OK, maybe my title is a little “inflammatory”.  It is perhaps a bit of an over-the-top venting of the frustration I feel as I see much of the American Church slowly imploding before my eyes.  And regarding relevance…I know — I know.  The Apostle Paul says that we should be “all things to all men” in order to reach the lost.  And I get it — I really do.  I think it’s useful to take the time to remove unnecessary cultural/generational roadblocks and to do what we can to communicate the Truth of Jesus in a way that makes sense to people.  This is not only helpful, it’s a labor of love that reveals how much we really want to see people saved.  Just like in a marriage – if people aren’t willing to work on their communication skills, it shows they don’t care much for the relationship.

BUT…having a culturally relevant message is not enough.  It has never been enough.  It was never meant to be enough.  The same Paul who mentioned being all things to all men also said this:“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.  We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.”  (1 Corinthians 2:4-6)

Relevance was never meant to be a destination, merely a tool and a vehicle.  The real destination is true transformation.  And this transformation cannot happen without the power and anointing of God.  We can make a lot of mistakes and missteps culturally (and in our attempts at communication) and still see marvelous transformation when the power of God shows up.

A great example is William Seymour, God’s point man for the great Azusa Street Revival in 1906.  People came from all over the world to attend these meetings.  And I am sure that Reverend Seymour was tempted to make a good impression and to bridge with the crowd (as we all would be), and yet instead, he obeyed the Holy Spirit when the Spirit told him to sit on the platform (sometimes for an hour or more) with a box on his head, while the people were waiting for him to speak.  (doh!)  And there was every kind of reaction among those sitting in the congregation, from awe to curiosity to mockery.  But when William sensed the Holy Spirit releasing him to take the box off his head, he would take it off and say something like this (pointing at a group of maybe 50 people in wheelchairs to his left):  “You are all healed in the name of Jesus.”  Then there would be the loud sound of bones popping and people shouting and crying and laughing and EVERYONE in wheelchairs would rise up healed!

The power and impact of this revival has continued to resonate throughout the world, ushering in a new era of the power and reality of Pentecost that is responsible for hundreds of millions of people being saved globally.  And this is just one example of how the power of God can trump a lack of relevance.  Evan Roberts, one of the main leaders associated with the Welsh Revival, would sometimes speak nothing at all at a meeting, even though many had come to hear him speak.  He did not want to get in the way of the Holy Spirit moving in the meeting, even at the risk of initially disappointing those in attendance.  He was not concerned with the opinions of men – only the opinion of God.

Yes, relevance is useful —  and we should never purposely seek to alienate people or be weird for weird’s sake.  But in an age of church growth and relevance seminars, so much effort and time and money is spent on the vehicle and the style of our delivery, and so little time and effort is spent pressing into God for the power and anointing of true transformation.  And so the Church in America continues to shrink in size, drowning in a sea of cultural relevance while at the same time becoming more and more spiritually irrelevant.

“It is extraordinary spiritual unction, not extraordinary mental power, that we need.  Mental power may gather a large congregation, but only spiritual power will save souls.”  (Charles Spurgeon)

O that in me the sacred fire
Might now begin to glow!
Burn up the dross of base desire,
And make the mountains flow!
(Charles Wesley)


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