When Being Relevant Becomes Irrelevant

Relevant.pngToday, 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.

Sleeping Sickness and Staying Wide Awake

On Sunday we looked at the letter to the church in Sardis. Sardis was a well known city for being wealthy and powerful. In fact, Sunrise on Fieldsthey were thought to be unconquerable. They were thought to be almost invincible. And some of us have felt that way about some of the relationships around us. But Sardis fell asleep…literally. Twice in their history they were conquered by invading armies because of stupid mistakes, falling asleep, and becoming complacent. Once a soldier went down a secret path to gather a dropped helmet…leading an army in to conquer an unprepared city. And then unthinkably it happened again. A city that was wealthy, powerful, and had all the potential to excel was conquered and devastated.
Maybe you’ve seen the same thing around you. Maybe you’ve seen relationships that we’re so full of potential, and promise but they fell apart. How do these things happen? Slowly and subtly. People fall asleep, they stop making an effort, they forget that all relationships require effort and faithfulness. So Jesus tells the church in Sardis wake up and be faithful. Wake up and be faithful. Don’t fall asleep, don’t become complacent, don’t think you have it all going on and forget to follow. This is the temptation in any church, marriage, or relationship…we become complacent. We start to take our calling, our spouse, or our friends for granted. And whenever this happens…soon things fall apart.
Jesus gives us this advice though. He says wake up and start again. Go back to the beginning and start to try to love again. Love afresh, put effort in, don’t let what was is good slip away because of forgetfulness. And yes it is hard. That is why in the letter to Sardis Jesus reminds them that some have been faithful. Some are doing it. Yes it is hard but it can be done, and if you wake up and are faithful you will win life.
So the main point is this: faithfulness and effort are needed for relationships to last. So are there any relationships where you need to wake up? Where you haven’t been faithful, where you have been forgetful, where you haven’t put forth effort? This is the perfect time during Lent to be reminded and to reflect on our relationships. But more than that it is the perfect time to act and even repent. Repenting means turning around and starting again. So in your marriage start again, give love like you used to. In your friendship start again, listen like you did in the start. In your church start again, remember your calling to care and act on it. Because whenever we fall asleep in our relationships death isn’t far away, but whenever we are faithful in them life is there to stay…

Sermon Notes

Big Idea: Wake up!

Take Aways…

  • Have we fallen asleep in our Christian walk?
  • What do our actions show we believe?
  • If you stay true, you will be victorious
  • Relationships fall apart slowly and subtly
  • Practical Points:
    • Realize if you are sleeping
    • Wake up and Take Action
    • Stay Awake by being Faithful

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What did you take away? When have you asked the question – “How did this happen?” How have you seen things fall a part slowly and subtly? Where in your life do you need to “wake up”? Are there any relationships in danger? How can you stay faithful and walk forward with Jesus? Where is he asking you to remain faithful?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Spend some time talking with your kids that important things mean putting effort into them. Tell them how family is important so you will be putting effort into it so that it won’t fall a part. Ask them how they’d like you put in effort – what they’d like you to do. Maybe it will be to play with them more, or to go to their hockey games, or other ideas. Listen and then put it into practice.

Challenge for this Week:

Recognize where your sleeping, wake up and take action, stay awake by being faithful…