“Relevant” was the buzz word years ago in church offices and youth ministry creative meetings. We don’t hear it as often as we used to, but the sentiment is still there, as it should be; that continuous drive and focus to maximize impact by staying up-to-date and in touch with culture and society is fundamental to be effective in any kind of platform. Whether you’re in ministry, business, education, stay-at-home parent or self-employed, if you learn a new skill, read about a new trend, and because of it you make an adjustment to your image, thinking, or behavior you are staying relevant.
Followers of Jesus have a drive to channel his message through the outlets of our various realities, and sometimes it gets murky. Granted, how are you supposed to make a 2000 years old man relevant? How can a man that never drove, never turned on a light or opened a refrigerator, a man that never talked about global warming or nuclear threats be relevant? How can a person from the first century have any genuine impact in our reality? Jesus undeniably impacted his reality, and if we transport ourselves to it we find it beautiful, breathtaking, and deeply endearing. But we can’t live there, can we? At some point we have to come back to our reality and put the kids in the car seat – not in a manger – and drive them to school. How are we to keep this ancient account relevant to our days? As I think about the meaning of being “relevant” as a follower of Jesus, I come to the following conclusion: Jesus is relevant. Period. He was relevant because he was. He is relevant because he is, and unless he is in our lives he can’t be relevant.
Some think that if they make themselves relevant, then and only then Jesus will be relevant. The truth is that the great commission has reached us not because it is recorded in the sacred manuscripts of the Bible, but because Jesus’ present impact has been as personal and real to us as it is recorded in the Scriptures. At some point in our encounter with Him it wasn’t just about the Jesus that walked on water 2000 years ago, but it was about Jesus today. Here. Now. That he was, no one can deny. There are historical accounts and years of aftermath to prove it. But that He is? Today? That’s personal. You can work hard to be relevant, but you can only show how relevant Jesus is with a revelation of his present reality.
I’m still young, but I have a few years of ministry exposure and stories that go back to my grandparents which lead me to the following realization: When you work hard to be relevant you are working an industry – It’s about image, culture, lingo, ethics, behavior, etc. When you work hard to display Jesus’ relevance you are working the human soul – It’s about purpose, destiny, the loose ends of a difficult past, and the hopes for a bright future. I think they are both important and necessary to reach our full potential, but we should never forget that only the latter approach can truly change someone’s life.