- Cultural relevance is generic. Contextual reality is personal.
- Cultural relevance follows trends. Contextual reality listens to people.
- Cultural relevance creates insiders and outsiders. Contextual reality invites outsiders in.
- Cultural relevance celebrates success. Contextual reality recognizes our hurts.
- Cultural relevance can happen at a distance. Contextual reality means getting our hands dirty.
Cultural relevance is more comfortable for a lot of us. It helps us feel like we’re in charge of something. That we have a few things figured out in a world that has grown increasingly difficult to understand.
Contextual reality, on the other hand, is anything but comfortable. It puts us in charge of nothing. And it often raises more questions than it answers.
But contextual reality has one advantage.
It. Is. Real.
Jesus Was Contextually Real
Jesus didn’t care about being relevant to his culture.
Not to the Jewish culture he lived in, to the Roman culture that was subjugating them, or to the Greek culture that framed their thinking.
Jesus was real. And he adapted to the reality of whatever context he found himself in. One city at a time, one crowd at a time, one person at a time. And he did it without ever betraying his core reality.
So maybe instead of asking “what’s cool?”, “what’s relevant?” or even “what’s new?” our churches ought to be asking people “what reality are you living in?” and “what better reality does Jesus have for you?”
Dealing with people rather than trends takes a little longer. But it’s worth it.
And I’ve come to believe it’s the only way we can really earn people’s trust so that they’ll allow us to share the deeper reality that’s only found in Jesus. A reality that fits any context. And any culture.
Copyright © 2016 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.
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