Summary: Our goal is to deliver our in a relevant manner to our world so that they can hear the powerful, life-changing truth of Jesus Christ.
Our Message Must Be Relevant
One of the most peculiar postcards I’ve ever seen was sent to me one time. I read the little note on the back, containing a joke from a friend. But it was the picture on the front that got my attention. It was a picture of earth taken from some distance in space. The caption above it read, “Wish you were here.” Now, I’ve been accused of being a space cadet a couple times, but I never realized I was that far gone…
As I think about that image and that sentiment, I wonder if its not one that the church of Jesus Christ needs to consider. We’ve been talking the past couple weeks about how wrapped up the church has gotten in its own little world; How focused we’ve become on just taking care of ourselves and how out of touch the church as a whole has become with the needs and the lives of post-modern America. I wonder if this postcard couldn’t be sent to the church from the world itself. “Wish you were here” they would say. “Wish you were here with us, helping us through this very confusing and dark age…” I wonder if God himself couldn’t send the exact same signal to us. “Wish you were here. My lost children need a light… Wish you were here…”
Entirely too often people of our day have already discovered that the church and church-folks are saying and doing very little that has any relevance to their lives. Its not uncommon to hear people describe themselves as believers in God and even to profess belief in Jesus Christ, but only to find themselves swearing off any kind of ‘organized religion’ or commitment to the local church. They want no part of what they perceive to be complacency and out-of-touch mindset.
Things must change. If we are going to be a new church for this new millennium, the signals we send, our message must be relevant. We must make our message relevant to the lives of those who don’t yet know our Savior and Lord.
What does it mean to be relevant? How would you define that word? My good friends, who I’ve never met, who put together the American Heritage Dictionary define relevant as: “Related to the matter at hand, pertinent.” Something that has relevance has a capability to select, retrieve and communicate data appropriate to a user’s need.
Part of our problem is we have forgotten to whom our message should be relevant. Churches have assumed for years now that what we say, what we do, what we debate, what we plan should be relevant to the life of the church.
Our message must be relevant to a lost, confused, darkened world that is desperately hungry for the love, the truth, the hope and the touch of Jesus Christ.
This idea of keeping our words, our thoughts, our message relevant is essential for our church, especially for three reasons I want to highlight this morning.
First, people in today’s culture are more selective than they ever been about where and when they are willing to give of their time, their energy, their resources. People are much less likely to just ‘try’ something if they don’t see why they should. “What’s in it for me?” “Will it taste good?” “Will I like it?” Thanks to the consumeristic nature of our country, people are very selective.
Second, people are far more protective than ever before. They’ve seen, heard or even experience organization and institutions and even churches that have taken advantage of people, used people and even harmed people. Families are very protective of each other, of their children and their principles.
Third, people today are very unresponsive when they don’t immediately perceive how what you’re saying is related to them. You hear people, young and old, talking about how ‘boring’ church is. Often what they’re saying is not that they aren’t amused… Often they’re saying that there’s nothing that they sense relates to them, nothing sounds relevant… so they’re unresponsive.
Our message must be relevant. But don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Sometimes when you hear people talking about making the gospel more relevant you can tell they’re going in a direction that isn’t necessarily in line with the character and nature of God’s church. Let me quickly tell you three things that making the message relevant doesn’t include.
When we talk about making the message relevant we are not talking about warping the gospel or church into some commodity we sell on the open market. Yes, there are some lessons we can learn about how to ‘get our name into the community’ from the marketing industry. But the church of Jesus Christ isn’t a business or a restaurant or a commodity. We’re not trying to raise consumer interest by showing them that lack something and purchase this handy-dandy religion toy will suddenly make their lives complete. We’re not selling a product they lack – we’re offering what is already at hand – the Kingdom of God, the King of Kings. There’s a very different mindset hidden in there somewhere. Consumerism is not going to bring hope or love or joy to anyone’s life. Jesus can’t we warped into some kind of over-the-counter fix-all product available on line for the low price…