I have been thinking a lot about the word relevance and being relevant. In the world it is almost obvious, because of social media and the news networks to see what country or what person is or is not relevant to society or to someone else. However in religion it can be a little tricky. Sure, the Pope is relevant… but how relevant beyond Roman Catholicism? The Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox is relevant to the Orthodox, but how about beyond that? (do you even know his ecclesiastical name?). Joel Osteen and Bishop Eddie Long are relevant… well, somewhat. What makes a religious group or leader relevant beyond the confines of their following? That is what I have been asking myself.
Three people, I believe, have been truly relevant beyond the confines of their religion/denomination in Christianity – Rev. Billy Graham, Rev. Martin Luther King, and His Holiness Pope John Paul II. But what made them relevant? There are obvious things, evangelism, racial equality movements, and well, being the Pope and bringing people together. However, there are three things which I believe promote relevance:
3. Following the rules, at least the ones that you have for yourself (could be both a good or bad thing, but it promotes relevance for you AND your cause)
Simple, be honest with both yourself and everyone else. Perhaps being honest with yourself is actually the hardest thing, but to be relevant you have to know who you are, what your strengths and weaknesses are, to know when to start and when to quite, when to go and when to stop, when to talk and when to shut up. You have to be able to know what you can do and what you cannot, and when you can do it, do it, and when you cannot, say you cannot. I am not saying you should not try, but if you know you cannot do it, find someone who can. You have to be willing to chastise yourself as well as be willing to be proud of yourself. You have to realize that you are not perfect, that you are a sinner and have fallen short of the Glory of God and the ONLY reason you have the right to life is because you have been redeemed by Our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.
This one is probably the most difficult one to explain. I am not talking about showing everything, nor am I talking about disclosing information that should not be disclosed, i.e. confessions, private meetings, items being debated/discussed/prayed about. I am talking about, well, again, honesty, but in a fashion where you bring everything that you can to the table. Whether it be finances, problems that affect more than just oneself, problems that do affect oneself, ideas, issues, hurt, joy, whatever – if it has even the slightest probability to have some sort of effect on something beyond some private matter, it should be brought to the table. Pastors who play hide and seek are not truly pastors, likewise churches, denominations, communions, etc. If one plays hide and seek you only remain relevant until the seeker decides it is not worth it anymore, and yes, that may take awhile, or it may not, regardless, seekers get tired… and seekers tend to go to greener pastures. If one makes a mistake, acknowledge it… cause CNN (if your big enough) or some blog will figure it out.
Following the Rules-
This is perhaps the easiest one to explain, yet seems to be the hardest one to get done. If there are rules, follow them, if you make rules, follow them. Yes, some laws in this world are “legal but not lawful,” and yes, there are somethings that as believers we have a moral obligation to defy. That is all well and good, however, for example, the speed limit is not one of those things, nor is paying your taxes, nor is stopping at a stop sign. If you run every stop sign, you are bound to get hurt. Rules are put in place for a reason, mostly for either people’s protection or for the protection of the State (government/country/entity). Like wise, churches make rules, denominations/communions make rules – both for the protection of their people and for the protection of the entity. when a person defies those rules, punishment comes, i.e. excommunication, forcing the person to leave, etc. But what happens when the entity itself stops following the rules? Simple, they become irrelevant. They cannot be trusted and the people begin to lose faith in not only the entity, but the entity’s leadership. However, when the entity and it’s leadership follow the rules, and not only when it is convenient, but especially when it is not, faith is built, trust is established, and no matter how big or small, that entity is relevant, if not only in the lives of it’s people.
Is relevance important? Based upon those three criteria I would say yes, very. If you do not think so, that is fine. To be relevant is not to be perfect, not hardly, for no one, nor anything is, however it is to be both human and godly, for surely God is all of these things, and God is very relevant, at least in the lives of myself and my family.