What makes a church relevant?

Discussion in '2004 Archive' started by Daniel David, Mar 11, 2004.

  1. Daniel David

    Daniel David
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    I saw the expression the other day and thought I would open the idea up for discussion.

    What are the N.T. commands for the church?

    In no particular order:

    1. Evangelism
    2. Worship
    3. Prayer
    4. Fellowship
    5. Missions
    6. Preaching
    7. Edification
    8. Reading
    9. Singing
    10. Giving
    11. ________

    The list could continue, but fill in as you desire.
     
  2. All about Grace

    All about Grace
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    Relevance is a separate issue than purpose or theology (IMHO). You can do each of the things you have listed and be totally irrelevant.

    Here's one for you DD. You'll love this.

    I believe that there are three primary elements of relevant ministry: context, presentation, and content. I will only elaborate upon the first at this point b/c it seems most "relevant" to the discussion.

    Context is the physical environment where ministry happens.

    Context determines appeal (either the environment is appealling or unappealling). And culture and stage-of-life determine what is visually and audibly appealing. The context of ministry should be shaped by culture. There is no one-size-fits-all ministry context.

    An appealing environment does not equate to relevant ministry but it is one element of it. The other two are equally important, but we can discuss one at a time and often this first one is the most controversial.
     
  3. Daniel David

    Daniel David
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    SBC, with a little more detail, could you explain how a church could do those things listed and still be irrelevant.
     
  4. All about Grace

    All about Grace
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    Because relevance involves all three elements and not just one. A church can have all of the right content but if they fail to be engaging (presentation) and appealing (context), they fail to be relevant.

    Information that you aren't convinced you will ever need is PERCEIVED as irrelevant (whether it is or not). I can provide a slate full of truths to a congregation but if I fail to do so in an engaging way, I become irrelevant (in that they will not "get it").

    That ought to get you going DD.
     
  5. Pastor Larry

    Pastor Larry
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    I think the other side of that, SBC, is that we can be very relevant without being biblical. Churches are often trendy, and as one professor said, "There is nothing less relevant than a trendy church." We should not chase fads of culture.

    I think the major point of being relevant is being able to take Scripture and relate it to people's everday lives. I think you are right that information that we are convinced we will ever need is perceived as irrelevant. The problem is that many pastors don't convince the audience why it is necessary.

    In contemporary preaching, there are two forms of laziness. On the one side is the laziness of the preacher who is too lazy to do the exegetical work in Scripture. He simply looks at what people might like to hear and talks about that. On the other side is the preacher who is too lazy to think about what his congregation needs to do with the text. "We shouldn't do that" is not enough. We need clear application and accurate exegesis.
     
  6. All about Grace

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    Larry: I think the other side of that, SBC, is that we can be very relevant without being biblical.

    SBC: That's why content is one of the three elements. I can be engaging and appealing but if what I am saying is not helpful, I fail to be relevant.

    I would argue that in my opinion content is not the primary problem with most evangelical churches. Most evangelicals are speaking the truth. They are simply not engaging the audience. They fail to answer the "so what" question.

    Larry: I think the major point of being relevant is being able to take Scripture and relate it to people's everday lives. I think you are right that information that we are convinced we will ever need is perceived as irrelevant. The problem is that many pastors don't convince the audience why it is necessary.

    SBC: I can agree with this (although I probably would not limit effective preaching to a certain style as you would). I believe the content of ministry should be shaped by need. And here is where many who oppose felt needs preaching often miss the point. Needs are both felt and hidden. It should be my goal to meet people at their point of need, but it should also be my goal to help them see their hidden needs (my two key questions for this: what do they not know that they need to know? & how can I convince them that they need to know it?) Obviously I am not dismissing the work of the Spirit here, but in reality I need to prepare as if it were all up to me and depend as if it were all up to God. BALANCE. IMHO needs based preaching is not wrong if it is balanced between felt needs and hidden needs.

    Larry: In contemporary preaching, there are two forms of laziness. On the one side is the laziness of the preacher who is too lazy to do the exegetical work in Scripture. He simply looks at what people might like to hear and talks about that. On the other side is the preacher who is too lazy to think about what his congregation needs to do with the text. "We shouldn't do that" is not enough. We need clear application and accurate exegesis.

    SBC: I agree with this assessment. At the same time, I believe the clear exegesis is my primary responsibility in PREPARATION. Far too many pastors spend time telling the hearers about the exegetical content and far too little time telling them how you apply God's Word to everyday life.

    I like the illustration of being thrown overboard on a rafting trip. When I was in the water, I could care less about the history or etymology of the paddle. What I wanted was for someone to reach that paddle into the water and pull me out.
     
  7. Pastor Larry

    Pastor Larry
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    SBC,

    I think there are a lot of evangelical churches with little or no real content. One lady attended my church for a while, driving almost an hour to get there because at the big mega church she was attending she wasn't learning anything. She didn't realize it until she heard me preach at a funeral for a relative of hers. Another lady who has been a believer for 50 years (now in her late 60s) said that never in all of church attendance has she learned like she is learning now. I hear preaching from time to time on the internet or various places. What I have heard is not impressive. So, while I can't speak for every church, the preaching that I have heard or heard about leaves much to be desired in terms of biblical content.

    I don't have a problem with needs based preaching per se, so long as it addresses real needs and give solid biblical solutions to it. Too often, I fear it is nothing but feel-goodism attached to a line from Scripture.

    What certain style do you think I would limit effective preaching to? (Just curious).
     
  8. All about Grace

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    When I speak of content, I simply mean that most evangelical pastors have a head knowledge of truth. They believe the right things in other words. Where they are failing is in presenting that truth in an engaging and helpful way. This can come in two primary forms: pastors who preach the same hobby horses over and over (salvation, separation, soulwinning). This type of preaching characterized the IFB movement for years. Or on the other hand, those who preach all fluff with no content. I would argue that those who fall in the second category usually offer some type of spiritual growth opportunities in some other form (such as small groups or believer-focused services). Whether the people take advantage of these opportunities is up to them.

    In my opinion, most evangelical churches still fall within the first category. Many contemporary model churches get a lot of the "press" but I still believe the average evangelical church is surviving on the same grain the shepherd has served for years.

    As an avid student of and part of the contemporary model (even though the name does not always portray accurately the model), it is my contention that the CM has come full circle and those now carving the path are far more concerned about solid content. To understand the model, one must examine the full picture. Most of these type churches have a broader picture in mind than simply what you might hear on the internet on an average Sunday morning.

    Your caution "I fear it is nothing but feel-goodism attached to a line from Scripture" may be true of some but those leading the way have a different perspective.

    Larry: What certain style do you think I would limit effective preaching to?

    I would assume expository preaching.
     
  9. Jeffrey H

    Jeffrey H
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    Plenty of donuts & coffee. :D
     
  10. superdave

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    Church is relevant because the local church is God's plan for spreading the gospel and discipling.

    There is nothing we can do to make church "relevant" or "irrelevant"

    That being said, I think you have to evaluate your ministry for its purpose...

    ...and have donuts and coffee
     
  11. Daniel David

    Daniel David
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    Dave, are you saying that a church can simply stick to the partial list of things I mentioned that are pulled from the Scripture and not need anything else to be relevant?

    Put another way, if the church is concentrating on those things listed, can they help NOT being irrelevant?
     
  12. vaspers

    vaspers
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    DD I really like how you expressed something that has bugged me for decades.

    Your analysis of two types of preaching: 1. harping obsessively on three topics (salvation, separation, soul-winning) and 2. fluff, with occasional "special programs" for spiritual growth.

    Here DD are topics NOBODY preaches on:

    l. Witchcraft/occult/psychics/etc.
    2. Gluttony (don't upset fat big tithing members)
    3. Gang membership (how fellowship is craved)
    4. Drugs
    5. Gambling
    6. Cults
    7. Hypnotic and persuasive con job techniques
    8. How to spot a false prophet/evangelist/angel of light/wolf in sheep's clothing
    9. Caring for widows, pooor, elderly, handicapped, orphans, etc.
    10. Intercessory prayer
    11. How to witness to devotees of other faiths
    12. How eternal rewards are obtained, and how their existence means heaven will not be the same for everyone (A LIFE GOD REWARDS by Bruce Wilkinson, I don't like Prayer of Jabez new agey idea, but this seminar & book--YEAH way to go Bruce!)
     

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