Either Faithfulness or Relevance?


Recently, over at Together for the Gospel, Mark Dever made the following statement:

I think the most basic practical division among evangelical pastors today may be between those who pursue faithfulness and assume relevance and those who pursue relevance and assume faithfulness.

After reading that, I couldn't avoid asking why we Christians try so hard to make all issues that confront us into "either/or" propositions. I don't understand why we're afraid to ask whether or not we can be "both/and" on some issues instead and still be true to the Gospel.

Why can't our churches be both faithful and relevant?

Mark Lauterbach of GospelDrivenLife attempts to unpack that question. Mark,  pastor of a Sovereign Grace Church in San Diego, is rapidly becoming one of my favorite voices in the Godblogosphere. His is the kind of Christian common sense that seems so rare anymore, and nearly everything he writes resonates with this blogger.

So Mark L. counters Mark D.'s statement and gives a better answer by asking that better question in his series, "Relevance or Faithfulness?"

Relevance or Faithfulness?, 1

Relevance or Faithfulness?, 2

Relevance or Faithfulness?, 3

Relevance or Faithfulness?, 4

I suspect that Mark is not done with this series, but this will give you a start. If you're a regular blog reader, and especially a charismatic, I heartily encourage you to blogroll GospelDrivenLife. I think you'll appreciate Mark as much as I do.

Have a great weekend.

6 thoughts on “Either Faithfulness or Relevance?

  1. Pingback: The Boars Head Tavern » Blog Archive »
  2. I think this is being unfair to Mark Dever, because at the very end of his article he said:

    Pursue faithfulness and relevance. Know that the Gospel is always relevant. NEVER assume the Gospel.

  3. David,

    I’m not being unfair to Mark Dever. He defined the terms and tried to make an either/or issue out of the highly gray issue of relevancy.

    The Bible is ALWAYS spiritually relevant. I think that’s what he’s saying at the end of his piece. The problem is, he’s not talking about spiritual relevancy in the quote I included in the post. He’s talking about CULTURAL relevancy, and that’s a whole ‘nother ballgame.

    Can cultural relevancy go too far? Absolutely! But where I have a problem with Dever’s comment is that it’s unwilling to explore what the boundaries are, dismissing the entire topic by falling into an either/or dichotomy.

    That’s too simplistic, though, and avoids the kinds of conversations we need to have about this issue. As Mark Lauterbach points out in his series (did you read it?), the great missionary Hudson Taylor had limited success until he decided to become one of the people to whom he was sharing the Gospel. He scandalized the established missionary world by adopting native dress and customs. And his ministry grew as a result.

    We have to ask the same questions about the cultural divides we face in ministering the Gospel that Hudson Taylor did. We need to ask how much is enough and when we’ve perhaps gone too far.

    But Dever doesn’t attempt to do that. His statement is too blanket and sounds like the kind of thing that would have come out of the mouths of the men who were skeptical of what Hudson Taylor was doing. That doesn’t help us at all; it only scandalizes those people who are pushing the envelope of cultural contact.

    If the Gospel itself is being compromised, then by all means, let’s re-evaluate our cultural presentation tactics. But in many cases what some view as compromise isn’t. We have to call it right.

    I know some Wycliffe translators who were working in a part of the world where there are no sheep, nor have the natives ever seen one. This presented problems when translating the scriptures into the native language. The translators chose another rather simple-minded creature that is easily herded that those natives know well.

    Was the Gospel compromised? I don’t believe it was. But by the standard that Dever is applying here, it very well might be. Now I can’t speak for Dever on this, but I have to believe that he wouldn’t oppose what the Wycliffe translators are doing. But then we have to ask what similar cultural divides are worth this same kind of “compromise,” even withing our own country. That’s a far harder question. But when Dever makes this kind of quote, he shuts that question down. That’s too bad.

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