The Dance of Relevance and Orthodoxy In The Church

Have you noticed there are a bazillion opinions out there when it comes to how a church is supposed to run?

  • “If you do this then your church will grow!”
  • “If you were a real church, then you would do this.”
  • “If you want to reach the next generation, then you simply must change XYZ.”
  • “A biblical church looks like this.”
  • How do you know what to do?

    Especially if your church isn’t experiencing explosive growth and you know something needs to change.

    What exactly is it that needs to change?

    These are tough questions that I know some of you are wrestling with right now.

    Here’s the deal. I’m not going to tell you what to do.

    That would be obnoxious.

    I don’t live in your town. I don’t know your people. I haven’t lived your history.

    And, I don’t know you or your leaders.

    No, telling you what to do would be ridiculous.

    What I am going to do is suggest an example for thinking about change.

    Paul and his visit to Berea from Acts 17:10-15 is the example.

    In this story, I see three focuses that will help us think strategically about change…

    1. Faithful

    As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. – Acts 17:10

    Paul shows up in town and goes straight to the synagogue.

    No surprise. This is what he always does.

    There’s a reason for this…he’s Jewish by ethnicity.

    He was trained by a famous rabbi. He was a Pharisee. He knows the Hebrew Scriptures and the Jewish people.

    Paul’s strategy fits who God created him to be and the experiences and training God has orchestrated in his life.

    Who are you as a leader?

    What are your gifts?

    What experiences do you bring to your church?

    Think about your mentors and training.

    All this leads to a particular type of calling. Who you are and how God has shaped you should influence how you lead your church.

    Who you are should impact how you do ministry.

    Back to Paul.

    Think about recent events in his life.

    His second missionary journey began with a whole lot of confusion. He planned to go to Asia. God said no.

    Then he headed toward Bithynia.

    Nope.

    Then he got direction from the Holy Spirit to head over to Macedonia.

    Great! Clarity! Finally!

    So, he sails to Macedonia and promptly focuses on his calling.

    In Philippi he gets severely beaten, spent a night in jail and then was the target of a city riot.

    In Thessalonica, he teaches in the synagogue and the city ends up in a riot, with him as the target.

    Paul arrives in Berea and what does he do?

    He goes straight to the synagogue.

    Here’s my point: What you are called to do doesn’t always lead to everything going right. In fact, there is often opposition, resistance and confusion.

    Here’s my challenge: Be faithful. God made you and has guided your life. He has called you to do ministry in a certain way. Be faithful to that calling.

    2. Open

    Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness. – Acts 17:11a

    Based on Luke’s description of the character of the Bereans, I assume that Paul and his companions were impressed with them.

    Why?

    Because they listened.

    They were receptive. They were eager to learn. They were open.

    This was no small thing.

    Think about it.

    Paul shows up and he’s like, “Because of Jesus, much of the Jewish faith is now obsolete. The sacrifices, the temple, the priests…yeah, we don’t need those anymore. They are all fulfilled in this Jesus that I am describing to you.”

    These are massive changes.

    The Bereans are commended because they are open to the reality that God might be moving them in a new direction.

    Back to the idea of change in your church.

    A tough question for you: Are you open to God moving you in a new direction?

  • Are you open to the idea that your worship service might look very different next year?
  • Are you open to the idea that the younger generations learn differently, and this reality might require a different type of sermon?
  • Are you open to the idea that God might move you out of your building?
  • Change requires openness to God’s movement.

    Are you open to a new direction, or are you married to your current practices?

    Sometimes God desires to move His people to new places.

    Now, I know what many of you are thinking: This sounds dangerous.

    Are you suggesting that we need to be open to ideas that change the fundamentals of our beliefs? Let’s keep reading.

    3. Anchored

    Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. – Acts 17:11

    Luke doesn’t commend the Bereans because of their openness only.

    No, it’s a combination of openness and being anchored in the Scriptures.

    I think the word order is very important here.

    They examined the Scriptures to determine if Paul’s teachings were accurate…not the other way around.

    So, here’s the deal.

    As we talk about making changes in our churches in order to be relevant, we have to be anchored in the Scriptures.

    There should be times when we ask the question,

    “Is God moving us in this new direction?”

    And the answer should be,

    “No, because this idea isn’t biblical.”

    I don’t know if you feel this, but there is such a temptation to adopt what appears to be working in the church down the street without really wrestling with whether or not that practice, strategy or whatever is biblical.

    We must maintain the dance of relevance and orthodoxy.

    We need both in order to be effective churches. We must be open and anchored.

    And, look at the result in Berea:

    As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men. – Acts 17:12

    Wrap Up

    As you explore potential ideas, new practices and strategies, I pray that you keep the examples of Paul and the Bereans in mind.

    And I would include reading this blog.

    I’m constantly sharing ideas and talking about what has worked in our church, sometimes with an edge of, “You should do this!”

    Please don’t adopt what I write as truth without testing it.

    I hope this has been helpful and as always, thanks for reading.

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