Cultural relevance

Recently I was listening to a Christian radio station that had a commercial about them being “culturally relevant”. The plea was for listeners to consider donating because they were “engaging culture” with Christian music. A day or so later, I drove by a church whose marquee sign said, “Our pastor wears jeans… so can you.”

I’m sure both of them have entirely pure intentions. They want to reach people with an unchanging, eternally relevant message- what a great ambition. Here’s my problem, though: People, churches, and organizations that are relevant… don’t have to talk about “relevance” at all.

If you want to be relevant, then just be relevant and stop talking about it. The minute somebody says, “We’re a relevant bla bla bla reaching people bla bla bla”, they’re probably not as relevant as they think. Talking about cultural relevance is not culturally relevant.

The gospel is already culturally relevant. Guilt, pride, jealousy, loneliness, greed, depression, insecurity, anger, etc, etc, etc are never going away. In fact, that’s why God made the gospel. Let’s just be committed to bringing people grace and truth in the midst of their problems and stop talking about how culturally relevant we are.

This is not meant to be a slam against the radio station or church marquee. I just think it could be helpful for those claiming to “engage” the “younger generation” to hear from a member of that generation.

What’s your reaction when you hear buzz words like these?

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9 comments

  1. Allie and I were talking about this this morning and she mentioned something McDuffee said in one of her classes: “You walk among dead people and you want to be relevant? The deodorant of relevance smells like dead people.” We so badly want to look like the world, talk like the world, and act like the world but… the world is dead. What do you think about his remark?

    1. Haha well I’m smart enough not to disagree with McDuffee.. especially since I don’t understand half the stuff he says. However, I don’t think you can completely neglect contextualization because the gospel does take the shape of the culture it’s in. Relevance is real and the church should be relevant… I just don’t think they should talk about being relevant all the time. Haha I don’t know if that answers your question or not.

      Hope you’re having a great break so far! And that the apt is still holding up. haha

  2. Strong word Nate. Totally agree with you. The other problem I see with that approach is that it makes it seem like your goal is relevance instead of the Gospel. And if thats case you might as well just open a coffee shop.

  3. Like you said, Nate, the gospel is always relevant for all times, but the method of preaching the gospel changes depending on the times. Same gospel, different method. But what I believe culture is looking for is a church that is real instead of one that is relevant. Which is more helpful when giving advice: the friend who is culturally relevant or the friend who is always honest and transparent? Rather than following after what culture dictates as being cool, I think that churches should just be themselves and be real. Because when you’re trying to be culturally relevant, you’re not being real. I would rather go to a church that is authentic as opposed to a church that is contemporary any day. Conveniently, my home church is very authentic and quite contemporary, because that’s how our church members truly are.

  4. to me relevance comes from being yourself.

    That is relevance, not a gimmick or a plan, but simply being yourself. People are attracted to those who know who they are and are willing to recognize others and be real.

    It is funny to see churches go to great lengths to try and be relevant when all they really need to do is be real

  5. Using terms like relevant or real seem to be defined by the ones using and reading them, which makes them difficult to deal with. Personally, I would rather see more people pursue being like Christ in attitude and action than worrying or talking about being relevant or real. After all, that is what the Apostle Paul talked about and commanded his readers his readers to do as well (imitate me as I imitate Christ). Maybe using words like “real” and “authentic” are buzz words for being Christ like, I do not know, but it would seem better to use Biblical terms that have clear meaning when discussing these issues. And especially so when this is most relevant to those who are believers, or at least should be anyway. We seem so easily molded into the cultural norms of our day rather than the Biblical ones, which may be the root of the problem.

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