What does staying relevant in ministry look like? And is it something we should strive for as Christians? Are we at risk for compromising the gospel when trying to be relevant to our culture?
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In this episode, Holly and I dive into the issue of staying relevant in ministry. We explore the tension between relevant and traditional, what “relevant” actually means, how we can stay relevant, and what the Bible has to say about the topic.
Finally, we discuss some of the implications for us as leaders if we want to remain relevant, as well as some questions to ask yourself to determine if your ministry is relevant.
Relevant vs. Traditional (a.k.a. “old school”):
The word “relevant” tends to be a hot button issue.
Some people think it means trendy, compromising the Gospel message, and wearing skinny jeans. Some assume that if your church or ministry wants to be relevant, then it automatically means you are focused only on non-believers, on being “seeker-friendly” and on attracting large numbers.
If we think of it this way, it’s easy to throw it out and say that it’s not a valid approach.
Then we have another camp that we might call traditional or “old school”. At a glance, some people might think of “old school” as people who just want to stick to their traditions, keep church the same size, and only preach the Bible verse by verse.
Again, it might be easy to throw out this approach if you take it at face value.
But we need to dig a little deeper.
What are some of the positives and negatives of the “old school” churches or Christians?
- They are purists and help us stay true to God’s word, his message, and keep us seeking his face.
- Usually very focused on community feel in their church.
- Appreciate the rich heritage of Christianity and what’s been done in the past.
- When people think how “we used to do it” is actually the most truly divine and inspired way.
- When we cling to things that are preference and not truly biblically we become out of touch to the general population around us.
- Focusing on the “good old days” rather than adapting and asking “how can we reach the younger generations?”.
What are some of the positives of the “trendy” churches or Christians?
- Very focused on reaching their communities.
- Want to stay current with what is most effective,
- Seem to be in touch with the younger generations.
- Outside of the box – changing up the way ministry is done.
- Fun environment, more energy.
We get into some of the risks of relevant or “trendy” churches later, but first, let’s look at what relevance actually means.
How to Stay Relevant in Ministry:
Definition of relevant: “closely connected or appropriate to what is being done or considered; appropriate to the current time, period, or circumstances; of contemporary interest.”
In light of this definition, we do think that we should be relevant in our ministry. But we can do so without compromising the message or watering down the Gospel.
We can also still appreciate and incorporate some of the positives of the traditional approaches.
How do we remain relevant in our ministry?
- Consider the demographics and culture of your area and ask yourself if you are relevant to them. This will look different based on where God has called you.
- Learn about the culture you are trying to reach.
- Adapt your style and approach to the culture where you are serving.
- “Learn your people” as Breshana Miller shared in Episode 45.
What does the Bible say about relevance?
Matthew 7:28-29 says:
“And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at His doctrine: For He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (KJV).
Jesus adapted his teaching style to the audience he was speaking to. He used parables often. He adjusted the approach based on the setting and the audience. It’s clear that Jesus made his message relevant to those he was speaking to.
1 Cor. 9:19-23 says:
“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” (ESV)
Paul also shows us that it is necessary to adjust your methods based on the people you are reaching. We note that one key factor here is becoming a servant rather than focusing on your own preferences.
Is there a risk in trying to be too relevant or even trendy?
- Compromising the gospel or watering down the message.
- Focusing only on getting people in the door and not on helping people to experience the transformation Jesus offers.
- Becoming a message of “self-help” or inspiration instead of truly acknowledging our sin and our need for Jesus.
- Becoming a social club rather than a church or ministry where the power of the Holy Spirit is experienced.
- No authenticity.
What does relevance mean for us as leaders?
Staying relevant in ministry has implications for us as leaders. Here are some of the ways it will affect us:
- We need to be willing to adapt and change
- May have to give up personal preferences
- Might need to learn new technology or tools
- Need to stay tuned into the current struggles of our audience
- Need to embrace the power of the internet and social media
- We will have to get out of our comfort zone
- We may need to go be in places we might not normally be present
If you want to evaluate how relevant your ministry is, you can ask yourself these questions:
- How does the community you are in view your church/ministry?
- Do people come to you in their time of need/crisis?
- Is your ministry in a rut? Are you doing the same thing over and over but not getting the results you are shooting for?
- Does your church/ministry lift up the community or just satisfy the needs of those inside?
- If your church closed, would your city be grieved? Would it even notice?
- Are our lives and our ministries vibrant, exciting, energetic?
- Does society need us? Why? Are we considered necessary, or just nice to have around?
We cover a lot of ground in this discussion and we encourage to to wrestle with this issue to decide where you stand. We do feel there are positives on both sides–traditional and “trendy”–but we feel it is important to stay relevant if you want your ministry to stay alive.
We believe that you will need to give up some of your own preferences at times, and be willing to adjust your methods based on the place God has called you.“The message stays the same but the methods can change.”Click To Tweet
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