Thursday, September 23, 2010

Relevantly Wrong

Ok, so this idea of being relevant in the church is driving me crazy. There are some that have the idea of relevance as it pertains to the Gospel and the church all wrong. When something is relevant it has “bearing upon or is connected with the matter at hand.” I’m not saying that relevance is unimportant, on the contrary, it is, but many have it backwards.

Here’s what drives me up the stinking wall…there are those that believe we need to make the Gospel relevant to where we are so that it fits into our life and culture. During the three years of His active ministry, Jesus Christ NEVER attempted to make the message that He preached relevant to His time. It simply was not a message that people related to. He was telling people He was God, that regardless of how “unclean” someone was God still desired them, that prostitutes and thieves were more important to the Kingdom of God than the Pharisee that spent decades dedicating his life to the law. This was not a message that related God to the culture they lived in. It was NOT relevant to their culture, how can we be so pompous to believe that it’s relevant to ours. The Gospel message spans eternity. It exists outside of time. How can something that existed before time was created (and thus before there was any culture) be made to relate to any culture.

The idea that Christ gave us the Gospel to relate to us, suggests that God was sitting in Heaven and had no idea what we suffer or go through. It suggest that the only way for Him to know was to send His son, so that we could relate to us and once He figured out that earth was a cesspool, then He hatched His plan of a sinless sacrifice to atone for our sins. NO! His plan can be seen in Genesis (Gen 3:15). The fact is that God sent Jesus to earth to show us the visible image of our invisible God. He came down to us, to lift us up to His Father. He didn’t come to just be with us, but to show us THE example of a life lived to glorify His Father. He didn’t come down to relate to us, but that we might relate to God.

Sadly relevance in our churches has become a catch phrase that allows people to sit in their Christian infancy, never graduating from spiritual milk to meat. Relevance has become our way of excusing ourselves from the uncomfortable parts of the Gospel. The parts that say, Ask and you shall receive are easy because they're for us and who better to relate to us than…us. But the parts that say, die to yourself, take up your cross and love others without exception or expectation demand of us and don't benefit us, so all of the sudden those parts are not relevant to our culture.

Like I said, I am not against relevance. My church (Element Church) makes it a point to be relevant…in their practice! The method by which we deliver the Gospel is important for the culture you’re reaching. Even Jesus was relevant in His practice. He did stuff that was relevant to that time. The parables He told contained elements that the culture would understand. The stuff He did, eating with tax collectors, washing His disciples feet, riding in on a donkey colt (prophecy fulfilled), were all things that were relevant to the culture He was teaching in. BUT, the message NEVER changed!

The bottom line is this: When you attempt to make the Gospel relevant TO the culture you're teaching in, rather than delivering it in a WAY that is relevant, then you end up with something that isn’t the Gospel. You end up with things like the prosperity gospel. I heard Matt Chandler, lead pastor of The Village Church, say that adding anything in front of the Gospel (Prosperity Gospel, Social Gospel, etc.) makes it NOT the Gospel. The Gospel is revolutionary not relevant (prelude to another blog).

In Him,
Bruce