The Culterally Relevant Church
"The church must be culturally relevant or it will die." "If we do not accept homosexuality the world will never forgive us." "Ideas of hell and damnation are outdated. You can't frighten people into the kingdom of God any more."
So here are some fail-safe instructions for church leaders in the modern age.
1. Ditch all those pre-scientific myths about God designing and creating the universe. The Big Bang theory says the universe came into existence naturally as a result of totally random activity without any externally imposed purpose.
2. Ditch all that weird teaching in Genesis about God making the earth in six days when we know it took 4.54 billion years. (Even though the Bible says five times that God himself wrote on a tablet of stone that he had made it in six days.)
3. Ditch those primitive ideas that God designed and created all the separate species of life on earth, when we know that they somehow evolved totally at random. (Although we'll still hang on to the idea that humankind was made in the image of God.)
4. Ditch all those old-fashioned hymns in worship that make you think about the truth of God. Instead have modern styles of song centred more on ourselves than on God, and repeat the same few words over and over again up to 20 times or more. (Jesus's command not to engage in vain repetition didn't apply to songs.)
5. Don't, don't, don't ever mention hell, judgement or damnation. These are outdated mediaeval concepts that will seriously upset people.
6. Don't ever say that the only way to heaven is to commit one's life to Jesus in faith and obedience. That will stir up racial tensions with Muslims and will exclude all those who sincerely seek God through Islam and other religions.
7. Don't ever say that abortion is murder (even though Jesus was the Son of God from the moment of his conception), because if you say that you will heap a load of guilt on anyone who has had an abortion and they may never recover from the trauma.
8. Do embrace the practices of homosexuality, lesbianism, transvestism etc. as legitimate lifestyle choices. If we don't do that the world will never forgive us.
9. Never judge anyone concerning their behaviour. Who are we to judge? Leave judgement to God. God loves everyone just as they are so we must do that too.
10. Don't teach church members how to share the gospel with their neighbours, friends and colleagues, even though Jesus told his first disciples to preach and make disciples and to teach them all to do the same. Society is different today. Even the Pope has told Catholics not to proselytize. Everyone must find their own way to God, and it's not wise for lay people who have not undergone theological training to try to do the work of an ordained clergyman or pastor, especially if they are the kind of people who take the Bible literally.
11. Sin is not a problem for believers in Christ, because Jesus paid for it. (Even though Jesus, Paul, the author of Hebrews and John all wrote that any Christian who wilfully continues in sin will not inherit eternal life.)
12. The good news of the gospel is this: Jesus died to forgive our sins, so if we believe this we can have peace with God, enjoy his friendship and have abundant life here on the earth. For God's sake don't tell anyone that accepting Jesus as Lord means doing what he commanded; quite possibly suffering for your faith, perhaps involving the loss of employment and unbelieving friends, being vilified on social media or being ostracized by fellow churchgoers who don't take their faith so seriously; nor that the heart of the good news is not a better life here and now but everlasting life to come in a newly created earth ruled by the resurrected Jesus Christ as king.
Yep! This is a brilliant blueprint for how the Christian church can survive and grow. Here are the results of following this good advice in the Anglican Church and the Methodist Church in Great Britain.
Figure 1: Percentage of the population who say that they are Anglicans
Figure 2: Membership of the Methodist Church in thousands
Oh yes! And here are the figures for attendance at Pentecostal churches in Britain. Guess whether they are equally concerned about cultural relevance.
Figure 3: Pentecostal church attendance in thousands
PS: If you find it hard to understand how the Bible's account of creation can be true, read my book Z: Answers for the Final Generation. It has a very simple explanation why most scientists believe the world is so much older than the Bible suggests!