By Scot Thigpen
The Relevant Church
Try writing an article on the theme of the relevant church as a layperson. The mission seems quite easy for a follower of Christ. That is until you begin to take on such a weighty matter of eternal significance. I found myself with countless attempts to capture the seemingly easy truth of why the church is relevant today. All fell vastly short until the simple route to eternal truth once again was entered with much faith and trust. The inerrant Holy Scriptures, the very revealed Word of God which points to Jesus Christ holds all that is needed to say about the matter.
The gospel of Matthew in 16:18 says, “And I say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Peter received this response as he answered Jesus’ question to him, “But who say ye that I am?” Jesus also told Peter that flesh and blood had not revealed that to him but the Father, which is in heaven.
I gather from that a couple of truths. One is that whatever this church is, it is unstoppable and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. It also seems to me that the answer personally for who Jesus is, might just be the most important question of all of life. And lastly, that to answer Jesus’ question the way Peter did was a gift of grace from the Father in Heaven. But there is so much more to understand about this passage and who am I to try to take on this task. Maybe it should be left to the experts to explain. It seems too daunting of a task. I am too far away from a complete understanding of Scripture.
So instead, I went to the well of personal experience and thought about how relevant my church had been in my life. I married my high school sweetheart in that church. We baptized our two sons in that church and watched them grow up in the nursery and then youth group there. I saw one of the greatest acts of God that I have ever seen, as that church was turned into a Hurricane Katrina response distribution center that impacted the lives of thousands, simply because people loved other people. It was at this church that I was discipled as a young man and went on to disciple other young men. It is where I was taught the Word of God by spiritual mentors and passed down those teachings to Sunday school classes. It is where I saw others find hope and peace after loved ones passed away. It is where I saw lives miraculously transformed. This church is where I witnessed senior ministers come and go but the mission of the church continue throughout. To me, it is a profound place of relevance.
But who cares about my experience. What matters is why it is relevant to others. Then I read on blogs and social media outlets and see the condition of the world we live in today and am not okay with it. Darkness is everywhere and this church thing is called to be the very salt and light solution. I believe there is an absolute truth but others may not. How does one write about that in a short article?
People joke that the “Sunday school” answer to any Sunday school question is always “Jesus.” That’s not funny to me anymore. In fact, after this daunting task, it is incredibly profound. The church is relevant because Jesus says it is. He is the center of reality and everything else in life goes out from there. All questions find their ultimate answer and meaning in Jesus.
It might be that same reason this article is so difficult to write is the same reason that the church is relevant today. There is too much at stake not to be a part of the relevant work of the church.
Three things are eternal—God, His Word, and the souls of men. God has revealed Himself through his inspired Word. He has revealed Himself in the most personal way, through Jesus Christ His Son and continues to reveal Himself through the Holy Spirit. He invites all to come to Him through faith in Jesus to be saved and to find life and life everlasting. And He instructs all followers to make disciples of all men, even the sinful, inadequate, imperfect, followers such as me. He puts us together as forgiven people and adopts us as Sons of God in what is known as the church, so that we by his grace, love God and love others, and proclaim the truth to the world in our own imperfect way.
One day soon He will come again for his church. Then all men will get to answer for themselves if it was all relevant or not. But the Bible says that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. I believe that is very relevant. I pray that the church will sense this urgency and understand how relevant it is to those who do not share in that belief. When we do that, maybe there won’t have to be articles written about whether the church is relevant today.
Scot Thigpen is president of The Thigpen Group, a Wealth Advisory Firm in Jackson, MS. He is married to the former Kimberly Inkster and they are parents of two sons and attend Christ United Methodist Church. Contact Scot at Scot@thethigpengroup.com.