What does it mean to be “relevant”?
That is the eternal question, isn’t it? At least, it’s the question of our age. We live in a time when more voices are clamoring than ever for our attention. We live in a time when our churches have to compete for the hearts and minds of a generation, rather than enjoying the role of de facto cultural leader.
Late last year, I wrapped up a ministry that I had been leading for seven years. I’m enjoying a time of sabbatical as Cheri and I nurture our new son. And it’s giving me a chance to do something I haven’t done in many years: visit other churches.
It is an amazing experience to go from a leader to a visitor. I feel like I’m in disguise or something! But more importantly, I get to see what churches are trying to do. At their core, most of them are trying to do much of the same things.
They are trying to be relevant.
Some of them are really trying. In some of them, I cannot believe the resources they are obviously pouring into the “experience.” Sometimes it all looks forced, unnatural, even desperate. I don’t say that to be mean. That’s just what it looks like from the outside.
But you know what?
I don’t think “relevance” is where we are supposed to start, regardless of what we are trying to do. Because “relevance,” like influence, like money, is all relative.
Your church can do everything right. It can have the right message, the right music, the right facility, the right coffee. But your relevance is not in your control…
It’s in my control.
I decide if you are relevant to me.
And you do too.
You and I decide if famous people are important. You and I decide if viral videos are actually “viral.” You and I have much more control over the outcomes of everything than the people most intimately involved.
That’s a heavy burden. It’s up to us to decide what to watch and listen to. It’s up to us what advice to act upon or to share with others. There is a lot of clutter in this world. The clutter is hugely influential, but that doesn’t mean it’s relevant to any of our lives. The clutter steals our time and attention and robs more worthy voices.
Today, let’s remember that we can’t live our lives chasing relevance. We can only bestow it.