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Chameleon Christianity

If you do a quick survey of modern Christianity you will find one particular buzzword used time and again… that word is “relevant.” To me, a basic definition of a church that is “relevant” is one that practically applies scripture to the daily needs of the individual while being adapted to the culture around them in the sense of limiting itself from questionable things that would offend, i.e. stumbling-blocks, abusing power in the gospel, giving in to the flesh, using worldly wisdom, etc. (see 1 Cor. 8:9; 9:18; 9:27; 1:17-2:8). In reality, however, how this word is acted upon can be as varied as the churches that use it and often it involves compromise of Biblical principles.

Relevance is important and scriptural. As a missionary it will be essential for us to adapt, without compromising scriptural precepts, to the mannerisms and customs in Italy in order to effectively communicate the gospel to Italians (see Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 9). Unfortunately many today that are “seeking relevance” become a chameleon of transient trends and carnal character. “Unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews” becomes “to the tattooed beer drinking hipster I became a tattooed beer drinking hipster.”

A cursory internet search reveals how many churches today are dressing themselves in the accoutrements of the world because they are terrified of being left behind or undesirable to the younger generation and its fads. Not to oversimplify it, but following the latest trendsetters can include… the minister “sharing” the message in shorts and flip-flops, mood lighting, music with a throbbing bass and shallow lyrics, showing clips from R-rated films during the service, focusing more on social justice than evangelization and discipleship, being okay with cussing, embracing formerly taboo behaviors, thriving on shock value, etc.

I am thankful to have been to many churches on deputation that are scripturally relevant. The problem with “relevance” occurs when Biblical principles are compromised in order to participate in questionable things of the culture. The Bible is replete with warnings against a “have it your way” faith that is common in churches that attempt to meld Christianity with the secular in the name of “relevance.” As I recently read through the book of Judges it reminded me of the consequences of forsaking the “old paths” (Jer. 6:16) in order to do that which is right in our own eyes (Judg. 17:6).

The central lesson from the book of Judges is failure through compromise. Israel was commanded by God to destroy the Canaanite nations but instead they allowed them to remain. Their incomplete mastery of Canaan resulted in military leagues, intermarriage, idolatry and complete apostasy followed by humiliating captivity. A careful reading of Judges should burn out any easy-going toleration of the unholy or questionable thing. We can never enjoy God’s blessings for long if we tolerate only partially crushed sins or compromise in order to avoid the reproach of Christ “without the camp” (Heb. 13:13). If we make league with questionable things because they seem harmless we will soon find ourselves wedded to the desires of the flesh again.

“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:17,18

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