Hell, Fire and Non-Relevant

I was startled by the preacher shouting at us from the other side of the tracks. Part of me was excited about reliving the old days of street preaching, while the other part of me cringed. After all, that style or approach went out in the late 70s, didn’t it?

His voice was loud and boomy so all could hear, but most physically turned and faced a different direction. I wasn’t sure if it was because they were wretched sinners or he was a nut case, so I listened more intently to find out.

His words were difficult to understand since he was using an archaic language that most on the platform didn’t understand. I believe its called Elizabethan English. When he stated, “God loveth and sheweth thy ways,” he almost lost me and I’m confident he lost most of the others.

Relevance, in my humble opinion, seems to be a much better place to start a discussion on who God is. Starting a discussion on the federal budget and the stock market plunging might be a better starting point for those standing by the train tracks awaiting their commute into Chicago.

Sharing the idea that our government, regardless of party, should never have racked up such a great debt to begin with, could be compared to how we’ve all made numerous mistakes in our lives and need God’s grace to move forward.

The crowds started to ramble about the “quack” across the tracks and a few entered into spiritual conversations as many had to quickly justify their current mind set or position on the topic. But, one thing was for certain, which the Apostle Paul suggested years ago, that even though some use little tact or relevance, they at least preach the good news and God can use it for his glory.

Paul’s message helped me to be thankful for the man’s presence, but it didn’t change my mind about the importance of being relevant. With thousands of 20 and 30 something’s leaving the church in droves, I can’t help but wonder how the church can be relevant today.

The thirty somethings are leaving the church because they can’t find anyone who is authentic. They are tired of people putting on a religious appearance and not living it. The twenty somethings are seeking a church that will make use of their service to their community, yet few churches are organizing ventures into neighborhoods, causing many to leave the church.

I was thrilled to hear about the 5,000 backpacks loaded with school supplies our church packed and gave away to kids who couldn’t afford the needed school supplies for this fall. It was just what the twenty somethings needed to express who their God is. And, about 500 thirty somethings were in Chicago on Saturday as volunteers to help people understand how God is relevant today, while being transparent to the ups and downs of living biblical lives. It was perfect for the thirty something volunteers.

Recently another church attempted to be relevant by showing up at the county fair and sponsoring a trivia both. The goal was to bring awareness to those who still have some things to learn, while rewarding those who knew the answers. It was their attempt to turn around Bible illiteracy. A recent Barna Group survey stated that only about 5% of Christians read the Bible. Some of their questions included:

What the name of Adam and Eve’s third son?

Can you state six of the ten commandments?

Can you name the two people who never died in the Bible?

Relevance is important to God, as he transcends all decades and cultural differences. He knows exactly how to speak to each person’s heart and those preaching need to find out how and what to share in various groups. The Bible is very relevant and simple, but some still try to make it sound complex and out of reach.

It didn’t surprise me to learn that the more current translations of the Bible have out sold the ones written for past generations. Nor did it surprise me that the most used evangelical Bible was also revised based on our cultural phrases and language. The old false saying that “If the King James was good enough for Paul, its good enough for me,” no longer means anything, except that the person didn’t know Paul wrote his letters in Greek around circa 60 and King James published his version of the Bible in 1604.

Relevance is important. Paul wrote contemporary letters to the churches learning about Christianity. King James commissioned the English translation of the Bible. And today, we can find graphic novel versions of the Bible and hear Bible verses rapped by street dancers. All because God wants his message of hope to be relevant for you and me today.

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