What is it about our generation that makes us so consumed with relevance? We grow up rolling our eyes at our parents because they are so out of touch. In college we relentlessly chase after making sense of our experience in light of others’ (or at least some of us do…). We even have our own magazine – RELEVANT!
I would be ignorant, of course, to claim my generation to be first to roll their eyes at their parents or to seek to make sense of our experience, or even have a magazine. I can image many a Babylonian boy and medieval maiden frustrated that their parents, “just don’t get it.” But I do wonder if there is something within the collective conscience of the millennial generation that especially yearns for relevance.
Perhaps it is the radical changes that have taken place within our lifetimes. We are the generation of instant communication with anyone in the world. We carry around in our pockets the power to look up any information in the flash of an eye (for some reason we choose to use that incredible power on cat videos, but that’s something for another post…). We have travelled more than our parents, seen more diversity in our schools and our media. We live in a more pluralistic, relative, postmodern culture than ever before. And we are connected to all that difference more than ever.
There’s nothing like being exposed to radical difference that makes one ask “what’s the point?” That sort of existential and epistemological angst is, I think, common among my “Relevant” generation.
This is why relevance is so important to us.
As I described in my post last week about community, one of the things that first attracted me to InFaith were the Ministry Essentials. This week I want to focus on the ministry essential of Relevance:
As culture changes, we will adjust our methods to be relevant to whomever God brings our way. We are cognizant of our rich history, which we see as a foundation for the future. Like our founders, we are pioneers. We seek relevance through evaluation of our methods as we teach the unchanging Word of God to an ever-changing culture.
There have been times when the Church felt compelled to retreat from the world and emphasize the church’s difference from instead of its existence with the world. But that doesn’t seem to be how God wants us to respond today. Because we live in such a changed/ing culture, because this young generation is such a changed/ing generation, the church must step up its relevance games.
Relevance isn’t a thing. You can’t package it up and send it out to other places. You can’t sprinkle it on or add it to your gospel witness. It is an approach to ministry that takes seriously the fact that God created the world Good. It recognizes the brokenness that sin brings, but celebrates the unique culture(s) found in all corners of the country. Relevant ministry begins with a context and seeks to bear witness to the transforming gospel in an understandable way.
If our generation is the relevant generation, what would it look like for the “relevant ones” to step it up? If Millennials are so uniquely so, then what does “relevant ministry” look like? Sure, in some places it looks like lots of coffee, thick rim glasses, tight jeans, and beards. But in other places it looks like camouflage, 4x4s, and pearl snaps. What was relevant to me as a farm boy is markedly different from what is relevant to me as a city slicker!
What would happen if we did something about our desire for relevance? What if we struck out and started something new? What if we began to examine our context, study our history and apply the transforming gospel in our communities? I hope that we would see more lives changed by the unchanging gospel. I hope that we would see new people brought into the church who before though this whole Jesus thing was “irrelevant”. I hope that we would see young people rooted in the rich traditions of our faith and aware of their unique place in God’s kingdom touching lives and transforming communities.
Relevant ministry is one of the reasons why I’m excited about InFaith. Relevance is an essential to ministry that I believe can guide people to more fully live into their role in God’s mission to make all things new.