, she went into la­bor. She gave birth to a child.

There is noth­ing odd in any of that. In fact, there is not even any­thing “cut­ting-edge” in any of it. This is the ex­act same thing that her mother and her mother be­fore her all the way back to Eve have ex­pe­ri­enced. When the Ro­man army was the scourge of the earth, the process was the same.

When the Ro­man Em­pire fell, the process was the same. Through the dark ages, the process was the same. When the print­ing press came into ex­is­tence the process was the same. When the Mayflower sailed to America the process was the same. Dur­ing the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary war the process was the same. When the Wright brothers took flight the process was the same. When man set foot on the moon the process was the same.

And yet, de­spite all of that “same­ness,” who would ever be­gin to ar­gue that the con­cep­tion and birth of a new life is ever not rel­e­vant?

Mind you, things on the sur­face of this process cer­tainly have changed. We now have such things as anes­the­sia and epidu­rals and an­tibi­otics and com­fort­able birthing wings in clean hos­pi­tals. But the en­tire process of con­cep­tion and la­bor and birth, the core in­gre­di­ents to the pro­duc­tion of a new life are still the same they have al­ways been.

I fear that the modern church is not just chang­ing things on the sur­face in their quest for rel­e­vance, but chang­ing as dras­ti­cally as if men would now be the bear­ers of the ba­bies. By this I mean that the church seems to be chang­ing, not just tech­nol­ogy and tools, but the very na­ture of what it is in or­der to at­tract a new crowd not com­fort­able with what it has al­ways been. The prophets and the Lord him­self and the apos­tles preached in­cred­i­bly pointed mes­sages against sin. The modern church shuns that like the plague, afraid to of­fend any­one. In Ro­mans 12:2 we read, “And be not con­formed to this world.” The modern church seeks to be as much like the world as possible. The New Tes­ta­ment men­tions the need to teach and preach sound doc­trine scores of times. The modern church es­chews doc­trine, re­gard­ing it as “di­vi­sive.” The Great Com­mis­sion fo­cuses the at­ten­tion of the church on soul win­ning and bap­tism and dis­ci­ple­ship, the modern church opts for mo­ti­va­tional speeches and mem­ber­ship drives and en­ter­tain­ment.

Are gains be­ing made? Yes and no. A church full of peo­ple who have never been brought to the aware­ness of their sin­ful­ness and there­fore have never been truly born again is a gain at the ex­act same time that it is a pro­found loss. A church fed on po­etry and plat­i­tudes but hav­ing lit­tle to no aware­ness of the ac­tual con­tent of Scrip­ture is a gain at the ex­act same time that it is a pro­found loss. And a church that has be­come so very much like the cul­ture that the cul­ture feels very com­fort­able be­ing what it is is the most pro­found loss of all.

Philip­pi­ans 2:15 says, “That ye may be blame­less and harm­less, the sons of God, with­out re­buke, in the midst of a crooked and per­verse na­tion, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” God never called the church to be so rel­e­vant that they fit in with a crooked and per­verse na­tion; he called us to be so dif­fer­ent that we shine as lights in con­trast to them.

No one ever fol­lowed the dark­ness out of the dark­ness. Only a light leads peo­ple out of the dark­ness. The quest for rel­e­vance in a church is mis­guided for this very rea­son; when it be­haves like it should, it al­ready is rel­e­vant, just as a flash­light is rel­e­vant to some­one lost in the dark­ness and need­ing to find his way home.

Bo Wag­ner is pas­tor of the Corner­stone Bap­tist Church in Moores­boro, N.C. He is a widely trav­eled evan­ge­list and the author of sev­eral books, in­clud­ing a kid’s fic­tion book about the Bat­tle of Chicka­mauga, “Bro­ken Brother­hood.” He can be con­tacted by emailed at

Evan­ge­list and author

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