Watch Your Mouth
My husband and I really enjoy The RELEVANT Podcast. I may have mentioned that before if not here, then numerous times on my Twitter feed, and usually after the Friday release date of new weekly episodes. It’s funny, touches on issues within the Church and/or the world, as well offering slices of pop culture, be it movies or music (the latter with a more indie bent, which I like). But there are those I feel like I can’t share the fact I listen to a podcast put out by RELEVANT Magazine. Not that they’re bad, un-Christian, or salacious. No, it’s because the people behind the magazine and the podcast aim, as the name indicates, to be relevant.
In some Christian circles (or perhaps several – I haven’t done a ton of research), the word “relevant” is a very near cousin to the F-bomb or the not-cute version of an emoji that is most definitely not chocolate soft-serve ice cream. Because many hear the word “relevant” – which innocuously on its own means “closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand” – and, well, make it relevant only to the way “wordly” or “worldliness” is used in many Christian circles. For the uninitiated, worldly/worldliness is definitely not something you want to pursue. It carries strong connotations of pursuing the sinful pleasures of the world around you as opposed to spiritual, godly things.
Yet being relevant – taking the word itself at face value – is not a bad thing for us Christian folks to be doing. I know for myself, when I think about ways to make parts of a church service or how I speak about the Bible and Jesus relevant to others, I’m not talking about changing the Gospel to make it more palatable to the listeners. Instead I’m looking for ways to make it relatable to the listener, be it a 5 year-old in Sunday school in the 21st century or a person encountering church and God for the first time as a teen or adult. I want them to connect to God, to see the pertinence of centuries-old texts in a world of sound bites and burgeoning social media feeds.
So it saddens me to know so many negative connotations have been attached to the word. Because, I think, in the end we’re missing out on reaching people with the Good News when we poo-poo the idea of being relevant in the process. And call me crazy or misinformed, but I see Jesus as perhaps the most relevant conveyor of truth there has been yet. When He walked the earth He was busy telling an oppressed people how to deal with their oppressors be they Roman rulers or soldiers, or their own religious leaders who too often heaped impossible standards upon them. He was disdainfully called a friend of sinners, accused of being a drunkard, of hanging out with the riffraff of society. For rather than toss pious phrases at them, He spoke about love and forgiveness, about literally going the extra mile, of being faithful with little. He spoke of lost coins and lost sheep to a people who dealt with those things.
Now I’m not perfect in this. I struggle to find the right balance to meeting people where they’re at and not “toning down” what can be hard biblical truths. I mean it has only been in the last few years I started to use the word “religious” with any sort of a positive tone.
I guess that’s what I need to do – work on connecting to people where they’re at. Ah, yes – I need to work on being relevant, too.