Authentic, not just relevant…

Just been out for a few hours enjoying the sun with Kay. We cycled up the canal to the quayside in the city centre and just sat and chilled. Kay did a cool picture of the scene whilst I read some (Leonard Sweet’s Soul Tsunami), and then scribbled down some thoughts that had been on mind for a while. I’m not saying it’s anything particularly new, but just stuff that I wanted to articulate.

Sometimes we get all obsessive about this whole ‘relevance’ thing. If only we had the most up-to-date music, the best sound system, club style lighting, great AV – everyone would flood back to church. But that simply isn’t true. The world has enough entertainment without us simply adding to it. To be honest we can’t even begin to complete (or ‘redeem’ as some would call it). We end up producing hollow replicas – and the world will see right through us. What the world is interested in is authenticity – in reality – in real people trying to live real lives. Seeking to make some kind of sense of the hundreds of different things they experience every day.

We can argue all sorts of things about Christ, that he was utterly relevant in the way he communicated the good news, and indeed he was (something we can undoubtedly learn from) but such relevance was founded on authenticity. Nothing Jesus did was a gimmick, a clever way to get people unknowingly into the kingdom. He healed because people were suffering. He fed people because they were hungry. He was resurrected because it meant new hope for every single one of us – not because he was some first century David Blaine who just wanted to draw a crowd.

To chase relevance is to chase a shadow, a ghost – we’re always going to be a step behind society, trying to catch it up rather than trying to set the pace! Kingdom living is all about changing the world, not trying to keep up with it! To chase authenticity is to be. We don’t need new names, new logos, new strategies if we’re listening to what God is calling us to be. We need Christ. We need to be us. Not some trendy dressed up cool twenty something. It’s ok not to be cool. It’s ok not to have to have all the latest things.

We need to worship in a way that communicates who we are (not who our forefathers were or who are children are going to be). We need to express ourselves creatively and communicate the greatest news ever spoken…but not simply to be cool. Sweet talks about our calling being not to make a difference but to make the world different. Authentic church…yes…broken, hurting, victorious, geekish, weird, fighting against injustice (not just because it’s the trendy thing to do). Relevant – it’s important – but it can’t rule us. Relevance at the cost of the message…never.

Don’t get me wrong – we need to use all the tools we have at our disposal but not simply as some cool fly trap to mislead people to think we’re something we’re not. I love the contemporary worship stuff and cool AV and all the rest. It just needs substance. If our seeker sensitive services aren’t backed up by love and grace and everything else then it’s pointless. A flash in the pan. People won this way will just disappear once things quieten down again…

I want to be relevant to the people I come into contact with, but more so I want to be authentic, so that they will see there’s something different, something better than what they experiencing right now.

Just some thoughts…


6 thoughts on “Authentic, not just relevant…

  1. Hi Martin,

    Thanks for your thoughts – I spoke on Ephesians 2:11-22 this morning, theme – ‘When 2 Become 1’ and pointing although we are all different as we look, our opinions, we are not an Army of clones but still we must try and show through our living whom we belong to, what unites us, but we will still differ, but together in our mission, aims, values, showing love and demomstrating reconciliation if we become divisive but also rememebring we must be ‘community’ too within but also without where we move, live. breathe, work, speak and witness.

    I’ve finished Blue like Jazz and just finished yesterday Velvet Elvis – both really refreshing reads.

    Blessings to you and Kay and have a good and refreshing break too.

    God Bless, Matthew (Kirkwall)

  2. Martin,

    Thanks for that! I was speaking as stand in for our officer yesterday and made a similar point to Matthew. If we really want to be attractive its important for us to reflect Kingdom values. They need to permeate everything that we do both corporately and individually.

    God bless,

  3. Hi,
    great thoughts. Older people tend to think young people are screaming out for relevancy, which is utterly inacurate.
    They want authenticity more than anything, and its scary how fast they can tell a faker.

  4. Great to hear I’m not a lone voice on this subject. Beginning to hear so many people cry for more authenticity in the life of Christians and especially in TSA. Its all very well putting on things that people might want to come to or might like, but if we’re not behind it from the very depths of our souls it will just be an empty irrelevant sham. Okay, God will find someway of using even the worst of things but its our responsibility as followers of Christ to represent Him truly and honestly to this wanting world. And, te only way we can do this is through being authentically relevant. Being us – screwed up as we may be – but simply being ourselves. That’s what God wants to use.
    blessings to you martin

  5. I agree with your comments concerning authenticity and relevancy. However, if we aren’t seeking to connect with the lost (through music, service, mission, etc . . .) then are we really authentic followers of Jesus? Or would the term “social club” be more appropriate?

    I understand your point about people just wanting to be “cool.” But I have an idea that authenticity and relevance are synonymous. Because we are committed to Christ we are committed to mission, even if it means sacrificing our personal preference and convenience. Our commitment to mission means we do whatever it takes . . . adapting to different cultures, music, style, times, places, etc . . . whatever it takes. Our commitment to mission says “it’s not about us” – something that the army hasn’t quite nailed.

    I question how authentic we really are [in the states]. The truth is I struggle to be authentic because the army won’t let me. So I scream the need for “relevance” and quote declining statistics in an attempt to prove that what the army does (in general in the states) doesn’t work.

    Good post . . .



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