One concept the modern church has been most concerned with in the last decade is relevance. The idea is that Christianity and worship have to connect with and relate to the goings on of today’s culture; that the issues Christians address should be the issues that have the most weight in our society.
As Millennials, we have been particularly affected by this concern for relevance. Oftentimes, our elders see us as synonymous with the changing “hip” world they are trying to reach with the gospel and they tend to treat us according to that idea. For us, relevance might mean something different, like current events, missions, and social outreaches.
Yes, relevance is important. But have we been slapping the relevant label on things that are actually irrelevant, while ignoring the things that make Christianity truly relevant?
I fear that as a generation we’ve been mistaking cultural acclimatization with true relevance.
When a church strives to be more relevant, it typically means church leaders have looked into culture, seen what is going on, and attempted to address whatever issues they notice. The church slowly begins to take its cues from the culture around it, either bending over backwards to fix the culture’s problems or adjusting their view of God to accommodate the culture and its problems. God is taken out of the driver’s seat and replaced by the culture.
This is not relevance. This is reducing Christianity to a thermometer, constantly changing according to the world around it. Getting this wrong does great damage to the reputation of God and the witness of the church.
If something is relevant it is applicable or pertinent. It carries weight within its context. It is not something to be ignored. Merely being sensitive to culture is not the same as being relevant. We have to exercise the tools God has already given us to engage culture. What are the most relevant things the church has to offer?
The revelation of God. This is of primary importance. This world did not come into existence on its own accord. It was created by and for a holy, omnipotent, infinite God. It cannot exist apart from this God, nor can it shake off God’s hold. God Himself is, in a very real sense, the context in which this world exists. God reveals Himself primarily through the Scriptures, which were entrusted to us, the Church. As Millennial Christians, one of the most relevant things we can do is engage our culture with the truth of who God says He is in the Scriptures.
The seriousness of sin. Sin defines the state of our culture. Everywhere we look, there it is. Media is saturated with it, politicians are enchanted by it, celebrities are famous for it, and children are instructed in it. Sin is an offence against an infinite God; therefore it is an infinite offence. God has promised countless times in the Scriptures that He will judge the sins of the world (Psalm 110:6) and that He will punish sinners (Proverbs 11:21). What could be more relevant to our culture than this?
The invitation of repentance. Hand in hand with the message of sin is the message of repentance. We do not leave culture lacking a solution to the problem. Show them Christ! Show them the irresistible grace of God in the work, life, and sacrifice of His Son. Hip music will not allure them to salvation. Fun activities will bore them. Palatable preaching will not satisfy them. Christ and the salvation obtained by Him are the most relevant message we can give to the world around us. In our lives and in the things we say, this great truth must be apparent: we are helpless souls thrust upon the arms of an Almighty Savior, and the same Savior has invited us into His family.
Clearly, the relevance of Christianity is found in the gospel. Timeless truths brought to bear on an ever-fluctuating world and culture, revealed by a timeless, infinite God who rules over the hearts of every man, woman, and child. Our concern must be centered on this gospel, how our own hearts reflect it, and how we can go out into our own circles living lives flavored by it.