To be relevant or having relevancy means having a signifcant and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand. So being culturally relevant is really no more that staying current with the times. This is what so many pastors are striving for in their preaching....to be relevant. They are seeking to stay current with what is going on in our American culture, and the topics they preach on reflect this. Take, for example, the Atlanta pastor who is currently preaching a two month series of Green sermons. That's right, two months on Christian responsiblity and the enviroment. With all of the buzz about global warming you can't get more current, more relevant than that, or can you? Look at other sermon series that are being preached such as marriage and the family, handling stress, how to be a good friend, how to stay positive in a negative world, how to handle your finances, how to raise your children, sex and sexuality, how to handle conflict, forgiveness, depression, and the list goes on. I wish I were exaggerating on these topics, but unforturnately, I am not.
You might say, but, Morris, all of theses topics are current, they are today, they are relevant to the world in which we live. Isn't it therefore good for the people to hear what the Bible says about them? Can't we use them to draw those who need to hear the gospel? Well, think about it for a second....maybe longer. Is the Gospel about your sex life, is it about your marriage and your family, is it about enabling you to handle stress? I admit that the topics I have mentioned are issues that we all encounter, and the Bible does get around to addressing them. But what is the point of Scripture? Is the point of Scripture our being a better dad or mom, a better husband or wife, a better person, our feeling better about ourselves, or our responsibility as stewards of the planet God gave us to rule over? Is it about the gratification of our fleshy desires or our infatuation with the immediate? Or is it about God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself through the cross, and then about us becoming more like Christ, being conformed to His image?
If you really think about it and give it some thoughtful meditation, to what, ultimately, must the church be relevant? Isn't it eternity? The current culture is temporal and fleeting, and even though our bodies will eventually wear out, our inner man, the real us, is eternal, is being renewed day by day, and will exist long after this world and all it contains is burned up. Did we not step into eternity the moment we were conceived? Is not our eternal state the real matter at hand? So then if we are preaching to be relevant to today's culture, to be current with the times, and are ignoring the preparation of souls for eternity, which is the real time in which we shall always live, isn't that the height of irrelevant preaching?
The great pastor, who is still a pastor to pastors, the apostle Paul, distills for us the essentials of an eternally relevant ministry in Colossians 1:28-29. Listen to his words, "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we might present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me." When we proclaim Christ and are admonishing and teaching every man so that they will become more like Christ, that is the epitome of relevant preaching. Why? Because it is Christ against whom we will ultimately be measured. He is the standard because He is the one who fulfilled all righteousness, He perfectly kept the law, He was absolute in His obedience. He is the one by which we are measured when we stand before God in preparation for our eternal state.
If we are becoming more like Christ then we will automatically be a better person, a better spouse, a better parent; and be more patient, kind, joyful, self-disciplined, loving, faithful, and good because He is all of these and more. So relevant preaching will always seek to lead the hearer to greater Christlikeness by having Christ at the center and Christ as the goal.
So, my friends, are you preaching to be culturally relevant or are you preaching to be eternally relevant? Are you sitting under preaching that puts a band-aid on your itch, or are you sitting under preaching that heals and prepares your soul for eternity? Let's recognize the true time in which we live, and move, and have our existence....eternity, and let us seek to be relevant to the eternal culture, God's culture.