Well a lot people would say that churches today need to be more relevant—especially to reach unchurched young adults. But how do you or I become “relevant”? How do you make a church “relevant”? Is trying to be “relevant” even a good idea?
Some people think that in order to become relevant you need to give Christianity an image makeover by altering the Bible’s message so that it’s more popular or provocative. Others think that in order to become relevant you need to make Christianity more cutting edge and technologically cool. As the thinking goes…if you want to reach unchurched people, especially the growing numbers of young people under the age of 30 who are unchurched, you need to be “relevant.”
But what really makes church relevant to a young adult? Listen to what 27 year old author Brett McCracken says about this. His words really ought to make us think:
"I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don’t want cool as much as we want real. If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it’s easy or trendy or popular. It’s because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true. It’s because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex drenched—and we want an alternative. It’s not because we want more of the same." (link to article)What this is saying to me is that being relevant isn’t about carefully crafting a culturally cool image. Being relevant comes down to being real about ourselves, about Jesus and his word. And isn’t that naturally happens as we take Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 to heart? Jesus’ devastating words of law that we've been hearing the last couple of weeks especially force us to admit that we aren’t perfect…but they also free us to admit we aren’t perfect.
If the world we live is narcissistic and phony, the Church of all places then ought to be a place where people can be real. The Church of all places then ought to be a place where anybody can come as they are, find a group of people who are transparent and honest about their sins, and listen to the voice of their Savior who says, “I am the way, the truth, and life” (John 14:6).
In that way, being “relevant” really isn’t much different than being “repentant”—a call to each one of us an individual members of the Church to turn daily from our own righteousness to Christ and his righteousness just as Christ once preached, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).