Currently I am sitting in church on Sunday morning here in Panama. The speaker is from Panama and as such he is preaching in Spanish. While I understand some Spanish much of what he is saying is lost to me. I simply do not speak the same language that he does. While listening to him it occurred to me that perhaps much of what we do as the church is the same to those who are outside of the church. Much of what we do has no meaning to them. Perhaps even the language that we use means nothing to them. This is not because of a decision that they made but rather because of decisions that we made. Much of our church culture has no meaning to them. Because we have heard things like this before, this does not strike us as profound.
What does strikes me as profound is this question. When did it get to be this way? Jesus was absolutely and always relevant to his hearers. The things that he said did not have to be translated in order to be understood. While the full meaning of Jesus’ message took some time for many to realize, all of those that heard him speak were profoundly impacted in some way.
The New Testament church experienced the same impact. While not always accepted, these followers of Jesus were not irrelevant. They were speaking directly to the heart and consciousness of the people’s they were called to. It is precisely this same relevance that we are called to. I believe there is an ever-present need for us as the church to examine our methodologies to insure that we are actually communicating what we think we are communicating. The moment that our language or methods become foreign and as such incomprehensible to our target audience, we have a mandate to change. Should we refuse to do so because of the pain that this change causes us, we have forsaken our biblical mandate.
The challenge for me and you is to not make our meetings fit what we like, but rather seek the leading of the Holy Spirit to direct us to those methods and tools most able to communicate the eternal truth of God’s Word to today’s generations.