There is much talk in these days about the importance of being “relevant” as we seek to share Christ, serve God and labor for His kingdom. Ways of living, methods of doing ministry, and even the gospel message we share with those around us are examined for their “contemporary relevance” – that is, how well do they speak to, and into, the culture of our day and time. I am concerned, however, that our focus on relevance has, in some cases, trumped our focus on God’s revelation, the Bible.
There is no doubt that every culture and era has its unique expression of principles revealed in Scripture. At a foundational level, however, our eternal God has given us His eternal Word, which is “relevant” for all peoples, in all times and all places. For instance, though people may practically demonstrate their sinfulness in different ways in 21st century America than they did in 1st century Rome, the fact clearly remains that in both cultural contexts, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Though people today may be focused more on the “here and now,” rather than the eternal, the biblical truth remains that God created us for eternity and commands us to “lay up treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt. 6:20). This can only be done as a person responds to the biblical Gospel and is transformed by God’s Spirit.
So, if by “relevance” we mean finding methods of communicating the Gospel message that are “contextually appropriate” (such as, while in Romania, sharing the Gospel in Romanian, rather than English), I think we are on the right track. Each Christ-follower must “think like a missionary,” in terms of the most effective ways of communicating the Gospel in his particular context, whether in Raleigh, NC or somewhere on the other side of the globe. If, however, what we mean by “relevance” is really thinking more in terms of the “palatability” of our message to the minds and hearts of our hearers (how we think the Gospel message will make them feel, and altering our message so as not to offend, or in order to tell them what they want to hear), then, in the end, we have abandoned God’s revelation and chosen relevance instead.
One of our biggest problems today as Christians is not sharing Christ in a “non-relevant” way, but rather not sharing Christ at all for fear of seeming “irrelevant.” According to God’s revelation to us, the Gospel is “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). The reality of that truth knows no cultural or contextual boundaries. May God, by His Spirit, give us a passion for sharing the truth of His revelation, in contextually appropriate ways. As we do, may many people hear the biblical message of the Gospel, respond to it in repentance and faith, and, in so doing, bring glory to our Great God who alone is worthy.
Your thoughts? Feel free to comment.