Robes, collars, pews, altars, white-glove-wearing ushers, armor bearers and titles… I ask you, what is the point? Before you dismiss the question as outlandish, you need to be able to explain the relevance of these things. Because a ritual has tradition on its side, does that make it biblical, correct or useful? As Mark Batterson, pastor of NCC says, irrelevance is irreverent.
Many things that I have become accustomed to doing in the church, I have done or supported mindlessly. When you strip everything down and ask why, (something we should all do often), it helps you to remain on point. We have got to ask the question why. For most of the Church, relevance is one issue that is easily overlooked, yet most important, in my assessment. It’s so easy to continue to do things just because generations before have done it. We sang Matthew 5:14 in Sunday school and hear it often: “You are the light of the world; a city on a hill cannot be hid.” Hid here can be defined as “to escape notice or be ignored.” I would add, “or become irrelevant.”
Much like David in 1 Chronicles 12:32, we who are fighting this fight of faith need those who understand the times and know what to do. If we get detached from the times, if we ignore the times, if we remain in our own bubbles and assume that what worked back then will work now, then we’ll keep doing things for the sake of tradition and simply won’t matter to the world. Church attendance will continue to decrease, reachable lives will remain untouched, and the American church crisis will continue.
Jesus was relevant. Everywhere he went, the people found him irresistible because he brought them relief and hope. The religious sect and the crowd wanted a different kind of relief, however; they wanted power, glory and dominion. In the midst of demands from the crowd and cowardice by the religious, Jesus stayed the course. Relevance is not always popular, but it is always irresistible. I’m not sure that we have to convince people that they are depressed, discouraged or drained. Ours is to offer them a slice of heaven on earth, to proclaim the kingdom of God, to show light in darkness and be salt for preservation in decay. To offer an alternative to the greed, selfishness and hate that riddles the unaltered worldview.
We are to be relevant by promoting and demonstrating generosity, selflessness and love, especially to those who can’t or won’t give anything back in return. Love is always a non-profit action. If you’re in it for profit, you’re not in it for love.
Here’s what I’m thinking about today. Am I a relevant Christian who lives my life in service of those who are in need? Have I become an irrelevant Christian who is only concerned with my prosperity, health and acquisition of wealth? When I define my world, does it only include my church, family, friends and associates, or do I think of my neighborhood, community, state, country and others as a part of my world? When I attend church gatherings, do I mindlessly do what is now routine? Or is every action, song, and prayer deliberate and meaningful? Finally, by the way I live out my life, do others just see me as religious, always spouting rules and regulations, or do they know that I am a Christ follower by the way that I love?