Relevant has been a term that has been used, over-used, and to some degree, killed. So many people talk about being relevant, that we have to be relevant to reach the world and to reach this generation. They hold conferences on being relevant. They have websites and magazines and other resources that are all about being relevant. At one time, I bought into this idea that Christians need to be relevant. Then through thought and prayer, I realized that Jesus was relevant (duh), but it was the Christian’s job to show the world that He was relevant.
However, even that now I doubt and disbelieve. It is clear that Jesus Christ is relevant. He is the only one in the whole world that is relevant. If no one else is, if nothing else is, He is relevant. Every person in the world, regardless of skin color, age, ethnicity, language, location, or any other factor NEEDS Jesus Christ. He is the only one that has or ever could pay for our sins. That makes Him as relevant as can be. Though this is the case, this term relevant is not really what we all think.
When we think of relevant we think of having a significant bearing on the issue. We think of something that is important to people, whether they realize it or not. When we think of a person being relevant, we think of someone who people will listen to, someone people can relate to, and someone who others believe has something they need or want. That may be true in some respects, but for those who are trying to be relevant to reach this generation and this world, the well intended desire falls short.
Being relevant is a quality of one who is too preoccupied with not offending those they are trying to reach and desire to be more like their culture and less like their God, even if the intent is to reach the culture for God.
Too many Christians today, especially those trying to reach the youth, have put being relevant at the top of their list of things to do or be to reach this generation. In doing so, they will dress like those they want to reach, they will act like those they want to reach, they will partake of the same culture (movies, music, books, entertainment) of those they are trying to reach. They will make themselves just like the ones they are trying to reach so those people will feel comfortable around them, will be their friend, will have an open dialogue with them, and will find them relevant.
I know of one young man who was said just that. He was honestly searching, searching out spiritual things and for that someone he couldn’t put a name to. He went to a church trying to see if it was Jesus he was looking for, but do you know what his response was? They’re just like me. There’s no difference. Why would he wanted to be like them if they are just like him? Instead, he turned to Buddha.
In doing so, in trying to make themselves relevant, some Christians and churches have made themselves more irrelevant than they know. Why would any non-believer want to be like someone who is just like them? No! God hasn’t called us to act like the world, to look like the world, or to be like the world. He’s called us to be holy and set apart. We’re called to be a peculiar people. Do you know what peculiar means? It means different. It means strange, unusual, or exclusively belong to something or someone. It means not being like everyone else.
God has called us to not be like the world. He’s called us to not be like our culture. He’s called us to not be like those we are trying to reach. Are those who are trying to look and be and act like the world in an attempt to win the world well intended? Yes! But they are also misguided!
The Apostle Paul says he became all things to all men so that some men might be saved. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). Does that mean he became a sinner to save the sinner? Of course not. In fact Paul speaks against that : What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. (Romans 6:15 NKJV).
Many use the words of 1 Corinthians 9 to justify the way they dress, act, talk, and are – so that they can reach the lost. However, that has nothing to do with what Paul was talking about in this scripture. Look how The Message words 1 Corinthians 9:19-23:
Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!
Paul was not saying that he became like everyone to win everyone. No, that would be hypocritical and would win no one. Paul was saying that he put himself in a position where he could sympathize with everyone, where he could see the other person’s point-of-view, where he could understand their heart and mind. Anyone who is limited to only seeing and understanding their own point-of-view will close off their ability to reach anyone of a different point-of-view.
Granted, some who are trying to be relevant have this exact same intent in mind, however, Paul did not change who he was, what he filled his mind and spirit with, or anything else other than what has been stated, to reach those he was sent to.
If you look throughout the New Testament, you will see that as the followers of Christ went out to preach the Gospel, they did not act or look like the ones they were trying yo reach. They acted and looked like Jesus!
And you know what happened to them: they turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6). They didn’t do that by being like the world, they did it by being like Jesus. Many in the church are so concerned about being like the world to win the world, they have lost what it means to be like Christ. Yes, they still hold on to the fact that you must be saved, they still believe and preach Christ, but they have conformed themselves to the world, not to God.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. – Romans 12:2
God doesn’t want us to be like the world, but that is what so many churches and Christians are doing. They are becoming more and more like the world in an attempt to win the world and they are getting farther and farther away from God. But God has not called us to be like the world. God has called us to be more like Him. And the funny things is, if that is the right word to use, is that the world wants the same thing. The world is tired of the same thing. They are tired of what they have and see. The world can go to any bar, business, school, club, etc and find people and things that are exactly like them. What they want and need is something different – and that something is Christ in you, the hope of glory!
The world doesn’t need another church that is ran like a business, another church that is marketed like a Silicon Valley startup, another Christian with the same clothes, the same hairstyle, the same attitude, the same likes, who does the exact same things they do, while sacrificing their commitment to God and His Holy Spirit. They’re looking for a church, they’re looking for a Christian with the power of God! And the only way to get that is not to be like the world. It is to be like Jesus.
The only way to get to that point, to be like Jesus, is to spend time with the Holy Spirit, to spend time with Jesus, to spend time with God. Jesus Himself did the same thing. Matthew 26 tells that even during all of His ministry and preaching, He still made time to draw away from everyone else and spend time in prayer with the Father.
And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons: – Mark 3:13-15
Mark 3:13-15 tells the events of Jesus appointing the twelve disciples. Read closely what Jesus appointed them to though. He did not appoint them to preach, He did not appoint them to do miracles, He did not appoint them to heal, He did not appoint them to cast out devils. All these things were a byproduct of what He called them to. First and foremost, Jesus appointed the twelve to be with Him. It was with Him that they were empowered to do what He called them to do. It was being with Him that enabled them to reach the world. It wasn’t being like the rest of the world. It was being like Jesus.
We don’t see in the Bible where any disciple, apostle, or any other follower of Christ reached people by being like them. They reached people by being like Jesus. It didn’t matter what they had in common, it mattered that the Holy Spirit was working through them and giving them opportunities to preach the Gospel.
Many today are seeing people reached for Jesus by being like the world. That is why this trend has continued. But what kind of Jesus are they being reached with? One that conforms to the culture, is just like the world, but has saved the world from it’s sins? What kind of salvation does that bring? It honestly brings a wishy washy salvation. Yes, the people they reach may get saved, may know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but the example that is being set for these new believers is that you can have Jesus and have the world. After all, that is what they saw when they received Jesus. That is what they continue to see from their new friends and new family. And as they continue their walk with a skewed example of what a Christian life should be, and they come up against obstacles and opportunities, their faith in God is put to the test. And since what they have seen is that the Christian is just like the world, they too become more like the world and less like Christ until they are just like the world and not at all like Christ.
However, look at men and women from the past. They were not like this at all. They were like Christ. Rev. Billy Graham, Rev. Kenneth E. Hagin, Rev. Smith Wigglesworth, Rev. John G. Lake reached people with the Gospel not because they were like the world, not because they dressed like the world, sounded like the world, or embraced the culture of the world. No! They reached the world because they were like Jesus. They had the power of the Holy Ghost flowing through them. They were like Jesus Christ and it showed and people were drawn to them and drawn to Jesus.
We don’t need more churches and Christians like Starbucks or the latest trend, we need more Christians and churches like Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost!
God can use anyone, but can only use them and bless them to the extent that they yield to Him. It’s not until we submit all of ourselves and all of our plans and gimmicks and ideas to Him that He can use us and bless us without measure. It’s not what can I do to reach them, but what does He want me to do to reach them.
The church should and must influence the culture of the world and not the other way around. Too often has and is the culture of the world influencing the church. When this happens, we get farther from God and closer to the world. This should not be.
Are you relevant? The honest answer is – it doesn’t matter. We don’t need to be bothered or occupied with thoughts and ideas and plans of whether or not we are relevant to the culture or the people we are called to reach. What we should be occupied with is being more like Jesus, being led more by the Holy Ghost, and doing more what He tells us to do! In the end, being relevant does not matter, being with Jesus and doing as He commands does.