Relevance can be defined as 'connected to what is happening; useful or suitable for a purpose.' To be relevant requires us to be connected to the world we live in, and to be useful and suitable for God's purpose. The question we as Christians should constantly ask ourselves is this: Are we connected to the world around us? Are we useful to the world outside the church?
"Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, non-religious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralised - whoever. I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ - but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn't just want to talk about it, I wanted to be in on it." (1 Cor 9:19-23, MSG)
In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, seven key commitments of relevant Christians can be identified.
1. Commitment to serve
"I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all ..."
There is a difference between someone who is committed to serve, and a demand to serve. The spirit of servanthood is not demanding but comes from a willing heart. Psalm 100 says, "Serve the Lord with gladness".
2. Commitment to inclusion
"... in order to reach a wide range of people ..."
Christianity has to be inclusive, not exclusive. The Bible teaches that 'whosoever believes' shall be saved.
3. Commitment to values and example
"I didn't take on their way of life ..."
Relevance doesn't mean we embrace the spirit of the world. The world is not looking to be reproduced in the Church but is rather looking for alternatives and answers. We need to have a commitment to values and setting an example. We cannot be relevant to the world if we compromise our behaviour and beliefs.
4. Commitment to a solid foundation
"I kept my bearings in Christ ..."
To be relevant requires us to be stable, not wavering. James 1 teaches us that he who wavers is unstable like a wave in the sea. We need to be firmly planted in the Word.
5. Commitment to involvement
"I entered into their world ..."
We need to be in the world, but not of the world. We aren't called to isolate ourselves from the world but the significant work of the Church is required out there in the unredeemed world.
6. Commitment to understanding
"I tried to experience things from their point of view ..."
Sadly, the Church is often seen to be always imposing their view on the world. Being relevant requires us not to be judgmental, but rather seeing the world with understanding and moved with compassion.
7. Commitment to big spiritedness
"I became every kind of servant there is ..."
Being relevant isn't so much about being hip or cool, but more about being big spirited. Instead of being narrow-minded, let us be embracing with a breadth and a depth that draws the world to Jesus.