Eitel warns against a “rush to relevance”
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS)-Upholding biblical parameters in cross cultural contexts and maintaining holiness while engaging the world is an essential element to missions and ministry, Keith Eitel, dean of the School of Evangelism and Missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said during the seminary’s chapel service, Sept. 20.
Eitel issued the challenge that while we are “rushing to relevance,” it must be “within biblical boundaries.” He explained that, too often, Christians allow the world, rather than Scripture, to take the first step in determining how they communicate the message of the gospel.
He shared his aghast upon hearing the story of a missionary in Indonesia who bowed to the Hindu god Shiva in order to appear spiritually minded and relatable to the people. “I fear that we may rush to relevance in such a way, with our heart right for the relevance, that we lose the gospel message in the process,” Eitel said.
Using 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1, he explained, “There are limits that need to be set in place that control our methodologies for engaging the lostness we see in the world.” He cited Paul’s admonition in verse 14 for Christians not to be bound to unbelievers.
Eitel said the only way to contextualize the gospel to the culture is by “the word of truth and the power of God,” quoting from 2 Corinthians 6:7. He questioned “theology on tap” which characterizes the practice of a church whose leaders discuss theology while drinking beer at local bars as a form of outreach. “I can commend the desire…we are to go into places like this (with the gospel), but we are to have boundaries.”
Following the message, Patterson issued a challenge for students to commit their lives to missions. Chapel attendees received a color-coded map indicating where the gospel has been heard throughout the world. The colors red and orange indicate places where few people have ever heard the gospel. “I believe that God is calling at least a third of you to go visit permanently that red area; maybe never to be heard from again, never to get a headline, maybe even to be forgotten by the churches, maybe to give your life there.”
Along with his teaching experience, Eitel served as a missionary to Cameroon, West Africa for six years. He received his master’s from Baylor University, a doctorate from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and a second doctorate from the University of South Africa.
Recordings of Southwestern’s chapel services may be viewed, listened to or downloaded through the seminary’s Web site, www.swbts.edu.