Today’s devotion builds on the thoughts from Sunday’s Sermon – Week 6 of “Compelled – Living the Value of Culturally Relevant” (LISTEN HERE).
One of the knee-jerk reactions Christians have when the topic of being “culturally relevant” comes up is a fear of losing the Gospel if we adjust our forms and practices to the whims of culture.
But often the fear or concern is used to do nothing to try to understand and adjust the presentation of the Gospel to reach the culture around us. There is an inherent expectation that the person “outside” the church will figure out and adjust to the culture in the church.
Not always a fair expectation.
So what is the balance? How can we be culturally relevant, not compromise the Gospel, yet reach the culture that is around us?
Let’s return to the same Scripture as yesterday: 2 Corinthians 9:22-23
I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
The heart to reach the culture with the Gospel is the Gospel. The Apostle Paul had a zealous desire for all Jews and Gentiles to hear and believe the truth about Jesus Christ. He was passionate about bringing a message to the hearts of people that would transform lives and change eternities.
So “by all possible means” he became “all things to all men” to “save some.”
Being culturally relevant isn’t a desire to “keep up with the Jones’” or to “be cool to the culture around” or to be accepted by all people. The only desire is to have others share in the blessing of the Gospel, even as we do ourselves.
Here’s three things I see in Paul’s missionary heart and effort that give us guidelines today.
- We adapt to the culture without adopting everything in the culture.
Every culture has sin. After all it is made up of sinful human beings. When Paul walked around Athens he noticed temples to many different Gods. He didn’t go in and try out the worship of every temple to experience every god of the Greeks. He read their poets and quoted them when appropriate, but didn’t base his life purpose and value on the words of the Greek poets.
Perhaps in our culture we make use of the technology and social media platforms for the sake of the Gospel, without liking or supporting social media influencers that promote a message contrary to the Gospel. As one church said, “We will do anything short of sin to reach people with the message of Jesus.” Adapting our approach to the culture DOES NOT mean we have to adopt everything in that culture.
2. We make use of our Christian freedom without compromising the Christian faith.
Forms of ministry and practice do flow from our faith in Christ and belief in the Bible. There are many clear aspects of Scripture that guide us. In no way are we wanting the Gospel to conform to culture, we desire the culture to conform to the Gospel. So again, if it does not compromise our Christian faith and beliefs, it is open for discussion.
Examples? We have chosen to use more current and contemporary music in our worship. It may not be everyone’s preference, but we make sure the lyrics do not proclaim messages contrary to the truth of Scripture. While the temptation may be to avoid “tough teachings” on sexuality, finances, or living together before marriage, we deal with these topics with a sensitivity to what people are struggling with, but with clarity of the truth of Scripture. Scripture always guides our freedom.
3. We leave our comfort zone to reach those leaving Christ.
Reaching a culture different than your own is challenging. We are always most comfortable in the culture in which we live or have created. The danger is we feel everyone should adjust and join our culture. The challenge is to leave our comfort zone to reach those leaving Christ.
Jesus hung out with Matthew and other tax collectors. Activity that was not socially acceptable by the religious leaders. Yet he did it not to find out how to cheat and steal like the tax collectors, but to call them from their lives of cheating to a life of following Jesus in honesty and truth. Hanging out with people who don’t think like us, act like us or look like us, may not always be on our comfort zone, but a love for the Gospel and the soul of each individual compel us to leave our comfort zone to reach those leaving Christ.
This is a tough value, but important one. God has put us at this time and this place and this culture to reach this people for Jesus.
It’s tough to be “all things to all men” but the reward is great as we share in the blessings of the Gospel.
Apply: What is one thing you might try this week that gets you out of your comfort zone to engage in a part of the culture that is different or foreign to you (without tempting you or causing you to sin!)
Prayer: Lord continue to work in my heart a passionate love for every soul to know you. Then give me wisdom and courage to engage the culture where I am able, not always where I am comfortable, to meet people where they are so you might bring them to where you are. AMEN.