The world is a far different place than it was just ten years ago. It’s almost unrecognizable compared to fifty years ago. I think the same social problems exist (poverty, hate, racism, greed, sexual sin, etc.) but they kind of manifest in different ways. For instance, in biblical times, prostitutes freely roamed the streets. Today, porn freely dominates the internet. Drinking a lot was still there, but today, it is advertised about every five seconds on TV and Facebook. I guess the point I’m making is that things are still the same, but they are manifest differently in different cultural settings.
The Church is actually the same—in some instances. Look throughout the history of the Christian Church. It has always adapted to the setting and culture it was in. That’s what makes Christianity such an amazing faith; it transcends social, political, economic, and cultural bounds. It’s too big to be held in one cultural framework. Now, when I say it adapts, I don’t mean conform. God creates culture, He doesn’t bow to it.
I think it’s extremely important that we never forget this. While the Gospel and doctrine (those things which are a direct command of God) don’t and can’t change, methodology does. I would actually venture to say that is has to. Methodology is the way we present the Gospel and doctrine. Think about it like this: what if one day you showed up to worship and someone got up to make an announcement. They said, today, and from now on, when we are gathered in this building we can only sing songs from 1611, we have to pray in Elizabethan English, preach in Elizabethan English, and read the Authorized 1611 King James Version. Understand that I’m not knocking the KJV or anything like that, I’m just making a point that you can visualize. How many people would that connect with? Say you’d never heard the Gospel in 2011 and you came to a congregation like the one above…would you honestly understand what was happening? That kind of English is literally a foreign language to us today, is it not?
Paul illustrates this when he wrote to the Corinthian Church:
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people 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.(1Cor. 9:19-23).
Now, you can get a lot of great “gold nuggets” out of this passage, but I really am led to believe that the overwhelming point that God is making through Paul is this: you can’t reach everyone in the same way. There isn’t a cookie-cutter approach to evangelism, outreach, or culture. We have to adapt the methods we use to where we are. Some bottle up at the idea. I understand. It’s hard to do things differently or even to think about doing something a smidge different. However, God calls His people to be led by the Spirit, and the Spirit is always creating and moving.
This week, I want to challenge you to ask God to lead you into a place that may not be comfortable. A place we like to avoid. That place is the “unknown.” Whether it be thinking about doing a new ministry, trying a different approach to outreach or service, or just changing the translation of the Bible you read for a little while, let God lead you. He creates and adapts culture, not us. God never called us to put time in a bottle, as Jim Croce sings. He didn’t put a freeze on His people in the 1st century. God is a Creator, and a living God—not a frozen relic. I challenge you to pray that God will lead you into something new this week. Let God do the leading and you do the following. Just something to think about. – Scott