The church is called to conform not to the world, but to the reality of new life in Jesus (Romans 12:1-2). God himself has said, “I am making everything new” (Revelation 21:5). God is doing the work of transformation. God is doing an extreme makeover, brain edition. In other words, if you have never changed your mind about anything in the church, then you will not be able to discern God’s will because we are called to transformation.
The church is called to change its methods and means of delivering God’s truth without altering the message itself. The church needs to be a clear reflection of who God is and what he does. This means the church must be relevant. It must communicate God’s truth and hope in the language of the culture it is situated. If I say to you: “The sacerdotal implications of infralapsarianism are holistic yet interdependent in scope and complexity,” I am speaking the language of professional scholastic theologians. But if I say to you: “A clear explanation of God’s truth is important for our deliverance from sin,” then you understand what I am saying.
Yet, this is how many people feel about the church, as if we are speaking in some secret code with secret practices. Being irrelevant is really the compromise to truth. Followers of Jesus are Ambassadors for Christ. An ambassador’s job is to learn the language and culture of the nation to which he/she is assigned so that they can represent their country well. An ambassador does not need to adopt the values of the other country, but the ambassador does need to relate to the other country in ways that are relevant and understandable.
Truth never changes. But the delivery of truth does and should change. When I was a kid, I lived on an Iowa farm. Every year we had a huge garden full of sweet corn, rhubarb, asparagus, strawberries, potatoes, tomatoes, radishes, carrots, peas, and every kind of vegetable under the sun. Beginning as young as age four it was my job to water that big garden every day twice a day. We had an old well with a hand pump. It typically took eight to ten pumps to get the water up and several more pumps to fill the bucket. It took a lot of buckets to water the garden. I was so small that I literally had to jump on top of the pump and use all my weight to make it work.
I did this every summer for years. Then one year my Dad had a new well dug. A new pump was put in and I did not need to hand pump water into buckets anymore. In fact, I could get a hose out, hook it up to the new pump, use a sprinkler and sit in the sun and just watch the delivery of the water to the plants. Praise the Lord!
The water didn’t change. It was still the same life-giving water that the garden needed. But the delivery changed. It would be ludicrous if I would have said to my Dad, “Dad, I’m a pump guy. If hand pumping water into buckets was good enough for you and for my grandparents, then it’s good enough for me. I don’t know how this new pump works, but I’m against it. In fact, this newfangled well and pump is evil. If anybody uses it they’re going to hell. I’m not touching it.”
Here is a crucial question that every church and Christian must ask today: If the church is really concerned about getting God’s truth and Christ’s gospel of grace to people, then what is the best delivery system available today?
When the church does not do everything in its power to communicate God’s truth to people in a relevant way, then that church is not following in the way of Jesus. Therefore, the focus in decision-making within the church is to determine the best delivery system for the water of eternal life. So, when it comes to the environment, the music style, and the language, we must be relevant. We use these things to deliver truth so that people might connect with Jesus and have their thinking renovated, their minds cleaned, and their lives improved to the glory of God.