Saturday, April 19, 2008

Mark Dever on Relevance at T4G

Some have described T4G as drinking from a fire hydrant. I would describe it as standing in front of a firefighter who is dousing the building behind me. When I open my mouth, I get more spray than I can swallow, but truly most of it is going directly over my head. My roommate and I have joked that they need to hand out a conference brochure addendum to Sovereign Grace attendees: Glossary of Common Terms for the Common Man. Included in that glossary should be words like, well, every word in Al Mohler’s message.

When I can’t count as high as the number of syllables in the word, a momentary concern passes through my mind: “I sure hope I don’t really need to understand that.” In that moment, I thank God I’m not a pastor, and I go back to franticly scribbling down the Scripture references that make up the majority of my notes. In spite of my weak mind, there were a few things that I caught, and of those a few caught my attention. One is particularly applicable to tech ministry and is worthy of sharing sooner rather than later.

Mark Dever preached Wednesday morning on maintaining the clarity of the gospel by identifying five “add requests” that would minimally add confusion to the gospel and potentially destroy the gospel. Request number three was so applicable to technology and media that I’ll try to touch on some of his points here.

Request 3: Make the Gospel Relevant!

This is also known as gospel “contextualization.” This popular notion proposes that it is good to make people comfortable when they come into the church. Who would disagree? I don’t.

But we must go one step further and ask the question: Why is it good? Its proponents argue that people who feel comfortable in the environment and familiar with the language will more readily accept the gospel message. Really? How much more readily? How much more quickly? Would it take ten weeks in a less relevant church, if they put up with the “boredom,” but only two weeks in the relevant church.

Suddenly, gospel effectiveness requires more than just a message. We must use particular methods because they can cause people to respond faster. And if we don't use that method, we may hinder them from coming to believe the truth about Jesus. We may hinder God's work in their lives, or even make it impossible for God to save them.

Here is where the danger lies: when we assign the “speed of conversion” to relevance, we are saying that the full power of the gospel is not held in the gospel itself. I believe we must reject any such understanding of relevance because it betrays its lack of trust in the gospel. Paul said, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."

Would you agree in this rejection?

If so, is there a right way to think of relevance in the church?

What would it be?

1 comment:

Dave said...

Wow, I guess I'm pretty naive, but I never would have thought of assigning speed of conversion to being relevant. It's a pretty scary thought to me that some folks are doing that out there.

I've always seen the point of being relevant as really having nothing to do with outright conversion; isn't that's up to the work of the Holy Spirit? God's timing is God's timing, and who are we to try and rush it? In my opinion, the point of being relevant is simply to break down barriers and open doors. The "church" has been extremely effective over the years at alienating those outside the church, and communicating in a relevant way is simply one means of getting past that.

I also think the church, in general, has put far too much emphasis on a Sunday morning experience--especially in terms of evangelism--and not nearly enough focus on the community aspect that is the church. It's been my experience that THAT is where life change truly happens, and the baptism stories we hear every other week are a testament to that.