Relevant, defined by the Oxford American Dictionary, means closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand. If there is ever a battle in any ministry, it is relevancy! The key issue is that to be relevant means to change to match or be appropriate to the matter at hand. You cannot remain relevant and have no change. To keep relevant is to keep changing. Experiences in my life often get me to ponder what exactly the battle for relevancy is.
The battle of relevancy is keeping our mission as the driving force of our ministry.
What too often happens in ministry is that program drives the ministry and not the mission. (For those who like things defined, a program is simply what we do. To have no program is a program in and of itself.) Both the refusal to change (stubbornness) or the fear of being irrelevant (restlessness) are examples of the program driving the ministry. Change for change’s sake is not relevancy any more than maintaining traditions is faithfulness. In both cases the driving force is not the mission.
Relevancy is faithfulness to the mission!
As situations, opportunities, or just plain life occur, so will the need for change. The question that should drive change is: Are we fulfilling our mission to the fullest of our ability? If the mission is what drives the ministry there will be times when a good program must go for a better one. If the mission is what drives the ministry there will be times when everyone else is changing, but we must maintain what we are doing. In the battle of relevancy, we rejoice when the answer is to keep doing what we are doing, and we roll up our sleeves with eagerness when the answer is a call to change. Faithfulness to our mission is demonstrated when we constantly live out our mission in our ministry. Relevancy is lost when the goal is relevancy or when change never happens. In both cases the program drives the ministry: ‘We gotta keep current.’ ‘If it was good enough for Paul.’ Both are ill. But when God gives us a mission, life happens. We ask for the mountains to conquer. And if we see a more effective way of doing things, we celebrate what God did with the former, and we act in faith with the new changes ahead.
Halls of Fame…
The real tradition of a church is God’s Word, and the specific mission that God has called a particular church too. Programs will change if a church is relevant. But, what God’s Word teaches, and the mission God calls a church to should not. It is very easy to begin equating our programs with or as theology. Such is false. Programs serve the the function of living out what God’s Word says and what the church’s mission is. As the meaning of God’s Word is specific, the application is often broad. As we better understand God by studying His Word (theology), it should be readily apparent the need to change ourselves and our churches to match up with who Christ is (application). Churches must never become ‘museums.’ In our communities churches must become ‘halls of fame’ of God’s Grace. For in times past, today and in the future, the church must proclaim the immeasurable greatness of who God is. They must inspire anew those who are seeking to become like Christ while eagerly expecting His return. Halls of fame celebrate and respect the past, while at the same time inspire and build anticipation of what is to come. And, while the actual game changes very little (all analogies break down at some point) how new generations of players engage in the ‘game’ keep it fresh, alive and exciting. God’s Word never changes, nor our mission. But, with a never changing foundation begs the question: What’s next?