Thursday, June 4, 2015

How to Keep the Church Relevant - Suspicions Confirmed

A new report, cited by Premier Christian Radio in the UK, shows a link between church health and its involvement in social action. It confirms something I've suspected for a long time: there's been a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth over how to make the church "relevant" in the 21st Century, and the sight of Christians, walking out the Great Commission even when it's not convenient or comfortable, is a great way of solving that issue.

Somebody has to do it, after all, and if that "somebody" is glorifying Jesus in the process, that's what God wants -- both for the people being served and the non-believers, watching from the sidelines.

The name of the game is to provide Hope and point people towards Jesus and the Kingdom now and in eternity, by whatever means possible. It's one thing to run a soup kitchen; quite another to remind people that Jesus died for them, too, as you hand them the meal or the change of clothing or set them up with showers as we do at The Lord's Rain and Gospel Mission. It's one thing to say, "Next!"; and quite another to say, "you don't have to keep living like this, and Jesus has given you a way out". Not everyone will receive the message, but it's up to us to keep delivering it.

We have to remember, mind you, that Social Action does not necessarily mean "fighting for justice". Often, that's mistaken for revenge, and that's God's department. We need to remain in prayer, study the Word for the insights we need in how to approach a situation and, when in doubt, do it God's way.

A few things are worth noting from the rankings in the survey.
  • helping the homeless has moved from #22 in 2012 to #1 last year, in terms of having an effect on church growth;
  • caring for the elderly has gone from #8 to #3;
  • helping the jobless has gone from #19 to #11; and
  • relationship advice has moved from #27 to #12: could it be more people are looking to the church for answers?
What's also interesting is what isn't on the list. "Environmental Concerns" didn't even crack the top-16, and yet that's The First Great Assignment (see my book, A Very Convenient Truth). Also, there's no mention of churches' getting involved with substance abuse recovery -- another area where we should be involved, especially in urban ministry.

All in all, the survey gives some good insight for churches looking to keep themselves -- and Jesus -- top-of-mind. Get involved with people, don't get weary or discouraged ... and they'll get involved with you.

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