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Jul 11 2007

Relevance is a Tool, Not a Goal

Ed Stetzer presents ten points, with discussion, at the Catalyst website to help us avoid making an idol out of relevance.  These are adapted from a message Ed gve recently at the National New Church Conference in Orlando, Florida.

Relevance is a word seen more and more these days on church marquees, yellow page ads, and websites. It seems that every church wants to make sure everyone else knows how relevant they are. This strikes me a bit like the advertising agency named "Creative Ads." If you are so creative, could you not share that with me in a more creative way?

No one advertises their lack of relevance. Who wants an irrelevant church? (Well, it must be a lot of people, but that is another story. But, I am guessing that most of them do not read articles on this site.)

For most of us, we are tired of people criticizing culturally relevant churches. I have heard dozens of sermons against contemporary worship, music, and casual dress. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt (or the tie, depending on your perspective).

But, we also need to be careful. Relevance can (and sometimes is) over-emphasized. The problem isn’t found in the desire to be relevant. After all, the word relevant means, "to be pertinent." The problem is that sometimes we have too little confidence in the Gospel and its ability to prove relevant on its own merit.

The Gospel is relevant, in this and every culture; it is often our churches and ministries that are not. We can find ourselves putting too much emphasis on relevance itself, and not enough on what we’re trying to make understandable – the Gospel.

While relevance can bridge some gaps to the Gospel, it is only a tool, not a goal.

Ed’s ten ways you can know that relevance has become more important than the Gospel to you:

  1. If we focus on personal transformation and not Gospel transformation.
  2. If your sermons are so practical they lack any Gospel.
  3. If you talk about practical more than you talk about biblical.
  4. If your outreach demeans others that preach the Gospel.
  5. If your approach makes you the hero and not Jesus.
  6. If "personal evangelism" is an oxymoron at your church.
  7. If "invest and invite" never leads to evangelize.
  8. If attendance is a greater value than conversion.
  9. If the cross gets less focus than the church.
  10. If not offending seekers is more important than telling the Gospel.

Continue reading for discussion on each point.

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