November 21, 2012

Why Relevance is Completely Irrelevant


As Christianity continues to struggle, Christians, pastors and bloggers continually ask one thing: How can Christianity become more “relevant?”

The idea, of course, is that Christianity is fundamentally outdated, and therefore “irrelevant” to people. Basically, the church is a lumbering dinosaur, ready for extinction, waiting to be struck by a comet and be put out of its misery.

Unless, of course, we find a way to make ourselves important again.

Is it new music?

A different message?

Integrating technology?

I read a lot of blogs about how some churches are attempting to be relevant – and failing in various ways. But for all of this struggle and failure, I am surprised it has taken me this long to realize one important thing:

The pursuit of relevance is completely irrelevant.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Relevance

Every day, at least one blog in my reader features a picture of an embarrassing church sign.

Another has a video clip of some off-the-wall preacher.

Or a mega-church with their flashy gimmick from last Sunday.

Or some crummy Jesus art.

I have seen churches featured on blogs that many of you go to. They are massive, sexy churches. They look like they are trying to win a high school popularity contest. They are all trying to be relevant. Some of them do it by trying to tie secular music into their worship set. Some of them try to make quippy church signs. Some pastors try to give eyebrow-raising sermons.

And if this is how they are trying to achieve cultural relevance, then they are all missing the point.

What Is Relevance?

My school holds chapel each week. Here we are with the youth of America and the future of the church.

We sing some really old music. In Latin.

Sometimes we sing without instruments.

You could not be more irrelevant than Latin, by conventional wisdom ... unless it was Latin, a capella.

Yet, here are these kids joyfully singing and eagerly listening to the messages. So what makes our chapel services relevant to these kids?

We preach the gospel to them.

Relevance, Perhaps, Doesn’t Come From a Store

That’s where the church is missing it big time.

Relevance, like Christmas, isn’t something that comes from a store. Relevance, perhaps, means a little bit more.

It’s just the gospel of grace, preached by Jesus, sealed in his blood.

Over the course of thousands of years, our technology, languages, and cultures have changed. But the human heart has not changed. We have the same needs that humans have always needed. We have our physical needs. We need to be loved. And we are in need of a Savior.

If the church would just give people what they need, then we would be eternally relevant.

Instead, we chase gimmicks and fads that easily leave us in the embarrassing position of being behind the times while the world has already moved on.

Just give them the gospel, and you will always be relevant.

CC Image • Poetprince on Flickr

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