The Pursuit of Church Relevancy and What it Means

Woman with stained glass behind her

The books of the Bible were written over a period of about 1,500 years, and the Silver Scrolls of the Hebrew Bible are even older. This raises the question: How can ministers convey the Word of God in a way that is culturally relevant to modern society, while remaining true to Scripture? This is a question that you may choose to pursue in your doctoral research. Grand Canyon University welcomes theology students who are interested in applying for our graduate programs.

Defining Relevancy

Relevancy can be a controversial talking point with regards to the church, depending on whom you ask. Some religious leaders believe that speaking to a younger generation in their own language, and acknowledging the changing values of a modern society is worthwhile if it draws more parishioners to the church. Others equate the word “relevancy” with the word “compromise,” and they view this as a negative approach. This view is much like Thomas Jefferson’s strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution—that is, it should be followed to the letter, without concessions for change over time. Each minister must make his or her own determination, but perhaps the question of whether relevancy is beneficial isn’t the right question to ask. Perhaps the right questions to ask are, “Would relevancy support Christ’s mission?” and “What exactly does relevancy look like?”

Considering the Role of Presentation

One way some church leaders are trying to make church more relevant is by introducing theatrical elements. This is perhaps most easily seen in megachurches, where parishioners are greeted by Christian-themed rock bands, TV screens, and dramatic lighting. For some communities, turning church into a stage production is an effective way to pack the pews, but other Christians find themselves longing for a more down-to-earth approach. It’s true that this presentation is more modern, but the content of the sermons isn’t necessarily any more relevant to the everyday lives and struggles of parishioners.

Increasing the Accessibility of the Church

One deceptively simple way to approach the issue of relevancy is to consider scheduling. Perhaps your pews aren’t as full as they once were because families are over-scheduled, not because they feel they no longer need church. It’s customary to attend church on Sunday mornings, but perhaps a small faith formation group could meet on Saturday evenings or an evening during the week. Smaller workshop-style meetings in which parishioners focus on a particular issue or aspect of Scripture could allow individuals to feel more engaged with the church. They’ll walk away feeling that they’ve truly made connections with others, and that they’ve had an opportunity to express their own questions, concerns and interpretations.

Bringing the Church to the Community

To make church more relevant, it’s necessary to focus on the big picture issues that communities care about. Homelessness, child hunger, low literacy rates, poor prenatal care—all of these are critical issues, and they are ones that your church can get involved with. Instead of waiting for more people to walk in and occupy the pews, encourage your parishioners to join the church leadership in going out to the community to make a visible difference in people’s lives.

Doctoral students choose Grand Canyon University because of our innovative and modern academics, emphasis on servant leadership, and cultivation of the Christian faith. Click on the Request More Information button to explore our Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in Christian Ministry degree program.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.


Scroll back to top