We hear much talk today of the need for the church to adapt itself to the world if it is to effectively impact society. In fact, we hear it so much that it has almost become a mantra to many church leaders. In my devotional reading I am reading the classic, The Christiam Mind, by Harry Blamires. Published in 1963 this book still has much to say to Christians and to the church today. Here is an except from the book that speaks to today's post.
There is a limited, specialized sense in which it is true that the Church must adapt itself to the modern world. But over a whole range of controversial issues - and in the deepest and most controversial sense - it is rather true that, far from the Church adapting itself to the modern world, the modern world must adapt itself to the Church...For if the Christian faith is true, and the Christian Church the authoritative vehicle of salvation in time, then it is the most urgent, inescapable need of the modern world to adapt itself to the Church.
As I say in my workshops, one of the primary reasons unchurched people avoid church is that they consider it irrelevant to the time. In some ways, they are correct. We often spend time answering questions that no one is asking, and we do not spend enough time addressing the needs of the day. However, ultimately, the church can never be irrelevant because at its best it is answering the timeless questions that all people ask at some time in their lives. It also cannot be irrelevant because the morals, ethics, and values it teaches are timeless as well. Critics of the church say that the church must adapt to the realities of the age, but I believe that Blamires is correct when he insists that the greatest need is for the world to adapt itself to the Church.
How much more evidence do we need that the values, morals, and ethical systems of the world do not work? Read the headlines and listen to the news. As a society we are morally bankrupt, and that bankruptcy is having a much more devastating effect on society than the financial bankruptcies that are so common today. In fact, the financial meltdown of today can largely be traced back to the moral and ethical failures of those who led the various financial institutions. Millions of Americans and people around the world have been financially destroyed because of the greed and utter lack of moral consciousness of many of the leaders of financial institutions, corporations, and our government. Even worse are the stories of child abuse that are currently in the headlines. How many more children will come forward to tell of abuse at the hands of adults in whom they trusted? Even more haunting, how many will remain silent while their untold stories continue to eat away at their insides?
There is no such thing as a values-free society. The question is whose values will prevail? On the one side we have the values that have been taught by the church and on the other side are those taught by a society that opposes the church's teachings. Which values bring decency and order to society? An even greater question is which ones come from the highest authority? The values taught by the church come from God while those promoted by society come from fallen individuals. I know that those who deny God exists will reject my last statement, but that rejection is immaterial to me. It is not my job to appease non-believers; it is my job to shine light into the darkness in which they live and speak truth to them. It is my job to be salt, to live my life in such a way that people become thirsty for God in their own lives. This is the task of all of us who call ourselves Christians, and we cannot succeed at this task if we merely adapt ourselves to the world.
In 2012 how will your church be light and salt to your community? I believe that if we are going to be successful at this we will have to speak truth to our communities. We must boldly proclaim that God's Word is true and that what He has taught us about morals and values must be followed if we are to live in a society that will protect its weakest citizens and enjoy the blessings of God. It is time that the church stop worrying about what society might think or what the media might say and determine to once again become the light and salt God called us to be. Jesus said if the salt loses its savor it is useless and fit only to be cast aside. This should serve as a warning to every church that refuses to be salt and light to its community. We have spent too much time in recent years trying to adapt ourselves to the world in an attempt to be more acceptable to them. It is time that we tell the world that it needs to adapt itself to the church if it has any hope of surviving.