The word “relevant” seems to be both overused and misused quite often lately. It even made it on to the list of “Christianese” terms in Micah Tyler’s funny ad for Rosetta Stone – Christianese. But what role should cultural relevance have in how we share our faith?
According to Webster, relevant means “having specific and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand.” As I looked at synonyms, I noticed the word germane, which is defined as “being at once relevant and appropriate: fitting.”
We want our faith to fit our circumstances. When we minister to someone, we do it in a way that is applicable to their situation; fit for them. Because we minister in and among the same people we live and work with, we ask God to give our faith a specific and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand. We want our faith to be helpful to the people we meet.
Contrast this to fitting in. We don’t want to fit in, but we want our life as a follower of Jesus to have a specific and demonstrable bearing. We follow Jesus so he might show himself to others as the having the answers to life.
In order to have cultural relevance, and be proper, we listen for God to direct us. We notice our coworkers and our friends. We expect God to give us opportunities to serve others and live differently. We either wait to be asked, or we ask permission to share things about our faith. And then we speak for ourselves, using the first person. In a conversation among friends, we don’t tell them how to live. And we seldom need to quote the Bible unless someone is asking about the Bible specifically. We simply explain our life choices, why we made them and what difference those choices made in our lives.
When Jesus healed the demon-possessed man from Gerasene, (Mark 5:1-20) the only thing he told that person to do was to return to his people and tell them what Jesus did for him (Mark 5:19). He hadn’t learned a gospel presentation and he didn’t have any tracts to hand out. All he had was one brief encounter with Jesus.
Cultural relevance means we want our service to others to apply, fit and help the people around us. We can minister to the people next to us every day. We don’t need to go overseas. Right where we are, in our own home town, we can serve others and wait for them to ask why we’re different. And then we can tell them what great things the Lord has done for us, and how He had mercy on us.
This is the 6th of our values. Check out the list here and read about the other 5.