When Jesus returned to heaven, He left behind 11 disciples to continue the work He had begun. They were His ambassadors.
Today, we are Christ’s ambassadors. We find ourselves in a socially-complex world. Multitudes are desperately searching for truth, real meaning, and a way forward in life. The question is, How can we significantly impact our world for Him? Of course, for us to achieve this goal, we must be relevant to our culture.
When I talk about the need for the church to be relevant today, I am not talking about changing the message of the gospel to fit with the times. Rather, I am talking about effectively carrying out the charge of our Lord in the culture in which we live.
So let me share some of my thoughts about what needs to be done. First and foremost, our message in the pulpit and in Sabbath School must provide answers to real, tough problems. We can’t do this unless we are attuned to the issues of our day. There is not one problem any of us face for which we can’t find excellent counsel and victory through the Word of God. The church must become the place where the people of this generation can come for answers and strategies that they can’t find anywhere else.
Secondly, to be relevant, the church must go outside the four walls of its building and learn about the community in which God has placed it. We must do more than just place a “Welcome” sign on our door. Each church must learn to “read” its community. God has placed us on this Earth to impact those around us.
Thirdly, the church must believe in and depend on the work of the Holy Spirit. He wants to work supernaturally through God’s people. We cannot impact this world through strategies and techniques alone. Only the Holy Spirit can break the spirit of this world and the spiritual shackles that hold humanity captive. Only He can draw people to the Father. Only He can change souls from the inside out.
Finally, although I love preaching and teaching the Word of God, Jesus makes it clear that the gospel is more than that. We serve Him by serving others. He said that when we feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, and offer shelter to strangers, we have essentially done the same to Him (see Matt. 25:34-40). Moreover, He said, when we neglect to do these things, we have in effect failed to do the same to Him! The bottom line is that we will not be counted relevant if we fail to exercise His ministry of compassion to this hurting world.
I believe that most Christians would agree, at least in principle, that the things I have touched on here are practical strategies that we must implement to become more relevant to our world today. These things cannot be legislated. They go beyond telling church members what the Bible says they need to do. Knowing what needs to be done and actually doing it can be worlds apart. It all boils down to this: To be relevant to our socially-complex world, we must fall in love with Jesus. When we do, we will love the things He loves. His will for us will become our consuming passion, so that as Christ gave His life to save a lost world, we will give ours to reach the lost of today.