I'm a podcast junkie and I'm not ashamed to admit it. One of my regular downloads is a Christian podcast that often leaves me feeling rather perturbed. Yet much to my dismay, I continue to listen. I appreciate their taste in music and often look forward to hearing specific co-hosts. What leaves me feeling unsettled however, is their overall mission. A normal person would just stop listening, right? You would think.
What perturbs me is not only their overall mission but the confidence (maybe even arrogance) in their mission, as if they were doing something crazy and different. Harsh though it may sound, I believe they are simply another group of alt-Christians critiquing culture from the side lines, dipping their toe in the proverbial "secular" lake, sporting Warby Parkers, and throwing around obscure indie music titles. The main host of the podcast has regularly shared his hope for the show and it always comes out something like this, "because Christian's need to know what's going on . . . we need to be relevant."
It's weak. It's vague. And it's bad theology.
Once again, it places Christians on the side lines . . . and you know what people really love? Ignorant spectators offering their opinion.
Christians have always had a "relevant" crowd, haven't they? Ten years ago we were wearing flannels. Five years ago we were wearing TOMS and lately it's all about calligraphy and IPA's. It just perpetuates. Don't get me wrong, I loved my TOMS (I had a very cool mauve color, gift from my sweetest friend). I lived in Africa for a time. I wore my favorite flannel yesterday. I'm not against following cultural trends (except when it comes to Ugg boots) but I don't think "relevance" is a virtue and it's certainly not the Christian's calling.
In fact, "relevance" isn't what the church needs and it most certainly isn't what the world needs. We aren't called to be relevant. We're called to be a blessing. We're called to be stewards of creation and cultivators of culture.
Not long ago, I related this same thought to the gospel explosion that took place in the days of our earliest church fathers (and mothers, ahem . . .) The gospel spread like wildfire NOT because the saints were concerned with being relevant to the culture around them. They were concerned with being fully human. They were concerned with bringing heaven, to earth, in all that they did. A sweet Dutch professor said it best (I know I've shared his quote a couple of times now but it's TOO good. I just can't get enough),
"Christ did not come to make us Christians, He came to make us fully human."
- Hans Rookmaaker (1922-1977)
If we reduce Christianity to an adjective AND if we reduce the Christian mission to the pursuit of relevance . . . I wan't nothing to do with it. I can't think of anything less life giving.
Thankfully, this isn't what Jesus teaches. We weren't made for that.
The world doesn't need us to try to keep up with it. The world needs WHOLE humans. The world needs the truth of what was (Eden) and the hope of what is to come (New Earth). The world needs YOUR passion, your skill, your words, your hands and your feet. Your family, your business, your book, and your handiwork. It needs faithful saints who show up day after day . . . wherever and however that might be.