The third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson said something very profound nearly 200 years ago:
"In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock."
I love that. It is a crystal clear picture of what the church should ultimately try to be and do.
In matters of style, the church has to 'swim with the current'. We must be able to communicate and relate to people (both saved and unsaved) in a language they understand. Yes, we must be relevant to the culture and communities in which they live. That is why we have Cowboy Churches; and Asian, Hispanic, and Chinese churches; and Hip Hop churches; and churches for men; and contemporary churches; and traditional churches. It is a matter of style. It is a logical conclusion that to reach certain segments of society, the church needs to 'speak their language; or relate to their style. As Jefferson said, in matters of style, you have to (HAVE TO) swim with the current.
In matters of principle, the church must stand like a rock. In areas of doctrine, right and wrong, and sin... the church must stand firm. It cannot waiver. It must stand like a rock.
The confusion comes for some when they try to make the 'style' and the 'principle' the same thing. They are not.
That is why we have many different types of churches that hold to the standard of God's word. A successful church is one that can navigate the sometimes ferocious waters of style, and stay anchored to the rock of principle. In fact, if a church does not navigate the style current; it risks becoming ineffective reaching the people she is trying to reach.
How's your church doing with style and principle? Have you ever gotten the two confused? If so, Thomas Jefferson's quote from nearly 200 years ago may help you communicate the difference between the two in a way that people will easily understand.