About a decade ago, the catchword became relevance. "But is the ministry relevant?" we all asked. It was--and is--a good question. After all, Jesus became man in order to be relevant. The man knew his communication theory.
Though the term's not as in fashion anymore, the way we act and think betrays our commitment to relevance, especially in science and art (I use the term here broadly). The problem is, when we stop here, we get caught up in trends and fads. As Christians, we are relevant, but we should be beyond relevant.
We should be transformational.
In any story, the characters change. In comedies (meaning stories with a happy ending rather than ones that make you snort your drink), the characters change for the better. Transformation is the essence of any good story. And I love good stories.
So it is with the drama layed out for us in Scripture.
God's Story, as written in the Bible and enacted in history and in our lives through the Holy Spirit, is transformational. This is the heart of the incarnation. Christ became man both to be relevant to man (as a model and to take on man's sin) but also to transform humanity. He became the second Adam.
The redemptive work of Christ's death and resurrection is the culmination of beauty, the climax of the ultimate Story, and the beginning of the transformation of God's creation. His victory defeats death in every aspect including physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual. Christ is the firstfruits, and the future resurrection of the earth will be modeled after his resurrection.
In fact, we have been given a glimpse of this future resurrection in Revelation. We've been given the end of the Story. Today, we live in light of Christ's past victory over the cross and the hope of our future resurrection. Indeed, the Holy Spirit works to sneak in bits and pieces of the future into the present.
Why do I say this? What does this have to do with our ministry? And what does this have to do with being relevant?
Acting upon this Story with both a view of the climax and of the happily-ever-after leads us into ministry that is not just relevant (although it is that), but is redemptive and transformational. In other words, it is incarnational.
Being only relevant means following the trends in science, social justice, fashion, technology, politics, and economics. Being only relevant means creating (often second rate) copies in music, film, novels, paintings, and dance (and often resulting in propaganda rather than the creation of beauty).
Being transformational means the Church becomes a leader in science, art, social justice, the Internet, etc., etc., etc. Imagine a world where the Church becomes the patron of the arts, where she stands for beauty because she understands the culmination of beauty in the pain and ugliness of the cross and the victory and triumph of the resurrection. Imagine a world where the leading scientists come out of the Church because of their understanding of God's sovereignty over and vision for all creation. Imagine a world where the top business men lead companies and economy not out of materialism and selfish ambition but out of an understanding of true community.
Being relevant is keeping up.
Being transformation is going toward.
While being relevant takes an understanding of the culture around us, being transformational requires a foundation in the rich history of Christianity, an understanding of our culture(s), and a vision for the physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual future of all creation.
Let our ministries not just be relevant. Let them be transformational.