By: Brian Chilton | February 23, 2017
Today after finishing my message for Sunday, I was perusing the halls of social media when an article caught my attention. I noticed that Rob Bell is at it again. Bell is no stranger to controversy. Bell recently denied the existence of hell in his infamous book Love Wins. According to the Independent Journal Review, Bell stated on a recent edition of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday concerning the church’s acceptance of same-sex marriage,
“I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles, and co-workers and neighbors, and they love each other and just want to go through life with someone” (Bell, IJR, 2015).
While the article and the statements of Bell are nearly two years old, his comments represent a bizarre push by some to see the modern church become relevant for an everchanging culture. Their idea of relevancy, like Bell’s, comes by changing the message of the Gospel, or by changing universally ethical principles presented in God’s Word, to meet cultural trends and expectations. But the more I began thinking about the topic, the more it came to me that the Gospel message has never been relevant to society if relevance means acceptance of cultural norms. By this, I mean to say that the Gospel seeks to transform society. The Gospel is relevant as it pertains to pointing one to eternal life. However, unregerate culture will never see the Gospel as relevant to its cause. Therefore, the church cannot make the Gospel relevant by changing its message to adopt to cultural norms. Why?
1. The Gospel is foolish to unbelievers.
The apostle Paul put it best when he said, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). So, answer me this: how can we make something that appears foolish become non-foolish? Some will try to change the message. Some will try to lighten the demands of the Gospel. However, the Gospel must remain intact if it is to have the power of God. The Gospel is God’s plan for humanity, not ours. It is not for us to change the message. Methodologies change, yes. But the Gospel never changes. Perhaps this is why Paul notes that “We are fools for Christ” (1 Cor. 4:10).
2. Social relevance leads to lukewarmness.
Among the seven churches listed in Revelation, the worst was the Church of Laodicea. This was a church that, I believe, employed the same principles that Bell suggests. Jesus’ words for Laodicea were intense. Jesus said,
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked…Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent” (Revelation 3:15-17, 19).
Cold water was used for drinking. Hot water was used for baths and alleviated certain ailments. Lukewarm water was good for nothing. Craig S. Keener writes, “When speaking of water, both hot and cold are thus useful and pleasant. the point of lukewarm water, by contrast, is simply that it was unpleasant, useless, and disgusting–thus Jesus spits it out” (Keener, NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, 2227). If the church tempers the message of the Gospel and the Word of God to remain culturally relevant, it loses its first love and will become lukewarm and useless.
3. The Gospel is at odds with society.
The Christian can not expect society to completely embrace the Gospel unless all in that particular society has obtained a transformed heart. If the church seeks to become popular within society, either the Gospel message must change or society must change. If the Gospel message truly comes from God, then it is not for us to change. God and God alone can change the hearts of humanity. Since the Gospel demands the sinner to face his or her sin, the Gospel will always confront the person where they are. A Gospel without repentance is not the Gospel. Jesus tells us, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).
I wholeheartedly believe that the church must do everything in its power to preach, teach, and defend the truth of God. This may require different methods and tactics. The Gospel is…and always will be…relevant to each person as the means by which a person is saved. However, the church must never change the Gospel message to remain relevant to society. So, here’s my advice for the church: stop trying to become relevant and start trying to become faithful! We cannot save anyone. We cannot make the Gospel pleasant to those who do not want to hear. God can save. God has given humanity the means to salvation. So, let us stop this nonsensical poppycock of trying to make the Gospel culturally relevant. Rather, let us focus on the unchanging message, planned by God, before the foundation of the world. That message is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That message is relevant for all people, in all places, for all time.
Read the entire article at the IJR by clicking the following link: http://ijr.com/2015/02/254052-christian-pastor-rob-bell-advice-church-can-stay-relevant-including-bible/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social
Scripture used in this article was taken from the New International Version.
Brian Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com and is the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University, his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University, received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, and hopes to work on doctorate studies soon. Brian is the pastor of Huntsville Baptist Church in Yadkinville, North Carolina.
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