Faithful or Relevant? Can They Live Together?

Can relevance and faithfulness live in harmony? 

This past week in class the professor referenced applications he had been reviewing for an open position at his church.  “Relevance” is a buzzword making its way onto many resumes and has become a “thousands points of light” comment within the contemporary church’s vernacular.   For those that believe the church has become disconnected from culture, “relevance” is the battle cry to present a compelling message of hope.   Yet, in the words of my professor, “Our job is to be faithful.”

Relevance is about being real, authentic, relate-able, new, edgy, current.   Relevance lives with two toes in tomorrow, fearing that he will become a dinosaur of yesterday.  Relevance is not your grandma’s communion cracker.

Faithfulness is about being true, consistent, predictable to the established patterns, guarding and protecting the treasures of the past.   Faithfulness lives anchored in the victories of yesterday, fearing that yesterday’s battle and its heroes will be forgotten.  Faithfulness tethers itself to the family album.

I’ve spent a lot of time this week thinking about the tension that exists between these two imperatives.  I see the need on both sides.  I’ve seen churches oblivious to the needs of their community, while being “faithful” to the words of their liturgy.  I have seen churches in an attempt to make all welcome and comfortable eliminate any elements that may alienate, even if that element is the gospel itself.   What is the right balance?  Is holding the balance even our responsibility?

Faithfulness is more relevant than any of us may fully realize.    Where does one go to find faithfulness anymore?  You won’t find it in the institution of marriage–marriages are failing at a high-speed rate.  You won’t find it in our politics–it’s too, well, political; a place where words change to suit the audience and garner support.  I don’t have to read too far into the daily newspaper or survey too much of my personal landscape to recognize that faithfulness to anything or anyone is something sorely missing in our homes, schools, communities…and yes, our churches.

The writers of Scriptures weren’t concerned with relevance.  They knew that to preach Christ, anchoring His message in the proclamation of old, was to speak a relevant message.

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.  The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.  Hebrews 1:1-3

I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.  2 Peter 3:2

Being faithful.  How relevant.  How refreshing.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.  I Timothy 1:15-16

What about you?  Do you think we spend too much time in the church thinking up something new or creative?  How do you manage the tension?  What dangers have you seen in the “relevance” search?  What safeguards are necessary to keep relevance faithful?  I would love to hear your thoughts…because I know this is one I’m going to keep thinking about.