When I meet people here in The Netherlands, inevitably we come to the question of, “so what do you do for work?” I love telling them that I’m a pastor that has come to start new churches. It’s always a very surprised, curious look I get in response. And more often than not, I’m asked an immediate follow-up question that is often phrased just like this:
“Is there a market for that?”
As Christians, we can easily chuckle at that question. But when you think about it, it’s actually a very good question.
Put yourselves in their shoes.
Our culture says:
- live your best life! Today is all you have so make live it to the fullest
- Do what you want! As long as you don’t impinge on the rights of others, you’re free to decide as you please
- Your body is yours! Do what you want with who you want whenever you want.
- Buy it! Material possessions are a way to enjoy life, even a form a therapy! If you can buy it, go for it.
But then comes along this group of Jesus followers that says:
- don’t live for today, live for eternity! Your life is just a brief moment in the scope of eternity.
- What you want is not as important as what God wants
- your body is a gift, special, like a temple. Honor the Lord in how you use and maintain your body
- you are nothing more than a steward of your material possessions, everything come from God. He is the Lord. How will you steward what he’s given you?
Is the church still useful? Is it still relevant?
It is, in fact, very curious that the church is still around, don’t you think?
And don’t be fooled, these are not recent developments in human history. Since the very beginning there has been opposition from without and within; caesars who attempted to destroy her; charlatans, wolves in sheeps clothing who ascended her ranks and tried to use her to commit all manner of evil. And yet, against impossible odds, the church, the people of God in the earth, still stands.
“You who are conversant with human history will bear me out when I say that the whole history of the church is a series of miracles – a long stream of wonders. A little spark kindled in the midst of oceans, and yet all her boisterous waves cannot quench it.” Charles Spurgeon
Is the church still relevant? Well, her meer existence seems to prove that point very clearly. The better question is then not if she is useful but “why is the church still around?” Why hasn’t she faded into the annals of human history?
These days there are a myriad of voices who say that if the church is going to continue to stay relevant, she must focus her energies on social action, on finding her relevance in the context of helping people in need. Social involvement is the “bestaansrecht”, the right of existence, for the church. I’m going to speak to you like I speak to my own congregation: do not listen to people who speak in such a way. Even if they have the best of intentions, I’m afraid that their words are clothed with a form of spirituality but the true spirit behind their words is fear and insecurity. They fear irrelevance and so they look for validation from the culture around them.
Listen to me very closely, the church, the people of God, is not a social needs organisation, not a charitable institution. Is there much need in our society? Undoubtedly. Should we as the people of God be actively involved in alleviating need wherever we can find it? For sure. I would even go a step further and say that we have a spiritual responsibility as children of God to demonstrate His love in tangible ways, alleviating the needs of the poor and working to make right what is wrong in the world. But that is not our reason for existence. God did not send His Son into the world to establish a charitable cause.
Why then? Why did God interrupt human history and the downward spiral our race was in? Why is there still a people who gather in His Name? Why is the church still relevant today?
Because God wants to be known by mankind whom He has created. I can’t say it simpler than that. He wants people to know Him, His heart, His thoughts, His plans, and so He has and continues to move heaven and earth to reveal Himself to all peoples, even here in the West, even here in the Netherlands.
Why is the church still relevant? Because God is still here. Because He was there when His creation turned from Him in the garden He had made for them, when they rebelled against Him but like a mother who could never forget her own children, God could never forget or forsake mankind. His loving arm has reached in time and time again throughout history and even this day, to reveal Himself to His creation. Knowledge of Him is joy and eternal life (John 17). Our bible is the chronicle of that self-revelation of God.
You say, that’s nice, Chris, that this happened in history but God hasn’t broken through in my life. My friend, you are mistaken. God is breaking in right now, speaking to your heart, drawing you, calling you to come back to Him. Are you listening for His voice? Are you looking for His work in your life or are you consumed with your own busyness?
God wants to reveal Himself, to be known. For that reason he decided to set a people in the earth who will spread the knowledge of Him and who will expand their fellowship to include all who will turn to Him. The church exists and is still relevant for one reason and one reason only: God wants to be known. We are a people made to make Him known!
Someone might say, “Chris, I hear what you’re saying but I’m not convinced. How do you know this for sure?” Well, I’m glad you asked! Check out these scriptures.
1 Peter 2:9-10
“That we might declare His praises…”
How are we to do that? Well, I’m not going to tell you and I hope that irritates you a little. I hope it bugs you. I hope that it stirs up the waters of your heart and launches you out of the harbour of your comfort zone in order to find the answer to that question. You people here, together and individually, are still alive, still breathing, in order to make Him known. What will you do with that knowledge, that calling?
I’ll tell you one of the ways I’m going to do it. The next time that someone asks me, “Oh yeah? Is there a market for that?” I’m going to answer in this way: “Let me answer your question with another: do you know God? Well, let me tell you about Him.”