The words, ‘relevant’ and ‘church’, have become increasingly incongruous, particularly since the start of the millennium. This has resulted in movements towards making our congregations more ‘seeker-friendly’, moving from traditional to more contemporary worship and incorporating more diversity into our church services.
But moving away from ‘tradition’ to modernity isn’t new. 60 years ago, most congregations used the organ in most worship services; then the piano was introduced. Now we use keyboards, guitars and drums in an increasing number of our services. The truth is, organs are not only considered highly traditional, they’re expensive and many congregations do not have funds for either purchase or upkeep.
We throw the word ‘community’ around like a new ball at a netball match. Many of our congregations now have community outreach programmes. But if we look back into our history, this is nothing new. Whether it was called the Dorcas Society or the Welfare Society, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the UK (and worldwide) has been in the community for decades.
So, what is relevance, if it isn’t about change of worship style, setting or community outreach? And how do we become a relevant church, if there is even such a thing?
In 1 Chronicles 12:32, a group of people are singled out who were relevant.
‘And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…’ (KJV).
The children of Issachar are listed among many other tribes and groups who supported David while he was an outlaw hiding from Saul. Throughout 1 Chronicles, we meet ‘the children of Judah, that bare shield and spear…’ (vs24), and the ‘children of Simeon, mighty men of valour’ (vs 25). We are introduced to the ‘Danites, experts in war…’ (vs 35). But the only tribe who is mentioned for their ‘relevance’ are the ‘children of Issachar’.
There are certain attributes that make them relevant:
If this is the definition of spiritual relevance, can we look at our church congregation and say that they are ‘relevant’?
As Seventh-day Adventist Christians, we are aware of our Bible prophecy and see God’s activities in the world. We should not be taken by surprise when unexpected events happen. Due to our levels of discernment, our influence should be felt in the corridors of power, up and down this country. We should know what to do and when to do it in aspects of spiritual and church life. And as a result of our anointed discernment, people will enquire, ‘we would see Jesus’.
2022 is here, and as we focus on the future, may we be agents of discernment and hence, relevant for the Father in our churches, in our homes, in our communities and throughout the South England Conference.