The Church for years has been labeled irrelevant. Christians are seen as people who hold to an ancient and old-fashioned religion that really does nothing but hold people back from doing what they want to do. The culture around the church has in many places moved into a post-Christian era, a scary place for Christians to minister to people in.
How do you minister to a group of people who think that there are beyond you and what you believe? The problem is that the Church has not noticed this and in most situations is still trying to prove that it is right. So the culture around us sees us as even more irrelevant. It’s a huge downward spiraling cycle that continues to move the Church farther and farther away from being effective in the culture around it.
If the church wants to succeed it needs to get beyond the fact that Christianity is right. Being right and wrong is not something that matters as much in our world, and something that should not even be a concern in our lives. (Besides if we are always trying to prove we’re right, then the Church becomes a place of conflict instead of a place of healing and help.)
All the way back in the Old Testament, we see the Hebrew nation was commanded to look out for the poor, the fatherless and the widow.
• The Torah commands farmers to not harvest their fields completely so that those who do not have may gather for themselves.
• There are extensive areas in how to protect the rights of women.
• There are commands to make sure children have fatherly influences in their lives.
These commands are the primary moral obligations that the people of God were given. There is no doubt that there is an emphasis on righting the social injustices of the world. The problem with Israel is that they continued to forget this, and the prophets kept reminding them. Isaiah in the very first chapter of his book writes a very harsh condemnation to the people because they have neglected the poor, the fatherless, and the widow.
Jesus followed this line of thought with an emphasis on putting others first. He condemns the teachers in the temple (Mark 11) for just this. Jesus in verse 17 quotes two Old Testament passages, Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11. Many people think these comments were references to the entire passages, a sort of rabbinical style of conversation. These passages would then be comments about how the leaders of Israel have neglected the people that they were supposed to be taking care of and looking out for themselves.
Much of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, & Luke especially) have Jesus talking about what he calls the “Kingdom of God.” He describes this kingdom as a place where people focus on the needs of other first. A place where generosity is focused on and where coming in first is not the major concern, a place where our world is literally turned upside down.
Jesus as he ascended into heaven, gave the directive to his disciple to: “Go and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded.” What has Jesus commanded us to do? He has commanded us to teach people about this upside down Kingdom!
The problem with the Church is that so often it has mixed up teaching about the Kingdom of God with teaching the correctness of the Kingdom. We’re not called to prove its existence but to live it out. This is how we lose our relevancy to culture. We get into groups and we write out statements of our beliefs and then never let it leave our Church doors. We build amazing buildings where we can worship, but never improve the condition of the people’s lives around us. And all this is done thinking that it is what Jesus would have wanted us to do.
The book of James sums this conversation up. James 1 ends with this comment-“Religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after the orphans and the widows in their distress and to keep ones self from being polluted by the world.”
Our mission if we should decide to accept it is to be concerned with the well-being of others around us!