Can the Church Make God Relevant?

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

I Will Build My ChurchIf you want to really grow in your faith ask yourself this question, "Can the Church Make God Relevant?" The answer to this question will make you think and lead you to understand the Lord in new ways. Our hope on the Carlson Report is to bring thoughtful articles to the Christian world that make people do a little critical thinking. We are immersed in a "touchy, feely" world of cultural images, technology and sound bites that does just the opposite. Getting people to stop and really think is not easy, but our goal here is not success but faithfulness to the Lord.

If there was ever an area that has captivated the Church world today it is the issue of "relevance." You hear that word used frequently these days. You hear it at conferences for Church leaders and in just about any place where ministry is going on today. Of course, the main reason people are talking about "relevance" is because people are worried that God and/or the Church is becoming "irrelevant." People seem to be deeply concerned that we are losing our young people and that the Christian Faith is just hanging on in a seductive and antagonistic world. People are feeling increasing desperate on how to reach people with the Gospel and make the Lord, the Church and the Faith relevant for the next generation.

Now on the surface, the idea of trying to make God or the Church relevant to people seems like a good and noble idea. Everybody needs the Lord in their life, right? In addition, what are we going to do with all of our church buildings and facilities if no one is there to attend and help pay the bills? Is it possible that many of our Millennials will not follow and serve the Lord Jesus Christ if we don't do something new? Is it possible that the Church in America will just go out of business? These are but a few of the hard and troubling questions that are on the minds of Christian leaders and churches today.

And now here is where some hard thinking starts. Does it make much sense to try to make God relevant? What does that look like? Can we even do it? Trying to make God relevant to people is like trying to get a fish to believe in water or a bird to accept air. Trying to make God relevant is like trying to make a pot believe in the reality of a potter. The idea that people need to have God made relevant to them is a total reverse of the reality that exists all around us. You see God is the only relevant thing in the world.  We are only here for a few short years and gone. God is forever. So maybe the deeper issue is to ask if we are relevant to God. The Bible tells us that everyone knows that God exists and is relevant. In Romans 1:19-20 we hear,
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse."
Hence, the Bible tells us that the work of the Church is not to convince people that God exists. People already believe that. The ministry of the Church is to preach a message that God has redeemed people from their sin through the Gospel so we can share restored fellowship with Him. The Lord Jesus died for sin and rose from the grave to demonstrate the forgiveness of God and new life with Him. However, even though the Church has been given the message of the Gospel to proclaim, the Church cannot convict a person of their sin or show them there is a Savior from it. Only the Lord Himself can do that work. The Lord Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit's work was to convict people of sin and the need for a Savior (John 16:8-11). So, in the end, only the Lord can make Himself relevant to people regarding their deepest need of finding a Savior. The Church has no power to make God relevant to people regarding sin and redemption.

How interesting then that many churches today have grown and flourished without much talk about sin and the need for a Savior, which is the Holy Spirit's primary work in the Church. Instead, what the Church world is often doing is trying to make their churches relevant to people by offering them other things to attract them. The list of these things are many and include unique programming, engaging activities, special music, dynamic worship experiences and ways to meet a variety of other personal needs from community to small groups. The hope is that such  relevant, attractive churches will make God more relevant, right?

If you open your Bible you will find that the word "relevant/relevance" is not even found in the Bible. A careful study of that word shows it is more of a modern word connected to our culture of marketing and business. So when the Church starts to become overly concerned with "relevance" its message and mission may be driven by the values of the world..... not the Kingdom of God. When that happens, the Church always needs to fall back on basic, Biblical preaching and teaching of the Gospel and leave the results to the Lord.  That is hard to do!

In a careful study of this issue regarding relevance, Christian writer and theologian, Dr. David Wells gave an address to the National Association of Evangelical some years ago discussing what is happening to the American Church regarding commitment or lack thereof. He wrote,
In 1993 a very interesting study was done which revisited George Gallup's figure of 32% of adult Americans who claim to be reborn. What this study did was to add just a few modest tokens of commitment as additional tests. In addition to asking, "Are you born again?," they also asked, "Do you go to church with some regularity, do you pray with some regularity, and do you have some minimal structure of formal Christian belief? When those tests were added, the figure of 32% dropped to 8%.
If only 8% of our society has a serious faith, the real question we must wrestle with is whether the Church is relevant to God, not the other way around.  Churches seem to be majoring on low commitment and shallowness to find people and the results are showing.  American continues to morally and spiritually decline before our eyes and few even take the Church seriously.  It seems then that we may all be guilty of creating God in our image in this search for a God and Church that is relevant to us. The Lord's goal is to build a Church that is relevant and faithful to Him. The gates of Hell will not previal against such a Church according to the Bible (Matthew 16:18).

We live in dramatic days, in case we missed it. Now is a GREAT time to examine our faith, test it and see if our faith is something found in the Bible or just our cultural definition of Christianity. The Lord always calls His people to faithfulness, never success. May we all be found faithful in the Lord Jesus today and forever.