Word Magazine, December, 1970 Page 6
THE CHURCH: RELEVANT
We are living in an era of confusion, permeated by the raucous voices of discontent and rebellion. These Voices question the relevance of age-old traditions and values— morality, love of country; even the subjects taught in our schools. The Church has now also come under fire; young people in particular ask, “But is the Church relevant to daily life and modern society??” Before we can even attempt properly to answer this query, we must attain a complete understanding of what the Church, in reality, is. Contrary to popular misconceptions, the Church is neither the brick and mortar edifice which we attend Sunday worship nor merely the hierarchy of bishops and priests. The Church is the body of human beings who worship Christ as their God; a living unit seeking to carry on His work. Because we are the Church; a body of frail human natures subject to change and to sin, we make the Church either relevant or irrelevant to mankind by our own values and by the role we allow Christ to play in our daily lives.
As soon as we allow our personal values to become material rather than spiritual; as soon as we give Christ any place other than first in our lives, we begin to make our Church irrelevant to the family of Man. The world has enough institutions whose interests are solely material without adding a mammon-oriented Church to their ranks. A church which has been converted into a miniature financial complex, with money-making as its sole purpose, is both irrelevant and unnecessary to society. Just as revolting is the “church” which has degenerated into an assemblage of warring cliques and social sects, heedless of the words, “Little children, love one another,” who instead run rampant with mistrust, hypocrisy, and hatred. Worst of all is the church of self-righteous “Sunday-Christians,” who make their weekly church attendance the beginning and end of their faith. “They worship Me with their lips,” said Jesus, “but their heart is far from Me.” As long as our values remain so perverted that they force Jesus Christ to take a back seat in favor of monetary or social functions; as long as we fail to let His Word apply to our lives on more than a single day out of the week, we can never hope to make the Church relevant to mankind.
On the other hand, we can make our Church the most relevant and meaningful of all earthly institutions when through it, we fulfill the purposes that our Lord set for it. One of the primary functions of the Church is the education of its members in the faith: not only Church-school instruction for our children, but practical, as well as spiritual guidance for our teenagers and adults. Another important facet of the Church is compassion and mercy toward the less fortunate members of the family of Man; each person in the Church gladly giving of his possessions, his time, and his love. Perhaps the greatest of all the Church’s tasks is the guidance of unbelievers and its aid in bringing them to Christ. “Rejoice with Me,” says the Lord, “for I have found My sheep which was lost.” The Church which is able to rejoice with Christ over its newly-found sheep, whose primary interest is to carry on the Lord’s work is more than relevant to mankind; it is a light shining in the darkness for all the world.
Just as the Church can be made relevant to the needs of society as a whole, so can it also fulfill the individual spiritual needs of its members. We need the Church, in order that we might have fellowship with other believers; to help one another to grow in faith together, and to constantly renew and strengthen our own commitment to Jesus Christ. However, the Church and each of its members are inter-dependent upon one another. The Church needs every one of its people, each serving the Lord in his own special way. St. Paul compared the members of the Church to the members of a Human body; if one member of the body is removed, the living unit is deformed and incomplete. The Song of Solomon describes the Church as the Bride of Christ, and reflects His great love for the flock of His faithful. As members of His Church, we are the assembly and witness for Jesus Christ on earth. To us, He has given the awesome responsibility of carrying on His work.
Because we comprise the Church, it is up to us to gear our values and attitudes toward fulfillment of its role in modern society. If we are to make the Church a relevant and meaningful institution, we must lay aside the cares of the flesh and give to God the services born of the Spirit. “Render unto God that which is God’s’’ said Jesus. When we serve the Church, therefore, each and every one of us must serve the Lord with all his heart, working for Christ only, not for personal gain or social prestige. If each of us takes the initiative to reassess his values and uses them in devoted service to God, we can make the Church the bulwark of faith and Christian ideals on earth.
— MISS NORMA BITAR
St. George’s Church