When I was younger I used to hear people say, “Get real!” They’d say it to someone whom they thought was living in an artificial world and needed to get in touch with reality. I believe it’s a phrase some Christians need to hear today.
The Lord, the world, and the church are all looking for the same thing: Christians who are real. But living with the kind of reality and authenticity that glorifies God and impacts others eludes many believers. Perhaps this is because Christians and church congregations today struggle over the extent to which they should be rooted or relevant—two characteristics required for being real.
“Rooted” refers to having a thorough knowledge and understanding of God and His Word. “Relevant” refers to relating to one’s context, society and the world around us, in a way that impacts it. The struggle arises out of trying to relate what doesn’t change (God and His Word) to what does change (society and the world around us).
In trying to navigate the strait between what does and doesn’t change, many fall victim to one of two things. The first is trying too hard to relate to the world. When we do this, God and His Word are neglected and trivialized. They lose their distinctiveness among all the “truth-options” out there today.
The second is being disconnected from our community and society around us. When we are irrelevant and “other-worldy” we can’t make a difference. As someone once said, “We are so heavenly-minded we are no earthly good.”
So, how does one become real—anchored to the Rock but geared to the times, successful at relating what doesn’t change to what does? I offer three suggestions.
First, stop viewing this as an either/or situation. It is not that we must be either rooted or relevant. Rather, it is a both/and situation. We must be absolutely rooted in the knowledge of God and His Word and totally relevant to the times in which we live.
Second, return to being people of the Book. There is a growing trend among evangelical Christians away from the diligent and systematic study of the Word of God and its clear proclamation from the pulpit. But there is no substitute for it. Believers must be convinced of its power to change lives and its timeless relevance to man’s needs. Without this the people perish (Proverbs 29:18). With it, “the people who know their God will display strength and take action” (Daniel 11:32 NASB). In Jesus’ words, we will be salty. He explained it this way, "Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt… If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You've lost your usefulness...” (Matthew 5:13 MSG). Being salty in the meat of society requires being rooted and grounded in the Word.
Finally, we must be like the men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do (1 Chronicles 12:32 NIV). That requires becoming students of our times, knowing how to dissect our culture and recognize the predominant “isms” and philosophies of the day. What do they look like? Can we identify them in the media or in others’ thinking and relate God’s truth to them? And lest we mistakenly think that understanding the times means conformity to the times Jesus warned, "Don't be flip with the sacred. Banter and silliness give no honor to God. Don't reduce holy mysteries to slogans. In trying to be relevant, you're only being cute and inviting sacrilege” (Matthew 7:6 MSG).
Want to get real? Become rooted and relevant.