Thursday, April 04, 2024

"Relevant" Is Not a Kingdom Word

                                             (Worship at Redeemer)

(Tonight I am hovering over the meaning of "relevance.")

The word for me is not "relevant."


  1. closely connected or appropriate to what is being done or considered.

    "what small companies need is relevant advice"

        synonyms:pertinent, applicable, apposite, material, apropos, to the point, germane

    • appropriate to the current time, period, or circumstances; of contemporary interest.

    • E.g., "critics may find themselves unable to stay relevant in a changing world"

If "relevant" means "umbilically connected," we are disconnected.

If "relevant" means "our refuge is the current cultural ethos," we are strangers.

If "relevant" means "linked, arm-in-arm," we are aliens.

"The Christian," writes Eugene Peterson, "is a witness to a new reality that is entirely counter to the culture. The Christian faith is a proclamation that God's kingdom has arrived in Jesus, a proclamation that puts the world at risk. What Jesus himself proclaimed and we bear witness to is the truth that the sin-soaked, self-centered world is doomed.
Pastors are in charge of keeping the distinction between the world's lies and the gospel's truth clear."
- In Marva J. Dawn, The Unnecessary Pastor: Rediscovering the Call, Kindle Locations 64-66

"My kingdom," said Jesus, "is unplugged from this culture."

"My kingdom," said Jesus, "is from an alternate reality." (John 18:36)

In Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance,  Os Guinness writes that, in our uncritical pursuit of relevance, Christians have actually become irrelevant. By our determined efforts to redefine ourselves in ways that are more in line with the modern world than are faithful to Christ, we have lost not only our identity but our authority and significance. 

The Idol of Relevance turns on us and emasculates us. The Church becomes domesticated. We become one of Relevance's pets. Aslan may not be a tame lion, but we are.

Is that too strong? Watch the secular media see if the Church and its leaders appear as anything more than just another evil to be eradicated. It's as if Jesus said, I came not to be served, but to serve the American dream. (This is also called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.)

Peterson writes:

"Our place in society is, in some ways, unique: no one else occupies this exact niche that looks so inoffensive but is in fact so dangerous to the status quo. We are committed to keeping the proclamation alive and to looking after souls in a soul-denying, denying, soul-trivializing age. But it isn't easy. Powerful forces, both subtle and obvious, attempt either to domesticate pastors to serve the culture as it is or to seduce us into using our position to become powerful and important on the world's terms.: (Ib., Kindle Locations 67-70)