2017 The Church in Mississippi—Is It Relevant?

“Culture is the pond in which we swim and the lens through which we see the world.” Ed Stetzer

Competing voices, a myriad of worldviews, and strident discord characterize much of our daily information intake. The anger and divisions between highly opinionated Americans have produced a kind of toxicity that is painful. The battle lines are sharply drawn between those who believe in absolute truth and those who do not. Our culture, even here in the Bible Belt, feels a bit frayed around the edges.

Christians. Remember them? That group Jesus called to be salt and light and His representatives in a world that desperately needs His love, compassion, and message—are they relevant anymore? What’s next as they seek to deliver a timeless healing gospel to a chaotic world?

In this February issue—and February is, of course, the month when we celebrate that very broad word, “love”—we asked a few questions of eight outstanding members of the church here in Mississippi. What about the present and future for the Church in our changing and ever evolving secular culture?

Read their thoughts. Think hard. And we would love to hear from you. By the way, we were limited in space when it came to the entirety of our pastor’s responses. I encourage you to see the unedited edition of the cover story on our website at mschristianliving.com.

Our Questions:

In what feels like a Post-Christian America, how can Believers best remain engaged in our politically correct hypersensitive world and respond appropriately when we are called “haters?” When the Bible speaks of “speaking the truth in love,” what does that look like in 2017?
Has the mission of the church in our culture changed in this era of hot social issues, identity politics, and a decline in church membership? Do we need to do something different?
What keeps you up at night and what gives you hope?

Neddie Winters
Former Pastor and President of Mission Mississippi

Neddie is a native Mississippian, born and raised in Tunica. He serves as President of Mission Mississippi, a movement in the Body of Christ to reconcile individuals across racial and denominational lines. He holds a B.S Degree from Alcorn State University, a master’s degree from the American University and has done further Biblical studies at Reformed Theological Seminary.

We should not be surprised that we are being called haters because we believe in what the Bible says. Jesus has warned us already that, “In the world you will have trials and tribulations. But be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Specifically, he says to us in Matthew to pray for people who persecute you, love those who hate you and do good to those who do evil to you. We overcome evil by doing good—not by accommodating the evil.

Part of what we find ourselves with in this society of being politically correct is that Christians also have gotten caught up in valuing being liked and accepted. That is a fantasy. The fact of our faith leaves no room for compromise with the world. I think we find ourselves in the place we are in today because we have tried to make peace with a world that is not going to be at peace with absolute truth. We have got to take the truth of God and evaluate our personal standards in society. In order to change the present culture, we, as Christians are going to have to practice what we preach. I know when we operate according to God’s truth we will be loving those who call us “haters.” Light dispels darkness.

I personally think it is the greatest time to be a Christian because the light of Christ shines brightest in the dark. I like what Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

The message and the mission of Jesus never changes. Our strategies may change as the modern world changes. Technology, for instance, has opened up new avenues and new mediums to reach people. We need to be creative and make use of such gifts. We also need to be bold to speak the truth. I believe the world—even those who call us “haters”—is hungering to know the truth and to hold on to something that is not going to change three or four days from now with the next trend.

What keeps me up at night? Prayer. My hope is that I know God answers prayer, and I choose not to worry about things I can’t control. But I can control what I think about, and when I find myself awake at night, I pray. I take Paul’s advice that he gave to the Philippians. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The full article can be found by visiting Mississippi Christian Living’s website, http://mschristianliving.com/2017/covers/2017-church-mississippi-relevant/