Relevancy is a big topic these days when it comes to the rapidly declining church and what can be done about the plateau or decline. Would you classify your particular church that you have been called to lead appropriately relevant any longer? I would like for us to reflect upon the idea of local churches relevance towards the community it serves in this article. Relevance is certainly one of the chief obstacles for most congregations fighting the throws of rapid decline.
Recently, a staff member told me of a conversation they had with a church, which was in rapid decline. What they wanted from our organization was not the assistance we had already been providing for the last four years, but now something more. They asked for us to fund a particular staff member to come to their church and do the things that they no longer wanted to do. What they were coming to realize was the five specific options they had for consideration back then were no longer viable since they sat down and did nothing but complain about the present church revitalizer and why both he as well as our organization expected them to work at bringing the church out of its decline. The last words, which came from, their lips were that the only thing we wanted was their building. While it is often in revitalization efforts that churches wait too long to do something, it is often too late by the time they see the writing on the walls of closure and then want help. I have said it publically and will say it over and over again that if a church waits too long to begin the church revitalization journey, many times the only thing any church revitalization group can do is to close the present church, deed the property over to a church revitalization network such as an association, and allow them to put either a church planter or church revitalizer in place in an attempt to keep a gospel lighthouse at that specific location. The church, which is working towards revitalization and renewal, needs to reply to the needs of the world in an applicable way, while caring out its Biblical directive to continue to make disciples if it is going to remain relevant. Jesus modeled relevance for us. He met people right where they were at in His culture. He powerfully ministered in the middle of the diverse social spectrum that surrounded Him (Jews, Gentiles, Pharisees, Samaritans, and Romans) and He contextualized the message in a way His culture could relate to.
Random House Dictionary has defined relevance as: the condition of being relevant, or connected with the matter at hand.
With the world changing and the local church slow to respond to such changes, maintaining relevance is critical in this post-post-modern age. Someone has humorously alleged, "There are four signs of approaching age: baldness, bifocals, bridges, and bulges!" We are changing each and every day. A church is a living organism made up of spiritual believers who have had a salvation experience with our Lord Jesus Christ. As such we have made a commitment to the responsibility of carrying out the commands of our Lord. History seems to dictate that prior "movements" became "monuments" when they failed to discern the times in "becoming all things to all men so that by all possible means some might be saved". The greater question is: Are we open to preaching the gospel "by all possible means"? If the answer is "yes" then it's time to get relevant. If the answer is "no", then its only a matter of time before our movement resembles a monument as did many other great movements before us. Relevance is the relational key to keeping our timeless message timeless. The New Testament church is a spiritual, a functioning, a relational, and a reproducing body. Let’s look at the positives side of churches, which are being revitalized and how they are working to keep their relevance as they relate to the communities they serve.