Today, I want to talk about a buzz word and what I believe is actually a curse on our current church culture: relevance.
What I often hear in and around the church world, and ministry in general, is the need to “be relevant” – that we need to ensure our message meets people where they are at and that it’s “relatable.” It’s then often tied to some new cultural trend that we need to “utilize to reach a new generation.”
Now obviously, at a certain level, this is both obvious and necessary. Jesus met us in our world, and it was certainly both relevant and pertinent to our lives. We need to continue to live and change with our world and where it is moving. So, in this sense, yes, we need to be relevant.
But, in another very specific sense, there is a problem with pursuing relevance in that “being relevant” has moved from the sidelines to the centre. And, whenever relevance becomes the marker of faithfulness or success, that becomes a problem. Because the church is first and foremost not called to be relevant, but rather to be faithful.
Please hear me clearly, this short little post isn’t calling church to be irrelevant. What I am trying to say is that the arbiter of success, the point of a church or the meaning of a church has never been in its relevance, but in its faithfulness. And, I believe that when a church is faithful to its calling, it is incredibly relevant to all of our lives. But, when a church is just trying to be relevant, it does not ensure that it will be faithful.
What I’m seeking to write and bring to our attention is a point about priorities. Relevance is a great thing when it follows faithfulness; it is a disaster when it drives faithfulness or function.
So, what does this mean for all of us today? It means, if you are older and don’t get social media, that’s okay. Be faithful. It means, if you are younger and know all the cool cultural trends and memes, that’s okay. Be faithful. It means, wherever you are at, the focus shouldn’t be on “being relevant,” hip or cool, rather it should always be on being faithful. And, that’s a hard thing, but it’s also the most relevant and life-changing thing.