Relevance according to The American Heritage Dictionary means “Pertinence to the matter at hand.” It is the buzzword of evangelicals who fear that many Christians have become so isolated within their own social creeks that they have lost their connection to mainstream society and therefore the ability to share Christ. It is a noble concept when properly applied for it requires that one observe, listen and relate to what is important to another.
Christian contemporary music is one example of applying relevance. Rock and roll performed by Elvis, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones radically shifted musical boundaries. As secular rockers became followers of Jesus they naturally wrote songs for the Lord formatted within the fast-moving style they were accustomed to playing. Soon many churches recognized that by incorporating contemporary music into their services they were able to broaden their worship style and attract people into church who would have been alienated by music they were unaccustomed to hearing. Those who objected to this change missed the reality that many of their venerated hymns were themselves tunes adapted from popular tavern songs.
Acts 17:23--For as I was passing through and observing the objects of your worship, I even found an altar on which was inscribed: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.
When Paul walked among the Athenians and noted their many gods, he chose to be relevant. He used their altar to the Unknown God to proclaim the Creator. Those that accepted Paul’s message understood that they must abandon their polytheism to worship the one true God. Relevance to be an effective method always points people away from their idolatry to God. When it ceases to do this secularization trounces the gospel.
Many Christian radio stations market young “hip” artists playing songs the industry deems as “hits”. Part of the intent is to be relevant and attract young nonbelievers to listen. But the songs seekers are exposed to often contain poor theology*, are written by young men and women who have had little time to mature in the faith and whose message too often reduces worship and discipleship to trite jingles. If I grow my purple hair long, pierce my tongue and listen to the same music as my neighbor to reach him for God my behavior begs the question “who is the one being influenced?”
Those who defend relevance on the basis of first-time converts seem to miss the reality of sterility. New believers who can barely distinguish their faith from their previous lifestyle have little impetus to reach their friends for Christ. Relevance carried too far becomes irrelevance. Our faith loses its redemptive value because we have compromised truth in order to sell, our fear of offending overrides our call to be light—a distinct contrast to darkness.
God-honoring relevance pertinaciously proclaims Him and His word. We don’t dilute His truth to make it palatable to others. We don’t act like the devil to share about Christ. When the Bible commands us to abstain from immorality, filthy speech and anything that would replace Jesus as Lord we obey! In doing so, we offer those who are without hope the opportunity to find hope. The gospel by itself is always relevant. While our techniques and methods may vary, the message remains the same. Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead to save us from our sin—something to think about . . . in reveration!
*The group Audio Adrenaline’s song “Big House” is an example of reducing heaven and the awesome presence of God to a place to play football and eat lots of food.
©2001 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)