Hey, Calvary Fremont –
“The Church is no longer relevant.” How many times have we heard that? I heard it again just yesterday. I listened to Carey Nieuwhof interview Simon Sinek, and Simon said, “It’s not that people are losing their spirituality, it’s that the Church is losing its relevance.” I don’t know if you know who Simon Sinek is, but he is a smart man. But is he right – has the Church lost its relevance? Is the Church like a typewriter – innovative in its day, but obsolete today? Has the Church lost touch with the needs and sensibilities of postmodern man, swallowed up in the relentless advance of history?
Before you can intelligently answer that question, you need to know what people mean when they say that the Church is no longer relevant. In what way is the Church no longer relevant? Must the Church be regularly updated? Is the Church supposed to follow the pattern of the iPhone? On June 29, 2007, the original iPhone was released. This was followed by the iPhone 3G in July of 2008. As the iPhone was improved and innovations were added, new versions were released until the iPhone 13 hit the shelves in September 2021. With its updated capabilities and capacities, the iPhone 13 is much more relevant and responsive to consumer needs than the original iPhone. Should the Church rip a page out of Apple’s playbook and regularly update Her theology, philosophy, doctrines, values, creeds, and practices?
It seems to me that relevance is relative. A man with a brand-new Lamborghini doesn’t need a 2009 Ford Focus with 175,000 miles on it – it is irrelevant to him. A man without a car finds that same Ford a truly relevant acquisition. Likewise, those who have embraced the sexual revolution and all things LGBQT+ will find the Church and Her moral values irrelevant to their core values. Those who don’t see their nature as flawed and therefore don’t need salvation will find the gospel to be irrelevant. Those who mourn their sin and seek for forgiveness will find the gospel and the Church quite relevant indeed.
This is what the culture today would consider to be a Relevant Church –
A Relevant Church has quietly abandoned antiquated notions of Biblical authority. Postmodern people are too enlightened and individualistic to give credence to such ancient guidance. Today’s uncertainties can’t be addressed by yesterday’s certainties. Any church holding to Biblical authority is not relevant to the needs of modern culture.
A Relevant Church will distance itself from the deity of Jesus Christ – he was not God, just a highly advanced man. We all have the Christ spirit within us waiting to be released. Connected to this is the thought that a Relevant Church does not see people as sinful and in need of salvation, but as ignorant and in need of enlightenment, as broken and in need of healing. A church that preaches that people are sinful and guilty and in need of forgiveness is irrelevant.
A Relevant Church has updated its curriculum to address themes of current interest. Stories that are 2,000 + years old that tell of miracles and crucifixions and resurrections need to be mythologized and the spirit of man must be celebrated and affirmed. A church that teaches the Bible as truth and not myth is an Irrelevant Church.
A Relevant Church has sharpened its vision to focus on felt needs. Talk of sin, shame, guilt, repentance, and forgiveness must yield to themes of loneliness, alienation, angst, personal growth, and how to form a community of non-judgmental trust. A Relevant Church will be one where its pastors wear skinny jeans, has loud music, a fog machine, and serves lattes before and after service!
A Relevant Church has updated its moral teachings to embrace and affirm the sexual revolution in all its manifestations – from abortion to sex between anyone, whenever, to all things LBGQT+. The Church needs to broaden her teaching on morality and move away from any judgmentalism into the affirmation of the manifold ways that human beings love one another. Love doesn’t trump morality – love is morality. Love justifies all things. That’s what’s relevant today – at least that’s what they tell us. A church that insists upon moral absolutes is an Irrelevant Church.
A Relevant Church will be politically active and socially engaged. Of course, this engagement will be that which is approved by the social elites. A church that champions conservative causes is an Irrelevant Church.
I really don’t know what Simon Sinek had in mind when he said that the Church is losing its relevance – he didn’t unpack that statement. But many would argue that if the Church wants to remain relevant, it must abandon Biblical authority, the deity of Christ, the sinfulness of man, and the moral absolutes of the Bible. A church that insists on those things is an Irrelevant Church. It sounds to me that what some consider to be an Irrelevant Church is actually a Faithful Church!
I don’t believe that the Church has lost Her relevance – but I do believe that the Faithful Church has lost its attractiveness. And no wonder – why would those who insist on their own righteousness, their own wisdom, and their own authority be attracted to that which contradicts them on every count and calls them to account for their sin and rebellion against God? The Faithful Church is relevant and must always strive to be as attractive as it can be without compromising its relevance. Someone has said, “If you want to say something relevant, say something eternal.” To abandon Biblical authority, the deity of Jesus Christ, the sinfulness of man, and moral absolutes is to cripple your ability to say something eternal and disqualifies you from being a Relevant Church. There are legitimate criticisms to be made of the Church, but irrelevance is not one of them. More on that later…
Be blessed and stay healthy and follow Jesus – Pastor Tim