The loss of interest in attending church, especially among young people, has a variety of causes. One of the causes is “relevance.”
But the term “relevance” has a wide variety of meanings in the context of connecting church with people. Some definitions are positive; others negative. Here is a list of possible meanings.
“Relevance” as applied to the church is listed in order of usefulness in accurately and persuasively presenting the Biblical message:
- World view-centered content: Messages and teachings of the church containing timely real life examples, situations, and people outside the church that provide a meaningful backdrop for presenting or contrasting a Biblical world view. These examples may include other world religions and ideologies, government policies, economics, wars, cultural oddities and snafu’s and other timely topics. This approach offers numerous opportunities for tying in news and current events into virtually any Biblical teaching.
- Personal needs-centered content: This form of relevance is more ego-centric, or self centered and deals with the personal needs and infirmities of the congregation. This is inward focused relevance compared to the outward focused relevance of 1, above.
- Pop culture style: Pop culture in the form of pop music (rock, rap, hip hop – with feel good Christian-sounding lyrics) and casual “pop” attire, in a sterile, modern setting, is another, albeit negative, form of relevance. This is thought to be necessary by many churches to attract the younger un-churched.
- Pop culture content: The content of the messages and teachings are in accord with the popular secular mood swings of the day, most often including acceptance of homosexuality as normal, the “right” of abortion, the normalcy of gay marriage, and the idea that every religion is an ok path to God, with “god” being whatever you want to believe him, her, or it to be.
The above definitions of church relevance degrade from the most mature and Biblical (1. World View-centered content) to the least mature and Biblical (4. Pop culture content).
Personal needs-centered content (#2) is appropriate as a part of most services, but should not dominate the messages and teachings. But it does. An inward, self-centered focus of the church service is what I have experienced in the majority of churches I have attended.
The reasons people of all ages stop going to church vary widely. At root is church being viewed as an irrelevant lower priority. Most of those who do attend do so for self-centered and superficial reasons: To “feel good”; to be entertained, etc.
That is why few churches focus on worship and teaching that focuses on a Biblical world view – an understanding and application of God’s Word to our lives that is increasingly foreign to our pop culture. “World view-centered content” is rarely offered. Consequently, the Gospel message has little context with today’s challenges and fails to grab the attention and relevance to the listener without this Biblical world view focus. The Biblical world view contrasted against other ruling principles of life is the back drop necessary to provide context to the Gospel message. As the old saying goes, “a text without a context is a pretext.” Translated: The gospel message is a meaningless pretext without the context of timely, significant current events and cultural anomalies required to grab our attention and to provide a context. The Bible did it. Why don’t pastors?