Whenever we focus more on fitting into our culture than on faithfully representing God, we lose the significance we so desperately want to communicate to others. There is a better way to pursue relevance than simply being trendy. With courage and creativity, you can become a “resistance thinker” who genuinely connects with seekers around you in relevant, meaningful ways. Here’s how:
Recognize the universal relevance of the pure gospel message. Understand that God has designed the gospel to relate naturally to every person in every situation. Remember that the gospel has transformed the lives of people with many different personalities, in different generations, and in different cultures. Know that the gospel should be relevant to every person’s life. Ask God to give you the wisdom to know how to best present the gospel to each person you encounter.
Respect the authority of Scripture – not the culture. When considering how to “do church,” look to Christ, the head of the church, for guidance, rather than the shifting whims of your surrounding culture. Remember why God set up the church on Earth, and use His Word as your guidebook as you worship together.
Resist the pull of conformity. Don’t allow your opinions and ethics to be shaped simply by the awareness of what others think. While polls, media articles, demographics, focus groups, and other types of information are interesting, don’t formulate your views just on the basis of them. Rely instead on your own God-given convictions, even when they don’t agree with what the majority of the people around you think.
Resist the pull of popularity. Rather than seeking approval from other people, see it from the only One who ultimately matters – God alone.
Resist the pull of fashionability. Don’t strive to be trendy, or to make decisions based on pressure from our modern, hectic pace of life. Instead, pursue values that are timeless and have eternal significance.
Count the cost of faithfulness. Realize that you will not fit into society comfortably if you’re truly living by faith. Expect to feel maladjusted. Ask God for the courage you need to make unpopular stands and speak uncomfortable words when He calls you to do so. Expect to feel frustrated when God’s purposes are delayed or obstructed in our fallen world. Ask Him to give you patience. Trust that the results of your faithful work for Him are in His hands, not yours. Ask Him to give you perseverance, especially in the midst of failure. Know that what the world considers a failure may in fact be a success in God’s eyes, because He has different purposes He wants you to fulfill.
Don’t compromise the truth. When you present the gospel message, don’t avoid its hard or unpopular aspects. Present the message in its entirety, knowing that only the whole message has the power to bring about reform and revival.
Respect history. Take the time to study history so you can broaden your perspective on the world. Know that truth is much bigger than the circumstances of the time and place in which you happen to live. Learn from the mistakes of others who lived before you so you can be wiser in your own day.
Pay attention to the eternal. Understand that nothing can ultimately be relevant except in relation to what is eternal. Read and meditate on the eternal truths of Scripture often. Meet regularly with God through prayer. Rely on God to help you avoid wasted effort and achieve true relevance as you strive to reach others for Him.
Adapted from Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance, copyright 2003 by Os Guinness. Published by Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Mich., 1-800-877-2665, www.bakerbooks.com.
Os Guinness is an internationally renowned speaker and author of numerous books, including Time for Truth, The Call, and Long Journey Home. An Englishman, he was born in China, graduated from the universities of London and Oxford, and currently lives in Washington, D.C., where he is Senior Fellow at the Trinity Forum.