Young pastors like myself are always thinking about how to make the unchanging message of the gospel relevant to the ever-changing cultural situation we find ourselves in. Just like a foreign missionary would examine his or her culture and look for ways that the gospel connects, American Christians should be doing the same thing.
Though they might not be exactly on the same theological or philosophical page, pastors John Piper and Rick Warren have been helpful for me as I think through how to have a relevant ministry. Consider the following quotes:
John Piper (in a discussion with other pastors):
“I think there are common denominators in human beings that are so massive, that one can get a lot of mileage out of feeling them very strongly. Like, ‘everybody’s gonna die.’ You should try feeling that sometime. And ‘everybody loves authenticity.’ I try to feel that…and then I read the newspaper and listen to a little bit of NPR and look at advertisers (I think they’re the ones who really study human beings), but mainly I’m trying to understand how John Piper ticks and go deep with my own heart and my own struggles and fears and guilt and pride, and then try to work on that and figure out how to tell others from the Bible how they can work on that. There’s enough connection to be of some use.”
Rick Warren (in an interview/discussion with Ed Young):
“I have found in looking for evangelistic hooks, it is more helpful to focus on what’s not going to change. Because I can tell you 30 years from now what’s not going to change. God’s promises are not going to change. Go’ds character is not gonna change. God’s love is not going to change. God’s word is not going to change. Human nature is not going to change. And I know that even 30 years from now, no matter what the technological changes, communication changes, or cultural changes — it will be a totally different world — but people will still be lonely, people will still get bitter, people will still get angry, people will still have relational problems, people will still have guilt and resentment and regrets and worries and fears and doubts, people are still going to have problems with parents and kids, they are still going to be looking for purpose. So the only way to always be relevant is to be eternal — to focus on eternal things — things that don’t change.”
I think these are wise words. Many things change. But the most important things never do. Remembering that will always keep you relevant.