How can we be relevant?
What an important question – but what a dangerous one too! If we answer it in the wrong way, we will end up in all sorts of trouble. We believe the Christian gospel is just the most wonderful and significant message the world can ever hear but if we’re seen as irrelevant, no one will give our gospel the time of day.
One approach to ‘relevance’ that Christians have repeatedly attempted is to ape their culture’s convictions. ‘People will listen to us if we adopt a more contemporary/enlightened/popular stance on X, Y or Z.’ But that kind of cultural relevance is a cruel mistress, always promising the Church a place at her table but never quite delivering. Ironically, the closer we align ourselves with our culture’s defining convictions, the more irrelevant we become – after all, who needs to become a Christian or belong to a church when Christians and churches just seem to be reflections of what everyone believes anyway.
The Bible offers a wiser way:
Our goal is not relevance – it’s faithfulness to Jesus
Jesus said to the disciples, ‘All authority in heaven and earth has been given to…’ What? Who? NOT to our culture and whatever its current preferences and convictions are – the culture has no rightful claim on us. What Jesus said was, ‘All authority in heaven and earth has been given to ME!’
And so we should expect to feel odd and to be treated as odd
because if we accept the call to live under the authority of Jesus, we will find ourselves decidedly out of step with our culture and our peers. The apostle Peter put it like this, ‘Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong…’ In other words, a good life (as defined by Jesus) will look just wrong to the world around it.
But we should feel free to be relevant in non-essentials
Paul famously said, ‘I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some’. That very much sounds like he is pursuing relevance. But he is talking about non-essentials. He is talking about identifying the unimportant things (about which Jesus grants us freedom) which may be off-putting to people. So if there are off-putting things about us, let’s put those things off!
One thing will always be relevant
The one thing that will always be relevant is love. ‘By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ If we can make St. Andrew’s the most remarkably loving place people can find, then we will discover that people will listen to our wonderful message.
So as we live life under the liberating authority of Jesus and as we cheerfully accept the irrelevance of relevance, I think we’ll find we become more and more relevant to those around us!
With love in Christ,