Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Is The Gospel Relevant in Today's Culture?

If you find yourself wondering about this, or if you've read any articles lately posing this question, I think it's worth discussing.

First, anyone who poses this question either doesn't really understand what the Gospel is, or they don't know the meaning of the word "Relevant".

I've often found myself in conversations with people who use the word "relevant" as a synonym for "Popular" or "Current". As in, "This new book is very relevant" or "What you said is so relevant for people today".

In Christian circles I think this misuse of the word "relevant" is tied to the popular magazine of the same name for which I was once a writer. Their hip, trendy, "twenty-something" culture branding has successfully replaced the meaning of this word with the idea of being cool.

This is great news for the magazine and bad news for Christians who now think that something has to be acceptable to the culture in order to be relevant.

Being relevant simply means that something is necessary. The color of the sky is not relevant to someone who is dying of thirst, but a glass of water is very relevant to the man in the desert. Water is relevant to the thirsty because it is necessary, not because water is popular and trendy among those who thirst.

From the Dictionary:
Relevant (rĕl'ə-vənt); adj. - "Having a bearing on or connection with the matter at hand."

If something is relevant it must be valuable, necessary and contain meaning.
So, does the Gospel of Jesus have any bearing on or connection with today's culture? Let's make sure we understand what the Gospel is before we attempt to answer that question.

The Gospel of Jesus is that the Kingdom of God has come near and anyone who wants to live in this reality can do so today.

"I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent." (Luke 4:43)

"The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15)

"Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness." (Matt 9:35)

"Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom.." (Matt 4:23)

Entrance into the Kingdom of God is accomplished by following Jesus with your every day life. It involves a submission of your will to His perfect will and a surrender of your way of life in exchange for God's way of life.

"Then (Jesus) said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it." - Luke 9:23-24

The Gospel of Jesus is simply an invitation to follow the example of Jesus and the teachings of Jesus in submission to the commands of Jesus, every day of your life.

Instead of answering the question, "If you died tonight do you know you'd be in Heaven tomorrow?" the question Jesus asks is, "If you knew you'd be alive tomorrow, who would you follow and how would you live your life?"

Does the Gospel of Jesus have any relevance to our culture today? Is it connected with the matter at hand? I think so. I believe everyone has to answer the question: "Who will you follow and how will you live your life?"

People are asking this question already. This is why they read books on self-improvement and watch Oprah and Dr. Phil and read Deepak Chopra and meditate and chant and do Yoga and go to Church, or stay home from Church. They are all answering this question, or they are all seeking to decide how the question should be answered.

The Gospel of Jesus is as relevant today as it was two thousand years ago. Our job, as followers of Jesus, is to model the Kingdom lifestyle in such a way that those who are yet to answer this question can make an informed decision about who they will follow and how they will live their lives.

If those who follow Jesus look and act and behave just like those who do not follow Jesus, what is the point? Do our lives point to the new life we have found in Christ? Are we a city on a hill? Are we salt to those who are thirsty for the Living Water? Are we light those those who stumble in darkness? Or do we hide our light? Has our saltiness been lost and trampled underfoot?

The Gospel of Jesus is still relevant. Can we say the same of His Followers?



Chuck Scott said...

Good work bro. The blue sky, water and man dying of thirst made me smile. We could all stand to use our dictionary a bit more. Keep it up.

Mark Main said...

As soon as I read the title of this post I pretty much had the same thought that you ended it with. I believe the Gospel is and always will be relevant. It's those of us trying to present that are often irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. I've studied business marketing quite a bit that last few years, and relevant, in this context, is being relevant to people's needs and desires. Culture is important insofar as it is the context within which communication and interaction take place, but being relevant to the context doesn't mean we are relevant to the person's needs. And it's our needs that are fairly universal and timeless, and which the Gospel is very relevant to...

crazy train said...

Instead of answering the question, "If you died tonight do you know you'd be in Heaven tomorrow?" the question Jesus asks is, "If you knew you'd be alive tomorrow, who would you follow and how would you live your life?"

that kicks ass reverend keef!

Julie said...

The Gospel can be made relevant to all - depending on who's presenting it. Generally though in our culture it's presented in a way that only a small percentage of people can understand. Most ordinary people find it too intellectual and too rule orientated, and to most ordinary people 'church' is so alien and frightening thyr wouldn't dream of getting involved!

Keith here's a link to my story of what happened to me at church -
it's updated and complete!

In Him


Lydia Naomi DeVries said...

I like how you explained what relevant means. Really insightful.
However I do not think that you give a full definition of the gospel. What about sin and how it separates us from being in relationship with God? what about the punishment we deserve that Jesus took on Himself willingly, what about the Holy Spirit transforming our lives as we walk by the Spirit and not the flesh (Galatians 5:16). What about the death and resurrection of Jesus. To merely follow Jesus' teachings is not enough, for if we try to keep the law we have to keep it perfectly (Galatians 3:10). Righteousness is attained through faith in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:22). We must be made into new creations 2 (Corinthians 5:17), brought from death to life (Ephesians 2:1-10) so that we can succeed at daily surrendering (Romans 12:1) and taking up our cross and following Him (Matthew 6:). The gospel is the good news that even though we had a debt of sin that we could never pay, God sent His own son down in human flesh to live among humans and die a criminals death to pay for the debt we owed. He rose again and conquered death as the guarantee that one day, those who believe will be resurrected (1Corinthians 15) and live forever with God in the new heaven and new earth (Revelations 21:1-4).
I hope this is encouraging.