I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. | Romans 12.1-2
This week I preached on the death of Jesus. The ultimate sacrifice. The atonement. The source of justification. Over the last few decades, it has become popular to downplay these terms. There has been a movement to stop using such ‘churchy’ words. In order to increase the spread of the gospel, we are told that the gospel needs to change to fit the culture: CONTEXTUALIZE.
There is some truth to this. If we use terms, but never define or describe them, we are doing a disservice. If we simply tell people that Jesus saves them from their sins, without telling them how He saves them or what sins are, we aren’t really evangelizing. I would say that if all we are doing is contextualizing, we aren’t really doing the work either. If we spend all of our time trying to create a gospel that makes sense to people, we are probably leaving a good portion of the actual gospel behind.
This came to a head a few weeks ago when a pastor of one of the largest churches in America went on a rant in his sermon about how parents who did not take their kids to a church that their kids like are selfish:
When I hear adults say, “Well I don’t like a big church, I like about 200, I want to be able to know everybody,” I say, “You are so stinking selfish. You care nothing about the next generation. All you care about is you and your five friends. You don’t care about your kids [or] anybody else’s kids” … If you don’t go to a church large enough where you can have enough middle schoolers and high schoolers to separate them so they can have small groups and grow up the local church, you are a selfish adult. Get over it. Find yourself a big old church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people and grow up and love the local church. Instead… you drag your kids to a church they hate, and then they grow up and hate the local church.
This pastor later apologized for these comments saying he was not trying to insult or demean the work of small church pastors (which I accept). What he was doing, however, was revealing the ethos behind contextual Christianity. It says: create an environment and language for Jesus that people can understand and appreciate and they will love Him. If you can get them to enjoy church, they will love God. Will they? This is horribly backwards; it makes churches and pastors much more important to God than they actually are.
The church IS important, but it is important because it is fueled by the Spirit. The Spirit takes very normal things: like preaching, serving, and caring, and turns them into world changing endeavors. The Spirit takes very churchy things and makes them eternal. HOW? By connecting us to the eternality of Jesus. By changing us from people who care about being liked to people who know we are loved. The only way to do that is to learn God’s language. You can spend all of the time in the world trying to turn Christianity and the church into something that kids like and the culture is accepting of, OR you can be transformed by the renewal of your mind. The job of the church (and thus the Christians who make it up) is to introduce people to Jesus and to get to know Him as He has already presented Himself in the Bible.
Your kids may hate it, but they will be educated enough to know what they are rejecting. The other option is to keep them amused, while never really knowing if they have heard the gospel. If the excitement level of a hormonal, emotionally confused teenager is a the measure of our faithfulness, God help us all. It is certainly a far cry from: that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.