Relevant to What?


I read a thought provoking article by Patrick Schatzline on the danger of the Church being “relevant”. Take this quotation from a mentor to the author:

‘Relevant means ‘connection with the subject at issue.’ If the subject at issue is the Great Commission, given by Jesus to His church, and the church is connected to that subject, then relevant is still in and will be until He returns. When the church loses the connection to that issue, then the church becomes irrelevant.

Zing! Right between the eyes! Are we so relevant to the world that we are virtually indistinguishable from it?

It Seems a bit ironic that some of the scriptural passages for this article came from The Message version of the New Testament, written with the goal “to capture the tone of the text and the original conversational feel of the Greek, in contemporary English”. (See Bible Gateway) Or is it? The Bible Gateway summary of The Message states:

Language changes. New words are formed. Old words take on new meaning. There is a need in every generation to keep the language of the gospel message current, fresh, and understandable—the way it was for its very first readers….. [The author attempted] to strive for the spirit of the original manuscripts—to express the rhythm of the voices, the flavor of the idiomatic expressions, the subtle connotations of meaning that are often lost in English translations.

So relevance really depends on the object of the relevance. If it is relevant to the Gospel, that is the relevance we want. If it is relevant to the world, we may lose relevance to the Gospel; and that we do not want.

Some of what is written in the article is written directly to the charismatic, full gospel spiritual gifts churches.

To sacrifice conviction for the thrill of an experience negates our purpose. I often wonder if we are raising up a Saul generation that likes worship more than God’s Word because it soothes one’s demons. Maybe that’s what Jesus meant when He said, ‘Worship in spirit and truth’ (John 4:24).

Some of us who do not attend these churches might do well to remember that we are believers because we have had some personal encounter with God. Each of us had a moment or a series of moments or life events in which God seeped through our hard facades, invaded our staid and vacuous lives, and became REAL to us. We dare not discount the role the Holy Spirit and experience, actual experience, plays in the lives of believers.

But, back to the message ….. We cannot make ourselves so relevant to the world that we are no longer relevant to God, to the Gospel and to God’s kingdom. Patrick Schatzline puts it wonderfully in this statement:

We must be God’s voice and not forego biblical truth with conviction. We must not blur the lines between the world and those called to the cross.

We must not be so cutting edge that we cut God and His Holy Spirit out in the process. Jesus met people where they were. He hung out with the sinners and tax collectors at times, but His message was always on point. He told the adulteress after chasing off her prosecutors to “go and sin no more.” He loved people whoever and wherever they were, but He never stopped testifying to the Father, and He did not alter His course that led to the cross.

Jesus also always brought people to the point of decision. You could not encounter Jesus and walk away neutral. He did not demand a response, but His presence compelled a response. We are sometimes too timid or preoccupied or too concerned about relating to others to be the same kind of catalyst for life changing moments that Jesus was, even in our churches. Yes, we need to relate to people, but we should be relevant only to God.

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