The Relevant Elephant in the Church
I've been a pastor for almost thirty years and, throughout those three decades, I've constantly heard the repeated complaint that ‘the Church needs to be more relevant.’ I've watched ministers and congregations run around in circles trying to make the music more upbeat, the message more positive, and the mission of the church more slick. I've seen optimistically idealistic seminarians come into charges brimming with new ideas and insights, only to burn themselves out within four or five years. I’ve seen the Church constantly change its teaching, doctrine, and beliefs to accommodate the current culture, only to discover that as soon as we get settled on one issue, the culture has moved on to another place. People want faith to be fashionable, as well as attractive. Appearances are everything and so the relevant elephant in church grows into a monstrous mammoth that crushes real Christianity.
‘The Church needs to be more relevant,’ but to whom? The culture? Civilization? Society? The Church was never established for those temporal and finite things. Cultures constantly change; civilizations rise and fall; society enslaves us to what’s popular at the moment. If the Church needs to be more relevant, it needs to be more relevant to God’s Kingdom. If we are human creatures living under the grace of God, then the Church is not called to be relevant to us (that’s self-idolization); the Church needs to be called into existence and relevance by God. Since God is eternal and all human things are temporal, then the only relevancy that is required of the Church is how we are in fact relevantly connected to God.
Now the culture junkies won’t ever understand this – they've substituted God for what’s good. They've glorified the world and its ways, instead of worshipping God and His ways. But you know what, the culture junkies already have their reward: they seek to be liked and they get it. They’ll also come and go – eventually culture junkies become irrelevant and outdated to their own society in their own time, but God’s mission, God’s Kingdom, and even God’s Church goes on and on and on and on.
So, next time you or I hear someone complain about the Church needing to be relevant, let’s agree with them at first by saying, “Yes, it does.” And then we should clearly add this thought: “The Church needs to be constantly relevant to Christ and God’s Kingdom, but not to the ever-changing world or its temporary culture. We belong to Him who is eternal, and not to that which is currently fashionable.”