Church Planting in a Changing Culture

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Recently I’ve been forced to think what exactly the ever changing culture we live in is actually looking for from the church today.  More specifically what is a church determined to love both God and its neighbour with all its heart, strength, soul and mind actually in a position to provide such an evolving culture with?   Different conversations and talks have led to four conclusions.

  1. We need to have confidence not just in the Bible, but in the clarity of the Bible. Of course some in culture want to paint the Bible as being outdated, culturally conditioned, and even immoral in many of its ethical statements today. When reading any text there is, as always, an element of good comprehension and interpretation that needs to be exercised. However when it comes to the Bible, unlike any other book, we are also promised the help of the author to understand it and apply it for today. What God said, is still what God is saying. It turns out that it is still a lamp onto our feet and a light unto our path (Psalm 119:105). Having confidence in a God who speaks, and speaks clearly about matters that he knows matter most to us is the bedrock on which we as Christians can say anything to an ever changing culture. For example it leads us…

  2. To care for not just the problems people have, but to care for the people themselves who these problems. Right at the very start of God’s story we are told that people matter to him more than anything else. Made in his image he had furnished for their every need. And yet ever since Genesis 3 the world has been filled not only with people, but people with problems. Due to our first parents mistrust in God and his promises, the lie of the devil has polluted every heart and mind. We no longer see God properly. We no longer see other people properly. We don’t even see ourselves properly. This is where confidence in the clarity of the Bible leads us. It leads us to be full of compassion and patience with one another (or at least it should). However, because God has done something about the problem of sin it also leads us…

  3. To be people who empathise, but not just with an empty empathy. The tomb was empty so that we might enter into the fullness of life. This is where we must look down to the bedrock of our faith. So many of the stories that fill our media outlets at present seem to speak to us of a world in utter confusion, despair and hopelessness. Many of the major movies, even those that parade super heroes before us, seem to be at a loss as to how to cope with our last and greatest enemy. I may be paraphrasing here, but it was Dostoevsky who said, ‘there is nothing in life that death does not render meaningless’. Yet the gospel of Jesus Christ will not allow death to have the last word. Therefore while we must have the deepest compassion for people, we do them no favours if we set our convictions aside. By his Spirit, as we prayerfully love and speak to others about their lives, it is Jesus that we ultimately want everyone to hear about and to accept. This will mean for them doing something radical. It will mean repentance. But…

  4. We dare not call anyone to repent, if we ourselves have given up repenting for our own sins. This might seem to some as very quaint and old fashioned. To speak of repenting and sin in our modern day might draw the scorn of some. However in the relentless and often disappointing age of self-promotion and self-definition the call to repentance might just be better received. Essentially repentance is a call to stop trusting ourselves and instead to give over our lives to the control, power and performance of another. It is the way into the Christian life and it is the way on in the Christian life. A life lived like this will be painful but also sweet. It will be controversial but also compelling. It will seem narrow and yet strangely freeing. It is the way to be free from ourselves and to find our identity first and fore mostly in him, who loved us and gave himself for us.

    These statements in themselves are nothing new. Then again, perhaps they don’t need to be. Many a church started and still stands on such basic truths. And yes, each church must re-package such essentials for its ever changing context, but perhaps loving God and loving our neighbour doesn’t need to get any more complicated than this.

David Martin