Don’t tell me the Bible is irrelevant. / If we walked God’s carefully laid path, / disparity between rich and poor would cease to be a national crisis.1
This is a little excerpt from my poem, Don’t Tell Me, highlighting the relevance of the Bible in the present day. Although some rituals and traditions are now void because of Jesus’ sacrifice, the Word will always be relevant because its foundation is love and truth. But we, as a church body or organisation, are becoming increasingly irrelevant, making it difficult to reach and influence outside communities.
You may be thinking, “Hold on, is she saying we should act like everyone else?” Absolutely not! Romans 12:2 says: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”2
However, not conforming doesn’t mean not changing it up. Jesus completely changed things up and transformed this earth forever.
Changing things up means sometimes breaking away from a “traditional” Sabbath service and speaking to those who are homeless in the space where they congregate, handing out water and speaking to crowds of football fans, or inviting to a community lunch those seeking refuge and asylum. Changing things up also means collaborating with community groups focused on specific areas, such as domestic abuse, gang crime and drug addiction.
Changing things up requires thinking outside the box and breaking away from the, “we’ve always done it this way” attitude. It will be uncomfortable, but Jesus calls us to get uncomfortable as it leads to change beyond our imagination.
Not conforming also doesn’t mean not communicating with others outside of our church community – we should be in the world but not of the world.
Getting uncomfortable has helped me to build communities outside of my church community. The main ones are currently my creative community (I’m a poet) and my Shaniqua community (chosen people from different communities). Within these communities are individuals who church members may avoid, judge or insult: Some are gay, homeless, take drugs, do criminal activities, swear regularly – but I love them, just as God loves them.
I’ve built worthwhile relationships and have had a positive influence, simply because I speak and act different, which people pick up on and respond to. It was through building relationship with a friend of mine (who is transgender) that he learnt not every Christian is homophobic or transphobic. Then a couple of years later, he was speaking to me about joining a church (not an Adventist one, though). There are numerous other stories I could tell, but essentially, people will be drawn to you, notice the difference in your character and be open to hearing about God if you get out into the world and take time to speak, listen and build those worthwhile relationships. Building relationships is the key to influencing and building communities.
When I got baptised in 2019, I invited individuals from all areas of my Shaniqua community. Although not everyone could make it, my Shaniqua community really showed up for me that day – some having never stepped into a church before – because I’d shown up for them in the past, whether it was through a message, support at an event or any other way of showing them love.
Allowing God to transform me each day, and using the gifts He has blessed me with, has led me to be a positive influence in my communities. Holding the Bible in my heart and applying those principles to a 21st Century world, keeps me relevant. How will you be relevant, build relationships and show up for communities that need you.