Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Are You Relevant? seems that "relevant" is the current buzzword among preppy theologians and church people these days.  We have to "be relevant".  Traditional forms of church just aren't "relevant" to young people.  That's nice, but is it "relevant"?  We're a community that strives to be "relevant".  And so on.

Now on the one hand, I understand this.  The world is not the same as it was.  There is no real social pressure to attend church.  There are lots of other options for things to do on Sunday morning.  Unless we "do church" in a way that doesn't seem hopelessly out-of-date, many people (especially the young-ish, unchurched, and dechurched) probably aren't going to show up.

Fair enough, point taken, so on and so forth.

But I still have a problem with this.

Expending so much energy to make sure we are "relevant" grants the culture's premise that we aren't naturally relevant.

But we are.

The Church, and the Gospel she proclaims, and the Jesus she lifts up, are always relevant.  They always have been, and they always will be.  

And if you don't believe that, deep, deep down in the marrow of your soul, in a place that exists past the point of intellectual assent on a bad day, past your ability to exegete Hebrew, past your tolerance for apologetic debate with the most hardened of hearts, then "being relevant" will never matter.  If you don't believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ is the most relevant thing this universe has ever known, then all the "packaging" in the world won't get people in the door. 

And also, I think it's lazy.  It looks only at the surface of this culture and sees its obsession with i- and e-everything, its need to be constantly entertained, its multitasking brain-flitting-ness, etc... It's a stance that doesn't connect the decline of the church with the fact that today's "young people" are the first to be raised post-sexual revolution and post-Roe v. Wade, they're the first to be raised in a culture where divorce and absentee fathers (and mothers) are barely mourned (let alone frowned upon), they're the first to be raised in a setting where the existence of absolute truth is questioned or outright denied.

To spend so much time trying to "be relevant" capitulates to the culture and allows the Church to continue to be pushed to the margins as just one more option for "spiritual fulfillment".  It refuses to fight the assumptions of the culture with the truth of Jesus.  It refuses to say, "there is so much good in the tradition that's been handed down by the saints that have gone before, and let me tell you about it."  It says, "sure, we can give you everything you want" instead of "I know what you need."

Now, to be sure, changing times and cultures require this message to be communicated in different forms.  There are different challenges today than there were 50 or 100 or 1000 years ago.  We need to take that seriously, and make sure that we're doing everything we can so that the message of Jesus is actually being heard.  It makes no sense to walk into a room full of Hearing persons and start "reading" the Bible in American Sign Language.

But the minute you declare that you're trying to be relevant, you've already accepted that you're really not.  And that's unacceptable.  So lift up your heads, Church.  You are relevant, because Jesus is relevant.  Start believing it, and start telling the world.

1 comment:

Post a Comment

My Comments Policy: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23