There is an awful lot of talk about relevance in the church. I read something today that really got under my skin. I won’t provide a link to the author’s blog, but essentially the author put having a “Starbucks feel” to the church foyer and a “spa-like” environment in the bathroom on par with the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fellowship and worship.
This is the ultimate expression of a corrupted view of relevance. In essence, it is the argument that in order to reach people, we have to appeal to the consumerism and self-centeredness of people. Let me strip down all of the pseudo-spiritualization that is done to defend this and reduce it to a central, motivating idea. This is what is being taught as relevance:
We need to give sinful people what they want so we can then slip them what they need without them noticing.
I used to scoff at my father when he told me that people think this way, but you know what? He was right.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe that we need to create a clean, neat and inviting environment – and in our western context, that means there are certain things people will expect – but that environment is nowhere near as important as the presence and work of the Holy Spirit, of the teaching of the Word of God, of the exaltation of Jesus Christ.
When Jesus is exalted, the Word of God is taught and the Holy Spirit is present, it does not matter if you’re in the Crystal Cathedral or in a dirt hut in Africa – you are relevant.
Let me redefine relevance in the context of Jesus Christ.
Relevance happens when the Holy Spirit uses people to speak to other people through His Word.
When Jesus said to his disciples, “Go heal some people. Most of them won’t listen to you, but go anyway” – they were relevant.
When Paul got stoned for upsetting the Jews, he was relevant.
When Peter called us to be united with Christ in his sufferings, he was relevant.
Relevance is not about pleasing people. It is about being who God calls us to be where he has called us to be.
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