I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
–2 Tim 4:1-2
According to Anchorsaway, a non-denominational organization located in Indianapolis, between 69% – 91% of all college students fall away from their faith – and very few return. (Anchorsaway) Astounding, for it means with every passing generation people are moving farther and farther away from the church.
Even relying upon the low end of these numbers leads to a disastrous conclusion – churches are not preparing young people – or any age for that matter – to meet the challenges and influences of today’s culture. The final reason why the church has become irrelevant is that it has failed to provide any foundation for its members, nor is it training its members in how to engage the culture around us.
Consider for example the following questions:
- Why is the Lordship of Jesus Christ unique among all faiths of the world? Does that mean that the faithful followers of other religions who are trying to do good things perish?
- How do we rectify the Gospel’s overwhelming message of peace with gun ownership? On the other hand, how do we react to a physical threat to our families and loved ones if so confronted?
- Can we separate faith from practice? Can we proclaim that we believe one thing, but will not pass laws that “push” that faith on others?
- If we are believe homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle, how do we justify that with Scripture? If we believe it is a sin, how does that measure up to Christ’s chief message of love?
The majority of Christians today probably would not be able to answer these questions. When pressed, they usually end with “Well, that is just what I believe,” or “I just feel that to be right.” Neither statement works – and ultimately ends in a moral relativism that neither wins hearts to Christ nor advances His kingdom on earth.
In order to become relevant, the church must stop teaching “what” to think and instead start focusing on “why” we believe what we do. For example, it is simple enough to say “Jesus is God” in our worship every week. It is not so simple a matter to wrestle with the idea that God – the Eternal and Undying – died on the cross. At church children learn the ideas of a divinely created universe, but the rest of the week they are bombarded with an idea of evolution that has no plan. Conservative churches are taught conservative views and liberal churches are taught liberal views without stopping to ask critical questions that would help to understand both.
It is no wonder that Christians get mowed through like soldiers on Normandy when faced with today’s cultural issues. The church has failed to give them the necessary critical thinking skills to address these challenges. Thus, faced with well-thought through philosophies or science, is it any wonder why people do not look to the undisciplined church for any guidance in moral or practical choice?
The increasing non-persuasive value of the church is not, and has not, been an act of culture. The church has abandoned its role as an ambassador of the Kingdom of God and has allowed itself to become marginalized and disregarded as just one voice among many. Until the church – its pastors, elders, and members – actively and intentionally take up their roles as the salt of the earth, it will continue its downward decline towards irrelevance.
Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.
Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses while the coward stands aside,
Till the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.
By the light of burning martyrs, Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
Toiling up new Calv’ries ever with the cross that turns not back;
New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth,
They must upward still and onward, who would keep abreast of truth.
Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.
-James R. Lowell
Anchor Photo: Leo Reynolds