There has been much discussion over the years about how Christians are to engage their culture. There are a lot of buzzwords floating around Christian circles today that attempt to focus our attention on reaching people absorbed in our current culture. Words such as “relevant” and “relational” are used to make this point. These words, however, are also descriptive of a certain mind-set that seems to focus on a distinct way of making the Gospel appealing to sinners.
Engaging means to attract or involve someone’s interest or attention. So to fulfill the Great Commission (Mark 16:15-18) given to us by Jesus, we must involve an unsaved person’s interest or attention with the Gospel. The question then becomes, “how should this appeal be made?”
First, we must realize that God never intended for us to preach the Word without the power of God in operation and demonstration. Jesus never intended for miracles, signs and wonders to diminish in any capacity upon His ascension back into heaven. In fact, Jesus indicates that there should be an increase of this activity upon Him leaving the earth and sending the Holy Spirit to us.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater (more) works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
The Apostle Paul also had an understanding that the power of God worked in direct relation to the Word of God. Consider the following scriptures:
1 Thessalonians 1:5
For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost.
1 Corinthians 4:20
For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.
Even though Paul had this understanding, there was one time in his missionary journeys that he abandoned his belief. In Acts 17, we see Paul has traveled to Athens. While he was waiting for Timothy and Silas to join him, he looked around the city and saw that it was wholly given to idolatry. The Athenians even had a statue dedicated to the “unknown god.” Paul was stirred in his spirit and began disputing (arguing and reasoning) with the Jews in the synagogue and with others daily in the marketplace. (Acts 17:17) He eventually was invited to discuss his new “philosophy” with the greatest “thinkers” in Athens. (Acts 17:18-21) Paul proceeded to give a very eloquent speech. The problem, however, is this was the only time in which he did not also incorporate the power of God. Paul did not have much success in Athens; we do not have record of him starting a church there. Yet, I have witnessed this sermon being held up as the standard of the proper way to be relevant and engage our culture with the Gospel. However, I believe Paul saw it differently. I don’t believe he saw his time in Athens as a success because of what he said about his preaching in the next city after leaving Athens.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Paul realized that arguing and reasoning the Gospel with people was not very successful. I believe that on his way to Corinth, Paul had a great talk with God and determined to go into Corinth preaching Jesus, not enticing words of man’s wisdom. Notice that in this passage of scripture that his preaching was “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” The result: Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half and established a successful church there.
And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen
“The only way to meet the modern demon-stration of the powers of darkness is by a demonstration of the power of God.” – Vance Havner
Without the power of God, the Truth can become lost amid all of the false voices in the world. Jesus gave us His word that when we preach the Word He will confirm (establish, prove reliable) His word with signs following. Where do you and I begin? The first step toward making a change is changing how we look at the situation – our mind-set must change. We must have a reset of our thought patterns so we begin to look at these things the way God sees them. So, start by meditating on the scriptures I have listed above; think about them every chance you get and speak them out. This is not the endgame, but it is where we need to start.
Romans 12:2 (The Message)
Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.