Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Virtue of Nonconformity

One of the truisms that runs around the church today is that we need to be relevant and meet people where they are at. There is truth to this. Standing in a corner, speaking our own language, and keeping people at arms length is not the way to reach them. But we must also remember that if we have nothing radical or life changing to say to our culture, we are irrelevant. If we are merely echoes of what others say, if we have no message for those around us, we might as well stay home on Sunday and sleep in. I am convinced that the main reason the liberal denominations are losing people like a sieve is they have become so much an echo of the world around them that they have become incidental to people's lives. There once was a time when it was considered respectable to go to church and people would go just because it was expected of them. Those days are long since gone. If we do not have something to offer them, why should they bother?

Now Scripture says that the message of the cross is a stumbling-block (1 Corinthians 1:18-25; Romans 9:32,33; 1 Peter 2:7,8) and that we are not to be surprised if the world rejects us (John 15:18-21; 16:1-4; Matthew 10:17-22). But we are to love and do good to all (Luke 10:25-37; Matthew 5:43-48; Galatians 6:9,10) and to deal with them in a spirit of gentleness (2 Timothy 2:24-26; 1 Peter 3:15; Colossians 4:5,6). This is a hard balance to find, but we must avoid the extremes. We must avoid simply trying to give people whatever they want, leaving ourselves with nothing to say. Or we can try to hide within the walls of our church, only accepting those who are willing conform to our preferences. Rather, we need to evaluate whether people are rejecting our message or rejecting us and the way we do things. We need to build bridges to people by changing the incidentals and keeping the message. Now ultimately no one comes to God unless God works in their hearts (John 6:44; 2 Corinthians 4:3,4; Acts 16:14). But it is still our job to present the message in the best way we can to reach people. And if we simply water down the message to meaninglessness, we are not doing our jobs.       


  1. " This is a hard balance to find, but we must avoid the extremes."

    So true Mike. I wonder if our message should include an equal amount of listening and speaking. Sometimes love is best communicate with the ears rather than the mouth. Food for thought.

    1. I have to agree that if we do not honestly listen to what the other person has to say it is hard to know where he is really coming from. Much harm can be done by trying to win an argument rather than showing actual love and concern for the other person and one key way to do the is to listen to them.