Although I’m not much of a wordsmith, I do enjoy the power of words. It is fascinating how the turn of a phrase or the substitution of just one word can make the difference between laughter and the absence of laughter. This is one of the main reasons I never use the word prostrate in my sermons. It’s just too close to prostate. My prostate is one thing I do not want falling before the Lord.
See what I just did! Right now, some readers are laughing while others are stoically reading on, trying to overlook my low brow sensibility. I’m sorry, mom, but that joke was for dad.
I love how we try to describe complex issues, ideas, movements, and even people groups with just one word or even with just one letter. Generation X has to be the best and worse example of this trend. The generation before us was so selfish that they could only afford to spare us one letter. They gave us an X, which is really a bummer considering the fact that if the xylophone hadn’t been created we might have retired the letter all together. Now we’ve become another option for an alphabet book.
My grandparents’ generation has been designated “the greatest generation” while we get stuck with a math variable. What kind of title is “the greatest generation?” Where do the rest of the generations go from there? It’s like having an older sister with a perfect grade point average and a room full of awards. There’s nowhere for us to go but down.
“Relevant” is also a word that provokes my ire. I don’t mind the actual definition of relevant, I am just tired of its misuse within Christian circles. The dictionary defines relevant as “closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand.” Consequently, a relevant Christian is someone who forms meaningful connections with people as well as responds to individuals in an appropriate manner.
Unfortunately, within some Christian circles, the word relevant has become a sort of crazy synonym for cool, hip, or cutting edge. Within this twisted definition, churches chase after the latest trend, fashion, or fad for the sake of relevance. Whether or not being fashionable is an appropriate aspiration, it has little to do with being relevant.
If the church, and Christians for that matter, really want to facilitate places of relevance, then we need to take a hard look at how most of the world lives. Relevance is not the pursuit of the “with it” crowd. Relevance is connecting with the whole crowd.
If you want to be relevant, walk into the local Walmart and look around. I guarantee you that most of the people in the store look far from “cool.” We all just look rather normal.
I know some of you avoid such stores, you prefer to shop at places where the people look more like you. Unfortunately, you are getting a skewed view of reality. Reality is wonderfully diverse. It’s rich and poor, young and old. Reality includes different races and different ethnicities. Relevance is not just reaching the chic, white, middle class, 18 to 35 year-old crowd. Rather, a relevant church makes room for real connection with everyday people.
I’ve given up on cool, but I haven’t abandoned striving to be a relevant Christian.