Do We Really Need to be Culturally Relevant?

(Lisa Robinson)

Every Sunday morning, I am transported to another place in time. There are no contemporary aesthetics, only architecture and relics that scream “church”. The pastor does not stand on a stage with cool graphics flashing in the background and deliver his sermon from a little round cafe table or no table at all. He stands behind a big wooden pulpit, you know the kind that churches used to use. The music consists of a blend of hymns (sung classic style) and more contemporary songs…well contemporary for 40 years ago. There’s no big screens to follow along, only hymn books and our worship guide. And there is an organ! When the pastor preaches, he does not bring up props or gimmicks and try to make the message cool. He exposits from a carefully selected text and preaches the word. He’ll use personal anecdotes only sparingly as it assists in the explanation of the text.

Now admittedly, I am new to the church. But I’ve been at this type of church before – small and seemingly unappealing to contemporary sensibilities (some differences in affiliation).  Yet, these two churches are probably the best I’ve encountered for progress in the faith. Why? Because I believe the focus is where it needed to be – on feeding the faith of God’s gathered people through gospel-centered preaching, rich biblical studies and the provoking of genuine fellowship. It hit me a couple of weeks ago that if someone who is accustomed to cool, hip, “culturally relevant” churches were to come into these folds, they might be turned off and wonder why the church is so far behind. There might be the question of how these kind of churches will attract people to them since they don’t have any symbolism of contemporary culture.

Tim’s video on not competing with the Superbowl plucked at some strings that have been bothering me for some time, which is this observation: there seems to be this prevailing mindset that if we don’t make the church culturally relevant that we might lose people. It can become the driving force. Buildings must look aesthetically pleasing. There must be the latest technology flashing cool graphics. Sancturaries…oops I mean worship centers must situate people comfortably and look modern. Preaching is designed to connect people through language and stories that appeal to our human sensibilities. Topical preaching is designed to show people how to cope with life in ways that are relevant, preaching relevant topics as one my friends said today on Facebook “series about raising children, spiritual disciples that I fail at, character improvement that I can’t muster up, a new series about erasing world poverty, based on the latest book that the pastor is reading.”

I’m going to suggest that when cultural relevance becomes a priority something gets lost in translation.  It does raise the question of the purpose of our gatherings and how much the church should accommodate seeker sensitivity. After all, isn’t it better to attract people on where they are? Well, I wrote about that here about designing ministry and liturgy around seeker sensitivity. No doubt, there will be seekers who come into our gatherings. But the church is designed for the believer so that they grow in the faith and experience genuine fellowship. It’s also important to see the church as an embassy vs a service provider, which I wrote about here. That takes clear articulation of the gospel-centered messages that provoke the heart to strengthen in faith. If one is truly converted it will necessarily change affections. That would lead to an interest in learning about the God they have now placed their trust and what that means for faith and practice.That means our churches should have a greater concern of faithfulness to the Christian message than faithfulness to cultural relevance.

Now to be clear, I am not opposed to having nice looking buildings, fancy technology or a great sounding band. But it is problematic when that becomes the impetus that drives what we do, especially with the goal to attract people. And I’m particularly disturbed when it affects preaching with the reasoning that people need cultural relevance. Then churches can become competitive to fill their flock and capitulate to the latest marketing technique.  Rather, if the goal is to attract people to the beauty of Christ and the proclamation of the gospel, then it seems there would be an impetus to remove any distraction to that message and just preach the word, point to Christ and tell people through his word what that means for them. I’m thinking that this would be better without reducing it to hip sound bytes or minimal messages to make their lives better.

Well to be fair, certainly there are those who enter into the fold not having had a previous churched background. I get that. But new believers need to be introduced to the language of faith and worship that is distinctly Christian without the priority of making it appealing. I fear that when we make everything we do ministry wise on appeal that the new or returning-to-church believer becomes conditioned to cultural relevance instead of language of faith. Taken too far, their multiplication may not be based on a sound message of faith but “come see how cool my church is”.

In RetroChristianity, Michael Svigel statement here rings true;

For too long evangelicals have been trying to update the church. Today they have tamed it by removing its offensive counter-cultural equivalents. The result is not an improvement to the church, but a weakening of it. (146)

So in response to the opening questioning? I would have to say no and in fact, it may not be the best thing at all.

76 Responses to “Do We Really Need to be Culturally Relevant?”

  1. The Apostle Paul did say that ” To the Jews I became a Jew that I may win some and to the Greeks I became Greek thast I may win some. Also the Gosples and Epistle of Paul and even the Book of Revelations are culturally relevant in terms of language, literary style and imagery. However at the same time the death of Jesus on a cross was not ‘culturally relevant” since a God nor a Massiah was not supposed to die this way. hence it was a foolishness and a stumbling block,.

  2. I see nothing wrong with packaging the message in a way that reaches the most people. A different style of music or delivery method is no different than using a different medium like TV, radio, or the Internet. We need to reach people both WHERE and HOW they are. 18th century traditions just don’t do that as effectively as they once did.

  3. Being totally modern and adaptive to culture works to some extent. But it does tend towards a dumbed down version of the faith, schmaltzy, child-like experience, like watching a concert on TV. The appeal wears off, after which you long for something counter cultural.

    It’s interesting, in the traditional countries, like Russia, people don’t feel the need for modernness to get people in. You could argue there are some who would come if it was so. Perhaps. But they are often attracted to it, then tire of it and revert to what is traditional.

  4. Kevin Henderson February 3, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    Your post seems to reinforce for me as to why I am so happy, and blessed to be CATHOLIC! We have the Seven Sacraments, including the Summit of TRUE Christian discipleship – the Holy Eucharist! Amen!

  5. Keith, what would you say about the changes that have happened in the Catholic church fairly recently? For starters, do you prefer the mass being in the vernacular or in Latin? Do you think Protestants are only “errant bretheren”, per Vatican II, or not? What about ECT? And do these things represent a shift toward cultural relevancy to some extent with the Catholic church?

  6. We need what you’re saying. HOWEVER …

    We also need what you’re warning against. There is no one right approach to church.

    I don’t know you, Lisa, but I suspect you typically go to a church that *isn’t* what you’re espousing … the old school, clear, simple hymnal-using, organ playing church. And if that’s true (again, I have no idea as I don’t know you), then what I think you’re experiencing is a taste of something GOOD that you miss where you currently are .. in your own home church. So let’s get hypothetical. Let’s say you switch to this church. And it’s 10 years down the road now. And you’re dry as a bone because a) you’re used to it, and b) your LIFE is in relevant culture and the church is a foreign culture to where you actually live.

    So, just for one weekend, you go another church … a church that ironically is just like the one you left 10 years earlier. And you get REFRESHED. And you write a post about how the church, while Christ-centered, is dusty and old and is failing to reach the world with the valuable message of Christ.

    I said all of that to say this … I agree with you!!! We NEED what you’re espousing. But not at the expense of what you’ve gotten used to. Is it flawed? To be sure, it is. It MUST BE because it’s earthly. But the embassy you speak of can be found in both places.

    An embassy is for those who want or need something from another country. It’s available, but there’s no compulsion to go to the embassy. People don’t die if they don’t go to the embassy. But Jesus … people NEED Jesus. To just passively sit by while the world marches to hell is not the right answer, either. It is “A” right answer, but it is not “THE” right answer.

    Do culturally relevant churches tend to bastardize the gospel, or at least risk it, in an attempt to reach more people? Yes. But are we better off with them or without them?

    I say we are better off with them.

  7. The short answer is yes, of course we do. But that does not mean we pick out one narrow slice of a culture and decide that is 100% of our world.

  8. Of course, these cultural trappings should not detract from or replace the gospel, but they most certainly can be used in an effective way. People who reject them totally and unquestionably are no better than those who embrace them totally and unquestionably. Everyone should examine their own situation and choose the tools that work.

  9. “But the church is designed for the believer so that they grow in the faith and experience genuine fellowship. It’s also important to see the church as an embassy vs a service provider”

    Thank you….our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God 1 Thess 1: 5-9

  10. I think the idea that “the church is for ME and MY needs and not for seekers” is behind a lot of the claims that the purpose of the church is to disciple Christians and observe the sacraments. But I believe that sets up a false dichotomy. Yes, the church does provide those important things for the believer. But the body of believers IS the church and OUR calling is to reach the world for Him. Inviting folks to church (or even just letting them know where WE go), if done at all, has replaced personal evangelism. And yet when the person that is seeking God goes to the place that our culture says He can be found, they are now being told by many in an indirect way that these gatherings are for US, not them. I have real issues with that. “Go tell” has been replaced with “Come visit” and they get there to find an exclusive club that focuses on the needs/desires of the members. And we then wonder why the church isn’t being the impact on society that it once was. /sigh

  11. As a pastor who preaches from behind a big wooden pulpit I say AMEN Lisa. The gospel was never meant to be popular – (only the Holy Spirit can make it appealing to those He calls) churches today try so hard to attract people through bells and whistles (or smoke and mirrors) that it is no wonder that most of this nation claims Christianity but don’t have the first clue about picking up their cross and following Jesus.

  12. But the flip side of the “big pulpits versus bells and whistles” debate is that for every person that is embracing the bells and whistles as “Christianity”, there a another that is embracing the tradition and big pulpits and funeral dirge music as “Christianity”. The very fact that we are having this debate on the Internet is evidence that the method of communication needs to evolve with the times.

  13. The church ought be counter-cultural. Since the culture always gets God wrong.

    The last thing we need at church is to have ourselves handed back to us.

    We something ‘extra nos’…from outside of ourselves.

  14. But that “cultural mirror” argument still conflates the message with the method in which it is communicated. The MESSAGE should be counter-cultural. But the method in which it is communicated should be culturally relevant. Gothic cathedrals with big pulpits and “Amazing Grace” sung in minor key just isn’t culturally relevant any more. If anything, it communicates that religion/church is something for our grandparents and great-grandparent’s generation.

  15. I’m going to have to agree with Daniel Eaton. As a 21 year old who came to Christ about 2 years ago, I was attracted to conferences, church events, and bible studies, because I felt that the people were relatable. They weren’t all in suits and ties and talk in monotone voices. They were culturally relevant but at the same time being counter-cultural. I was drawn in by their similar backgrounds and cultural relevance. However, they never watered down the Gospel. They preached to me that I was radically depraved and in need of a perfect Sacrifice. They told me the cost of Discipleship and that if I wanted to follow Christ, their would be a life-change. (2 Cor. 5:17) The made Jesus relatable to my life without changing what He demands from it. I don’t think either style of church is wrong, but saying that if society doesn’t like your style of Church, then they can leave… We might as well be the Pharisees. Jesus came to relate to sinners but make his message clear.

  16. I’m going to have to agree with Daniel Eaton. As a 21 year old who came to Christ about 2 years ago, I was attracted to conferences, church events, and bible studies, because I felt that the people were relatable. They weren’t all in suits and ties and talk in monotone voices. They were culturally relevant but at the same time being counter-cultural. I was drawn in by their similar backgrounds and cultural relevance. However, they never watered down the Gospel. They preached to me that I was radically depraved and in need of a perfect Sacrifice. They told me the cost of Discipleship and that if I wanted to follow Christ, their would be a life-change. (2 Cor. 5:17) They made Jesus relatable to my life without changing what He demands from it. I don’t think either style of church is wrong, but saying that if society doesn’t like your style of Church, then they can leave… We might as well be the Pharisees. Jesus came to relate to sinners but make his message clear. Hopefully, I’ve spoken in grace and truth. I don’t want to come off condemning or with anger.

  17. From the Adventures of Tom Sawyer:

    “The minister gave out his text and droned along monotonously through an argument that was so prosy that many a head by-and-by began to nod – and yet it was an argument that dealt with limitless fire and brimstone, and thinned the predestined elect down to a company so small as to be hardly worth the saving.”

    ANY method, taken to it’s extreme, is counter-productive. We need each other. As Daniel eaton alluded to, the MESSAGE needs to be counter-cultural (Christ-centered), but the METHODS can and should be varied (culturally relevant).

  18. Oh dear, I’m afraid I’ve communicated a dichotomy that I didn’t intend or something is getting missed in what I wrote. The question is not one of liturgical preference but what do believers actually need. So it’s not a matter of suit and tie vs casual or contemporary vs. traditional music. Having come from a church with a very good band, I’d actually prefer where I am now for the music portion to be better than what it is. What I’m addressing is idea that cultural relevance is needed to have a good church. If we think about what church is for, I contend that it is not. And if insist that it must be, something gets lost because then your capitulating to pragmatism.

    But I don’t want to give the impression that I’m flat out rejecting any kind of cultural relevance or that it can’t have any usefulness or that you shouldn’t want to relate to people. Maybe I came across a bit too dogmatic on that point where it looks like rejection.

  19. Are we saying then that the gospel has no power of it’s own?

  20. Camden, thanks for that comment brother. We all need to be shown grace and our need for a Savior.

  21. Lets not forget that the songs of the church the author is attending and the use of a big wooden pulpit #stevez are all examples of cultural relevance (just not to our present culture). In the 1st century preachers would have probably preached sitting down, as was the custom in the synagogue and the example of Christ (Matthew 5:1, 13:1-2; Luke 4:20). In this important discussion of priorities let us not make the mistake of upholding traditional cultural expressions as orthopraxy. And also let us not run headlong into “cultural” expressions of the gospel without careful examination of how the vehicle of the message might impact the content.

  22. Lisa, you say, “If we think about what church is for, I contend that it is not.” I think that is the core of the issue. What is church for? Is it to reach the lost or not? THAT is the more important question to me than whether it is for reaching the lost versus feeding the sheep. In order to REACH the culture, you have to RELATE to the culture. That requires relevancy. So I don’t understand how anyone can say that we should not be relevant unless they also say that we shouldn’t reach the lost. Perhaps you can expound on that a bit because I don’t think that is what you are saying. Should the church reach the lost, and, if so, how do they do that pragmatically without “capitulating” to pragmatism or, as others have put it, “compromising” with the world?

  23. Daniel, yes, it is the church’s mission to proclaim the gospel to the lost. But I contend that our gatherings are designed for the strengthening of the faith of believers (think Acts 2:42-44 and the pastoral epistles and Ephesians 3-4) so that they can individually and corporately accomplish the mission of the church. While our gatherings should certainly welcome seekers, I just don’t believe services should be designed around seekers. I know there’s a debate on that but that’s where I stand.

    Also, I’m not saying that we should not try to relate to people. Of course we should. What I’m saying is related to making everything that occurs in the production of church services catered around cultural relevance. Hope that makes sense.

  24. +1 for Ian – for he exactly hits the nail on the head.

  25. When you start to give people what they want, what they are used to…you’ll end up messing up the message , as well.

    You’ll no longer preach the Cross…but the message will naturally gravitate towards placing the sinner at the center.

    I see it all around me in these big churches with high entertainment and production values. It all revolves the person in the pew (auditorium chairs).

    Goodbye altar…hello rock (praise)band. Goodbye pulpit..hello stage with cool, hip (dressed and hairstyle) preacher. Goodbye sacraments…hello ‘your seriousness’.

    No thanks.

  26. This discussion shows that the church is a body. Some churches function in one way for one purpose, and others function in another for another purpose. Both have their natural strengths, and both have their natural “thorns in the flesh.”

    Becasue churches that place a high value on relevance have a natural “thorn in the flesh” (capitulating to pragmatism) doesn’t make them “a bad idea.” Rather it makes them a church with a thorn in the flesh, that NEEDS the other types of churches to function as a whole, healthy body of Christ.

    And vice versa.

  27. Can not that same way of thinking be applied to older styles of church services. If I say, “I’m not changing to be relevant ever!” is that not selfish and only thinking about what suitable for you?

    Sorry, but I can’t examine Jesus’s life through the Gospel and say he wasn’t trying to be relevant. Scripture clearly shows he was trying to relate to sinners, but telling them at the same time to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Let us not be narrow minded but seek to bring joy to others like Paul. Even if that means sacrificing what we like in church services.

  28. Lisa, in an historical context, the corporate gathering was the “us” time and they also had a priority of “go tell”. In that setting, both was going on. But today, we don’t have the door-to-door evangelism (unless you are JW or LDS). Instead, we leave the evangelism to the pastors and instead of “go tell”, we have a “invite/bring” kind of mentality where our evangelism is centered around the church as a building/gathering as opposed to church being disciples going and making disciples. So why can’t we have our sacraments and in-depth discipleship and such in Sunday School or on Sunday or Wednesday evening and use our 11am service, the ones that the seekers generally come check out, welcoming to them?

  29. I’m a little tired of people pushing for or against being culturally relevant. The truth is we need both kinds of churches. A church can look “cool” and have a lot of substance, while other churches look traditional and have little substance, and vice versa.

  30. I think the issue comes down to what the purpose of the church gathering is, as others have said. That is the issue. I think the church gathering on Sundays is mainly for believers. We should expect nonbelievers but the church is mainly for believers to be fed. And in terms of reaching the lost that is the job of individual Christians not the job of the Sunday morning gathering, mainly. It sounds like somewhere along the line we’ve taken the command to evangelize and given that responsibility to the sunday worship service rather than individual believers regularly evangelizing throughout the week.

  31. Daniel, like I said I know there is a debate about what our corporate services are supposed to do. I just don’t think that is the purpose for our gatherings. You mention dispensing sacraments outside of the corporate setting. But I see the service itself as sacramental and necessarily should include the sacramental components – preaching, baptism, communion. Now that doesn’t mean there is a welcoming of seekers or that they should not be addressed even in the sermon. And if the gospel is clearly preached, this will definitely invite seekers to place saving place in Christ.

    You seem to have this caricature of a church that is unwelcoming or inhospitable to seekers. That is not what I’m portraying at all. But when gatherings are geared towards fueling the faith of believers, I think that is even more beneficial to seekers because it paints a more robust picture of Christianity. So let’s say the seeker places saving faith in Christ. If all they’ve seen is everything hip and cool and teaching is watered down, that is what they will come to expect, generally speaking and might find a traditional bible study boring.

    Also, I do agree that there should be a difference between preaching from the pulpit and classroom Sunday School teaching.

    I’ll also reiterate what I wrote in the article gearing

  32. To Mike’s comment here: “ANY method, taken to it’s extreme, is counter-productive. We need each other. As Daniel eaton alluded to, the MESSAGE needs to be counter-cultural (Christ-centered), but the METHODS can and should be varied (culturally relevant).”

    I think that’s right. But here is what I’ve discovered happens when cultural relevance drives the method. I’ve seen exposition of passages reduced to almost nothing by muddling it with contemporary stories. And this from preachers I know had the capabilities to explain clearly what the passage means and can articulate the gospel in a way that doesn’t lose something. We seem to have this idea that to explain clearly means we have to dilute. I’ve seen both, the diluting and the clear articulation. The latter is more concerned with faithfulness than cultural relevance.

    As to Ray Nagle’s question, I think he rightly asks if we think the gospel has standing power of its own. The more we strive for cultural relevance, the more I’m afraid we’re treating the gospel like it can’t stand on its own. And let’s not forget, that no one comes to the Father unless the Holy Spirit draws them and that takes response to a message that presents what exactly they’re responding to.

  33. The key point in Lisa’s post (from my reading anyway) is this sentence:

    But it is problematic when that becomes the impetus that DRIVES what we do, especially with the goal to attract people.

    “DRIVES” is the operative word here. I think some of the comments focussed too narrowly on points the article did not necessarily advocate. The big picture is that when relevance DRIVES the philosophy of the church, it inevitably affects and shapes everything about its ecclesiology, preaching style and content, music style and content and its overall outlook, expression and how it relates to the world around it.

    “Seeker (sinner) sensitivity” is touted as a noble motive to be relevant (“reaching the lost”). The typical defence is “we haven’t compromised the message because we only changed the method”, but aside from a few notable exceptions, this only goes as far as wishful thinking and no further.

    “Relevance” in the rapidly evolving techno age is like a euphoric drug. Once you have a taste of it you want more and more to the point of addiction. The modern building will not be enough, neither will the large plasma screens. We have to upgrade to HD or 3D. “C’mon administrator, why is it taking so long to put the Q reader barcode on our newsletter?” Since Les Miserables is the buzz of the month let’s sing the sermon through this Sunday.

    The church staff spends Monday to Saturday trying to work out how to up the ante on Sunday. Once the church gets caught onto this cogwheel then relevance turns from a means to an end to an end in itself. It is no longer the slave to serve a higher purpose but the master (a demanding one at that). It drains church resources, finances, volunteer time and creates endless adminsitrivia.

    (John From Down Under)

  34. First, What IS the church?, not what is the church for. Framing the issue as “What is the church for?” is kind of like asking “What is my spouse for?” or “What are my children for”? I hope no one views their family as an organization or a program, and I hope no one questions the “relevance” of their family. Neither do I question if the church is relevant to Christ.

  35. John from Down Under, yes exactly!

  36. Tim Keller’s short read ‘“Preaching In A Secular Culture” is quite helpful in this discussion (at least as far as preaching goes).

  37. Lisa, I’m not advocating having the sacraments “outside the corporate setting”. My point is that we have multiple times during the week to gather. There is no reason why ALL of our gatherings have to cater to OUR needs/desires and not those of the seekers. We can focus on our desires and our preferred music at 9:30am or 7pm or on Wednesday nights or whenever, and still use the “invite/bring” method of evangelism that is popular in our culture and have one hour a week when we serve THEM and not have such a self-centered approach.
    And I know that it is possible to go to an extreme and caricature church as unwelcoming. And I don’t think we intend it to be that way. But there have been multiple studies done on what seekers are looking for. They want to be with a group that looks like them in a socio-economic way. They wonder if the will understand the language and relate to the music. And if they walk in and find folks dressed in what, to them, appears to be costumes or folks playing dress-up that sing songs in a genre totally unfamiliar to them with words that they don’t have a context for, they turn off and decide never to come back even before the three-point sermon behind some gothic pulpit ever starts. Those are the facts. We’ve created an environment so welcoming to “new creations” that it is totally foreign and unwelcoming to the “old creatures”. It’s not on purpose. But the result is just the same. We’ve told them, sometimes outright, that our needs are more important than theirs between 11am and noon on Sunday. Not sure I’d call that Christ-like. Well actually I am. But I won’t go there.

  38. JFDU… he shoots.. he scores! Well said mate.

  39. Lisa writes in a way that makes me think that her readers will know what she’s talking about. I would have liked to see some more depth as to exactly what she’s thinking about when she says “culturally relevant”. Sound systems and microphones aren’t “culture”. Using rock & roll to replace hymns would be (I think).

  40. @Airen

    all choice of music is based on cultural preference, including hymns. Pulpit style, use of technology, method of preaching – all culturally based.

    What should not be culturally based is what we preach, not how we preach it.


    This is one of those issues so overwrought with emotion, in particular on the fundy side, definitions up front would be good. Anything labeled “relevant” gets tossed in the heretic pile, never mind the fact that all fundy preaching style is a culturally based decision. And so is much of the content, imho.

  41. Here is an interesting article at TGC regarding the church that I think fits in with this discussion

    David, what do you mean by fundy preaching? I think there is a difference between faithfully preaching the word and preaching against culture. I’m not referring to the latter. FWIW I go to a PCA church.

    Also, I’m not advocating that Christians should be against culture or that we should not interact with it. I’m simply referring to what occurs in our corporate gatherings and not being driven to be culturally relevant but faithful. That doesn’t mean a flat out rejection of anything symbolic of the contemporary culture but it’s not considered necessary. Hope that makes sense.

  42. I am amazed at how little scripture is used in the arguments above. Lisa and a couple of others have biblical backing for their comments, Mr Eaton, with all due respect, you haven’t given me any examples from scripture that I have seen (if I missed them I apologize.) Lisa is absolutely right – Acts 2 shows what the earliest church was doing, they were not seeker sensitive. I am not saying that we must never be seeker sensitive but Paul outlines the exact meaning of what the church is all about -Ephesians 4:11–14 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

    My responsibility as pastor is to preach to and teach the saints – (and no, I do not ‘need’ a pulpit, but my church has one, and yes, of course I am interested in being culturally relevant, but I start in the word, not in the world.) the churches job i.e. the body – is to evangelize, witness, live out Christ in the world and make disciples. (of course it is my job as well, just not for the most part as we gather as church i.e. (again) mostly believers) Church is flat out for immature disciples on their way to being mature. Not that non-believers aren’t welcome but Paul indicates that this is the exception rather than the norm in 1 Cor. 14 (22-23)

    I guess I am just asking for more biblical proof in your arguments rather than everyone’s own opinion.

  43. @SteveZ: If we are going to make the argument that the fundy style is the Biblical one based on some references in Acts, I’d love to see where big round pulpits and sanctuaries and hymns sung to 150 year old bar tunes is what Acts is talking about. As David points out, what we see as old and traditional and “Biblical” is nothing more that the culturally relevant trappings from a century or more ago. So it is no more or less Biblical than any other approach. But it is absurd to suggest that 18th century methods are “Biblical” and 21st century methods are somehow not.

  44. Are you suggesting, Adam, that having some service on Sunday Night is some Biblical requirement and that if you choose NOT to have one every once in a while that you are listening to the World and not God? Why don’t we make the same issue with, I don’t know, Tuesday mornings? Are you at work or home, or are you in God’s House? Does that say something about YOUR priorities? If not, they why does the logic change when we talk about 7pm on Sunday evening?

  45. @Steve, I don’t understand your reference to 1 Corinthians 14:22-24. It says that tongues are not only a sign for UNBELIEVERS, but that it is better to prophesy so that the UNBELIEVER is convicted. Just how is this a proof text that “Church is flat out for immature disciples”? Can you elaborate on that?

  46. Daniel, I think you’re refuting something Steve did not address. He’s not upholding nor is what I wrote promoting “fundy style” preaching (whatever that is). He merely stated that our corporate gatherings are for the believer and whatever we do should be in accordance with growing the faith of the believer, which does get to the heart of what I tried to express.

  47. My reference to “fundy” was a characterization of service style that is NOT contemporary or “culturally relevant”, but more traditional in nature – ie culturally relevant to the 19th century. Maybe I should have used a different term, but in my experience growing up in fundamentalist churches, they ALL had that same “traditional” style and, I believe, that STYLE gets conflated with the “fundamentals”. Where I disagree with Steve is (1) the assertion that the focus on discipleship is the primary purpose of the church and (2) that a focus on the current flock is the “Biblical” approach. I see no reason why we can’t have both evangelism AND discipleship going on in our gatherings. How it is somehow more Biblical to maintain the service where most visitors and seekers would show up as something that is intended as a spectator event where they watch the flock get fed in some 18th or 19th century style as opposed to reaching THEM? Steve complained that I wasn’t using Scripture to back up my point. But my point is that Scripture cannot logically be used to back up HIS point and no one here from the “traditional” side seems to want to address the logic of this argument. Why can’t we do our discipleship in small groups in Sunday School and in in-depth expository preaching on Sunday evenings and have our sacraments and such then and have one hour a week, the one most likely to be attended by the lost, to focus on THEIR needs in a way that THEY relate to?

  48. Fundy Preaching has any of the following (sometimes all) attributes or topics:

    Skirt Length, card playing, dancing, drinking, KJV Only, flag waving, southern reconstructionist, quiverfull, women in their place, men need to be men, evolution is satanism hamites, calvinism extremists, IFB’rs and where only men can be leaders, etc.

  49. David, definately NOT what I’m talking about and in fact, misrepresents it. I’m going to punt to John from Down Under’s comment and say that is what I was trying to communicate.


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