Youth With A Mission is an amazing movement in which there’s rarely a dull moment. In fact, its motto was once described as constant change is here to stay.
We’ve been in the English city of Newcastle upon Tyne this week, working with South African friends planting a great church here. Elaine grew up nearby, and used to work in the city centre. She made the observation that while some things were the same, most things had changed, and some things were unrecognizable. And that’s always a bit of a shock - because we don’t like change.
For the most part, we understand that what we believe does not change. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.
But church does change. And that’s what we struggle with. While the inner core of faith remains the same now as it was when the New Testament was written, the outward expression of that faith is constantly changing and adapting to meet the needs of the culture we live in. We bring the kingdom to the culture, but we have to find the right ways of engaging that culture.
Another way of putting it is that while the words remain the same, the music has to change. The songs or hymns we sing should always express the foundational truths of the Christian faith, but the musical form they take and even the instrumentation is continually changing to engage the culture more effectively. Most effective evangelistic movements have employed popular music to reach people for Christ. Think of the Wesleys or William Booth as two great examples.
Yet why is it we seem to argue more over the musical format than over the words? And it’s the same with other things. We argue over the very things that should be changeable, and we do so not for Biblical reasons, but simply because we don’t like change. And sometimes we dispense with what should not be changed.
Our towns and cities are littered with outdated religious buildings with antiquated forms of worship which have retained what should have been thrown out, while at the same time discarding the very central beliefs of the Christian faith. Several years ago, I was confronted by the very angry minister of a liberal church. While renting their building for a wedding, we had temporarily moved the communion table a few feet. You would have thought we had touched the ark of the covenant! Yet this same church had no concern whatever in throwing out almost everything the Bible says. You don’t engage with culture by assimilating into it. You engage with culture by finding Spirit-led ways of confronting it with God’s unchanging truth.
Church must continually keep adapting in order to remain able to connect with culture. And that suggests there are lots of ways we have to remain adaptable if we are going to fulfil God’s call on our lives.
Are you willing to throw away yesterday’s security to embrace tomorrow’s challenge?
That could easily be the subject of another discussion!