We Need More Than Relevancy


Jesus, God Himself, Became Relevant Being Made in Human Likeness
Jesus’ incarnation shows the importance of meeting people where they are, so being relevant is important. Adapting to where people are tends to make a difference in their receptivity to the Gospel and their ability to understand and learn (1 Cor. 9:19-22). But, how far do we take it? Relevancy alone won’t bring eternal results.

What’s Needed More Than Relevancy

Jesus does set the example for us, which the Apostle Paul followed as seen when He wrote, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Cor. 9:22). Yet, Jesus Himself said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” (Jn. 15:5). And, throughout his epistles, the Apostle Paul repeatedly acknowledged the need of divine power for anything of significance to happen in ministry (1 Cor. 3:6-7). No matter what words or strategies we use, people aren’t going to truly understand and accept truth without the Spirit of God at work (1 Cor. 2:11-14). Consequently, more than relevancy, we need God’s power. Seek to be relevant but don’t rely on that.

Relevancy does tend to help people in their understanding and motivation. Yet, if we aren’t careful, it can also be seen as a manipulative tool. Are we just doing certain things to pull people in or because we truly care enough to meet them where they are? God clearly states that we can do a lot of good things for the wrong reasons. Our words become like “resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” without love. No matter what we do, we “gain nothing” of eternal value if we do not have love. Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. Consequently, more than relevancy, we need to be real in our love for people. Seek to be relevant but for the right reasons.

Relevancy does tend to grab people’s attention. Using what interests them makes it seem more palatable. Yet, we must guard against letting a need to be relevant turn into a quest to gain people’s approval. When that happens, we too easily can slip into compromise. It chips away at our integrity as we become more and more about pleasing people than pleasing God (Gal. 1:10; Col. 3:23-24; 1 Thess. 2:3-5). Consequently, more than relevancy we need a focus on God Himself. Seek to be relevant but keep God first and foremost.


How Can We as a Church be Relevant?


We already established in a previous post that being relevant as a Church, does not mean compromising who we are as Christians. Nor does it mean compromising truth. Certain realities do not change, like the eternal truth of Scripture based on who God is. We can, however, biblically find great flexibility in style, form, methodology, and structure, that can enable us to be relevant without watering down or violating God’s Word.

Ways the Church Can be Relevant without Compromising Truth

Relevancy cannot lead to changing the message. Our culture does not define truth but rather God does. Instead, we put the unadulterated truth of God’s Word in terms or language people can understand. It’s about adapting how we communicate, not what we communicate.

Jesus, God Himself, Became Relevant Being Made in Human LikenessJesus lived among people, talking their language, yet remained 100% God (Phil. 2:6-8).

Like Jesus, we can start by ministering to people’s physical or felt needs, never forgetting their greatest and most real need.

Like Jesus, we can use every day, familiar objects or illustrations to communicate truth.

By meeting people where they are, we’re showing them the connection between truth and their real life issues. Again, we’re not changing truth to fit them but rather showing how God and His ways already fit even their deepest needs.

This means Bible lessons and sermons aim for more than head knowledge. We seek to show the implications and application of truth to people’s lives. We tap into their age level characteristics and needs, to help meet them where they are. We get to know the people we serve so we can tailor our approach to them.

How We Can be Relevant in Different Aspects of Ministry

Relevancy needs to extend beyond how we connect with people to how we function as a Church. Here are just a few ways to consider:

  • We make programs relevant by structuring according to needs, not because “we’ve always done it that way”.
  • Presentations and meetings become more relevant when we employ current technology and creative methodology, and not merely do what’s comfortable for the leader.
  • Recruiting people for ministry becomes more relevant when we emphasize the worth of getting people involved, rather than simply filling a position
  • Training for ministry becomes more relevant when it gets tailored to people’s needs rather than simply applying a one-size-fits-all approach.

Should We Be Concerned about Relevancy in Ministry?


We hear a good bit about how the Church needs to be relevant in order to reach the world around us. Is relevancy something we should concern ourselves with as Christians? Perhaps the importance of being relevant in ministry depends on how we define it.

What It Means Biblically for the Church to be Relevant

Looking at synonyms for the word helps us see that being relevant is about making a connection for/with people that helps them see the significance and applicability of truth to their lives. Hence, we’re showing how pertinent or important and useful it is to them. To be relevant, then, somehow we must make a connection between where people are and where we want to take them or what we want to teach them.

We’re not talking about becoming so much like the world that people can’t distinguish between us. As followers of Jesus Christ, we’re called to be set apart — holy as He is holy (1 Pet. 1:15). We conform to Jesus, not to the world around us (Rom. 12:1-2). We remain “the pillar and foundation of truth” as the Church of the living God (1 Tim. 3:15).

Jesus, God Himself, Became Relevant Being Made in Human Likeness

Yet, being set apart doesn’t mean we’re aloof, untouchable, or superior. Think about Jesus, “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Phil. 2:6-7). He was even criticized for patronizing with sinners and tax collectors (Matt. 11:19). Surely His incarnation provides the greatest example of what it means to be relevant. He made that connection, showing people what God is like (Jn. 1:18) and how to be in a relationship with Him (Jn. 17:20-21).

The Importance of Relevancy in Ministry

Given Jesus’ example, being relevant is a matter of Christlikeness. The Apostle Paul, who stressed how He wanted to know Christ and become like Him in all things (Phil. 3:10), provides some key commentary about the importance of relevancy in ministry. He said, “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” He then went on to mention different people groups and how he adapted to them, concluding with, ” I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Cor. 9:19-22)

The goal of making these connections with people is to affect their lives with the truth of the Gospel. Relevancy helps people better understand truth and see its importance which in turn motivates them to believe and appropriate it to their lives.

The questions we ask next will be:


Because of the Way God Made Us


Genesis Creation Account of How God Made Us
The beginning chapters of Genesis teach us so much about our wise, powerful, and creative God who made the heavens and earth. We can also learn a good bit about the people He created. We would do well to apply these lessons to ministry and any kind of relating we have with people. It only makes sense that we do that which lines up with how God made us.

How God Made Us

Here’s what we can learn about how God made people:

  1. He made us as physical beings.
  2. He made us as significant, superior beings.
  3. He made us as social beings.
  4. He made us as beings that have purpose.
  5. He made us as beings that can make choices.

Click on the above links to look at each of these points and consider the implications for ministry.

Difference It Makes in Ministry Whether or Not We Truly Believe God Created Us

If we don’t take the creation chapters in Genesis seriously, we’ll have problems in ministry. If we don’t believe God created us …

  • we won’t see the need to line up with how Scripture portrays people.
  • we won’t place the value He does on each individual human being.
  • we won’t sense an accountability to Him for how we treat others.

When we do, however, hold to the veracity of the creation account, we have perspective in ministry. We better understand that …

  • we should reach and teach in ways that align with how God made people.
  • we should treat people with dignity and respect as those made in the image of God.
  • we should grasp that how we treat others matters to God.

Please Note: The intent of this series is not to debate the creation account. Should you have questions or doubts, please take time to look at the resources under the ‘Evolution’ tab at: Ministry Resources: Life Issues


Serve Better by Remembering That Only God is Infinite


Cease Striving in Ministry Because We Have an Infinite GodOnly God is infinite! When we understand that, we will stop trying to do ministry in our own strength. When we grasp how limited we are and realize how immeasurable His character, abilities, and ways are, we will cease striving with our own limited resources and know that He is God (Ps. 46:10).

Difference Between an Infinite God and Finite Human Beings

We are able to serve so much better when we acknowledge that we can’t but He can. Here are some differences between God and us:

  • God doesn’t need to prepare. He can say a word and it is done. He has unlimited power to change lives. We have an infinite God!

We need to be prepared in ministry but no amount of preparation is going to give us limitless power to affect change.

  • God sees the beginning from the end and knows how to get there. He has limitless wisdom and purity that keeps Him from contradicting Himself. We have an infinite God!

We aren’t always sure what to do and sometimes do the opposite of what we intend.

  • God knows all things all the time. He can empathize completely. His understanding isn’t merely mental but also experiential through the advent of His Son (Heb. 4:15). We have an infinite God!

We can try to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes to gain a better understanding but we still won’t fully grasp what others experience and feel.

  • God has unlimited means in bringing people to Himself. What is impossible with man is possible with God (Matt. 19:26). We have an infinite God!

We can try to “be all things to all men” to try to gain inroads into their lives but ultimately we will be limited in what we’re able to do.

Serve Better By Trusting in a God Who Alone is Infinite

Finite beings need an infinite God to accomplish anything of eternal value. Jesus said it well in John 15:5, — “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” Knowing this leads to no other recourse but to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him”. The result? “He will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:5-6).

Only an infinite God is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:20). He has limitless resources. Let’s cease striving and know that He is God (Ps. 46:10).

For More About God, go to: Theology Resources


My Style – Your Style


My Style May Not Fit Your Style So Don't Take a One Size Fits Al ApproachWhat works with one person might not be the best approach for the next person. We have varying personalities, learning styles, backgrounds, intelligences, and we are at different places in our walk with God. Consequently, my style of doing certain things may not be your style which will have an effect on how we serve others. Taking a one size fits all approach may lessen ministry effectiveness.

My Style May Not Fit Your Style

We may have different bents or preferences. We may have differing needs. For example:

The way I came to know the Lord as my Savior might not have affected you the same way.

My approach to daily personal time with the Lord might not be as meaningful to you.

How I memorize Scripture might not work well for you.

The track I follow in training efforts might not be what you need.

How I teach or how I learn might not fit your learning style.

How I most like to worship may not be your preference.

Suggestions for Dealing with Varying Styles as We Serve

The Apostle Paul understood how people are different and provided his approach in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 from which we can pull some implications for ourselves in serving others.

  1. We must get beyond the effects of ministry on ourselves. And, we must guard against projecting our own ways onto others.

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. (1 Cor. 9:19)

  1. We need to meet people where they are if we want to have the greatest impact in their lives.

To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. (1 Cor. 9:20-22a)

  1. We should avoid cookie cutter approaches when possible and use a variety of means in reaching and ministering to people.

I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. (1 Cor. 9:22b)