Rethinking Relevance

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? 

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3 thoughts on “Rethinking Relevance

  1. I agree wholeheartedly that we are only relevant to the degree that our focus is off of ourselves and our accumulation of stuff and accolades and focused on living life in a way that honors who we are, who God is and who our brother is.

    I believe that prosperity is one of the goals of life, but not in the modern church over-indulgent way. I be lieve that it is a noble pursuit to strive for what we need to thrive, no more and no less. There’s no need for waste or greed because, after all, accumlation does not bring happiness to anyone.

    I don’t mind anyone’s rituals (robes, pews, sign of the Cross, whatever) so long as the ideas and values that the rituals signify do not get lost in the religiosity of performing them.

    I am SO glad I can weigh in on this stuff and not become irritated! Finally!

  2. Kwesi, you and I talk about this stuff so much, that I often forget to comment here. I’ll do better! 🙂

    I think a large part of our problem is relevance. And I don’t think it’s complicated. If we just pursue authentic relationships with people around us, that’s all it takes to be relevant. Just be you. Everyone is relevant to someone, until they lose authenticity. If you’re busy trying to fit the mold, look the part, play the role, or be what someone else expects, you’ll be relevant only to others who are also living in pretense. The church is losing a whole world just being relevant to itself.

    As for the rituals, I don’t see their necessity for my worship, but being true to myself, I’m a very casual, no-frills person. It may work wonders for someone else.

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