**A note of business: Lately I've been posting notes on Facebook rather than blogging since what I write is much more likely to get read there than here. This time I have double posted as an experiment to see whether anyone cares about this blog. If you want the blog to keep existing, make a comment so that I know someone reads it.**
Recently one of the students at our Thursday night College Bible Study submitted the discussion question, “Do you think the church is relevant in today’s culture?” This is a great question. How can an institution based on ideas that are thousands of years old be relevant to a culture that is increasingly bored with organized religion and obsessed with whatever is new? The ongoing debate about this issue has made relevant one of the biggest buzz words in American Christianity. But what does it truly mean to be relevant?
The world defines relevance in its own way. In the last two centuries or so the idea has arisen that whatever is newer is better. Our consistent progress in technology has led to the assumption that all changes in culture are also forms of progress. This results in constant pressure on churches to reflect whatever is the latest trend and to concentrate on whatever people are feeling “right now”. Ironically, churches that give in to this pressure often find themselves in an embarrassing situation years later when they are still basing their ministry on the trends of decades past and are unable to attract younger generations. Battles ensue, new trends replace old ones, and the cycle repeats.
The most defining element of any true church, however, is that its central message is the gospel of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is certainly not a new or trend-setting issue, nor do most people perceive this message as important to their lives. In fact, the Bible itself tells us plainly that the lost world around us will never think our message is relevant. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,” and, “we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” But Paul also tells us in this same passage that even though the gospel is irrelevant in the eyes of the world, “to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” This is possible because “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
God has ordained the church to be the institution that preserves and preaches the gospel. Our message means the difference between eternal life and death for every human being. It is easily the most relevant issue of all time, but no one can grasp its relevance until they believe it and are born again. Although the world does not understand it, the church is relevant to everyone because the gospel is relevant to everyone. The church only becomes irrelevant when the gospel stops being its focus.