Do We Need Compromise To Be Relevant?

Part I in a series on compromise in the church

Compromise can be well illustrated thru a story that I heard years ago. Eskimos in the barren North often kill wolves by taking a razor sharp knife and dipping it in blood. They allow the blood to freeze to the blade; then they bury the handle of the knife in the snow with the blade exposed. As the wolf begins to lick the blade, his tongue becomes numb and desensitized due to the cold. As he continues to lick the knife, it begins to bleed, and thus, licks even faster—unaware that he is consuming his own blood, and slowly killing himself.
Within time, the Eskimos return and bring the dead animal home. In the same way, the enemy numbs us through compromise. Within time, we, like the wolves, don’t realize that we are dying—dying spiritually. The enemy desensitizes us until we are numb to the things of God.
There is a very troubling trend toward moral compromise in the evangelical church. I’ve witnessed soft porn images on Christian websites, questionable movie clips during PowerPoint sermons, and youth pastors talk about their favorite sexually charged TV show, or movie, with the youth—all under the guise of “relating” to the culture.
As W. Graham Scroggie once said, “Light and darkness, right and wrong, good and evil, truth and error are incompatibles…when they compromise it is the light, the right, the good, and the truth that are damaged.” The church should not reflect or imitate the world, but lovingly confront it. Psalm 101:3 warns us not to put anything wicked before our eyes, and I Timothy 4:12 exhorts us to be examples of purity and decency.
We do need to shock people; we need to shock them with the truth of God’s Word. In our pursuit to “relate to others,” and to “reach people where they are” in our postmodern culture, we run the risk of serving two masters. But this can be avoided if the messenger truly reflects the message. For example, how inappropriate would it be for the President of the United States to send Elmo to express his sympathies for a family who lost a loved one in combat? It would be inexcusable and disrespectful. But that’s exactly what we do when we compromise the gospel. There are some things you just don’t do out of respect for the message.
An example that immediately comes to mind was when a Christian organization used a 30-foot tall blow-up sexual organ to promote a pornography conference. Granted, the need to address the dangers of pornography has never been greater, and I applaud them for taking action, but does a 30-foot tall sexual organ really send the right message? Would the apostle Paul and Jesus actually commend this promotional idea? I think that we all know better.
Using an inflatable sexual organ to promote a Christian pornography conference is like using Elmo to speak on behalf of the President; it doesn’t work logically or biblically. This isn’t legalism; it’s wisdom. The message and the messenger must go together.
With that said, consider a few practical steps:
· Before asking if an event, website, promotional idea, or advertisement is “culturally relevant,” we should ask does it glorify Christ? Is it consistent with our Christian character? Will it send the right message? Will it cause others to stumble?

  • Make sure, without a shadow of doubt, that God is leading you. For example, it’s not wise for most men to minister at a porn convention. Guys are very visual and the distractions would be endless. God wants us to reach out to our community, but not if we fall when we reach. Use wisdom, think things through, and ask, “Is God truly directing me?”
  • Seek godly counsel on a regular basis from mature believers who can help direct your steps, examine your motives, and offer sincere advice. All that we do, and say, should reflect the integrity, and seriousness, of our message.
  • Look to the Word first and foremost for direction, wisdom, and discernment. Many of the questions about being culturally relevant could be answered if we simply looked to God’s Word instead of the world for the answers.

Our culture is looking for authenticity; even it understands that a compromised life sends a compromised message. A.W. Tozer rightly noted, “Where does Christianity destroy itself in a given generation? It destroys itself by not living in the light, by professing a truth it does not obey.”
This is excerpted from Pastor Shane’s upcoming book—Answers for a Confused Church. For more information on Pastor Shane’s books visit

Shane Idleman

Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Leona Valley, Ca. His sermons, books, articles, and radio program have sparked change in the lives of many.

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