If the Christian Church is to be relevant in the year 2010, such relevancy will be discovered not in altering its core values but rather in finding afresh its true identity. The modern Church is viewed by many as an agent of intolerance and by others as a self-help success program. It has become increasingly difficult to find the correlation between the faith of our fathers and the confused, anemic faith of today.
Jesus challenged those who had reduced faith to a list of rules. He was criticized for purposefully associating with sinners and condemned for offering forgiveness to those caught in the act. He showed seriousness of sin not by pointing fingers but by hanging on a cross on behalf of those who were guilty. The scriptures declare that the identifying mark of a follower of Jesus is this same love. Today relativism rules over absolutes. Amidst an unparalleled ignorance of the Bible people are creating their own religion. The results are a form of godliness that lacks power.
In order for the church to be relevant in 2010 it must find its identity in Jesus and become scripturally literate. As it returns to its original mission the focus will not be on self but on others. Not on wealth but on worship and the worth of the soul. The early church was known as being composed of those who turned the world upside down. In other words, they challenged the status quo. They effected change by focusing on the person of Jesus. Their goal was not self advancement but the advancement of the Kingdom of God.
There is hope to be found in this new generation of believers. They are not interested in religion so much as a relationship with God. They have a justice streak and a global prospective. They desire authenticity. Armed with an understanding of scripture, they will act upon convictions going beyond mere words.
The Church will be most Christ-like when its collective voices are used not to condemn homosexuals but to eradicate AIDS.
Their efforts will be most effective when they are focused not on personal prosperity but on the poverty that grips about one billion people worldwide.
They will be most persuasive when they model lives of personal integrity and therefore have a moral voice to stem the tide of the sex trade that degrades the human race.
The Bible uses figurative speech describing light that is hidden under a bush and salt that has lost its flavor to warn the Church against isolationism and impotence. The Church is not an institution or a building but rather the followers of Jesus Christ who have been forever changed by Gods’ forgiveness and love.
If Christians will remember their true identity, become fully engaged in their generation and properly represent God’s heart, the question of relevancy will become mute.
Rev. Bill Shuler is pastor at Capital Life Church in Arlington, Virginia and a frequent contributor to the Fox Forum.