Christians crave relevance. For many of today’s Christians, the mantra is new life, Christian liberty, and the pursuit of relevance. Despite the drive for relevance, it may have a dark side. Is it possible that the push for relevance can degenerate to irreverence?

When Relevance Becomes Irreverent

Two Facts

  • Fact 1:  God demands reverence. In fact, He states it quite simply:  “Fear me” (Deuteronomy 4:10; 5:29). Fear is serious reverence
  • Fact 2:  Christians should be relevant. Paul, the missionary church planter, was relevant (1 Corinthians 9:22). For Paul, relevance was a gospel issue (1 Corinthians 9:23). Without relevance, we’ll have trouble communicating the world’s Best News.

One Problem

Here’s where we have a problem. If we’re supposed to be “relevant,” than we must have to do things like our culture does things, right. Perhaps we should even do things that don’t quite mesh with a relationship with Jesus. Maybe it means we break some Bible commands. This is a problem. Disobeying God is irreverent, sinful. Doing things just like our culture (relevance) can be irreverent. Our relevance has become irreverent.
Then how are we to be relevant? Relevance is biblical and right. But irreverence is sinful and wrong. What to do?

Maybe the “problem” isn’t so much two seemingly conflicted commands, but a wrongheaded view of what “relevance” really is. When Christianity dips into the well of culture in order to be relevant, we tread the path toward irreverence. Christianity isn’t about similitude to the culture. Christianity is about exalting Christ.

Two Takeaways

Within the tension between relevance and reverence, there are two umbrella principles to keep in mind.

  1. Be Authentic. Everyone yearns for authenticity, but trying to be relevant is not necessarily authentic. Jesus came to restore our authenticity—to restore the image of God that was corrupted by the fall. We find true authenticity in Jesus—becoming more like Him. Sure, be yourself, but be the self shaped by the transforming gospel of Jesus
  2. Be Christlike. If relevance is not conformity to the culture, than what is it? Relevance is Jesus confronting and connecting with today’s culture in whatever boundary-smashing, rule-breaking, convention-crashing form that may be. It may look a lot different than you thought. Christians are called to be Christlike. Christlikeness is true relevance.

In conclusion, how can you be relevant without being irreverent? Real relevance is simple:  the raw story of Jesus proclaimed and lived out. Obviously, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of being relevant in your specific place of life and ministry. Real relevance will happen as we pursue Christ first of all, not culture. And there’s nothing quite like pursuing Christ to drive away irreverence.

What do you think? Is the Christian call for relevance, a siren song to irreverence?

About The Author

Daniel Threlfall

Daniel Threlfall has been writing church ministry articles for more than 10 years. With his background and training (M.A., M.Div.), Daniel is passionate about inspiring pastors and volunteers in their service to the King. Daniel is devoted to his family, nerdy about SEO, and drinks coffee with no cream or sugar. Learn more about Daniel at his blog and twitter.

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2 Responses

  1. Matt

    Christ and mankind’s need for him is always relevant. We don’t make him relevant, he just is.

  2. Earl

    “the raw story of Jesus proclaimed and lived out.”

    That’s the key — if all we do is proclaim the gospel, and then live our lives like everyone else, then we have no good news to share (because we haven’t really, truly heard it ourselves yet).

    What could be more relevant in today’s world than…to feed the hungry? To care for the sick? To visit those in prison? To show love to all those around us (and not just those that look like us)?

    If being relevant is about worship style or better graphics or smarter programs, then you won’t be relevant. If being relevant is about finding ways to actually help those who need help, then God will take care of the rest.

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