Should The Church Be Culturally Relevant?

Should The Church Be Culturally Relevant? This is a question that I hear often, as a matter of fact I received an e-mail from a friend, pastor and speaker who was recently defending this question with her peers.  She asked me my thoughts and my brief email response to the question is below:

It’s about being relevant and engaging culture.  The church must be relevant and understand that we live in an ever-changing and ever evolving culture, if we want to reach people for Christ.  The methods must change, but the message “the word” never changes.  Some of fastest growing and thriving churches have cultures that understand the concept and terminology culturally relevant.

One example of the importance of cultural relevance is the YouVersion Bible app. This app was created within the local church “” with one purpose, leveraging technology to engage people in God’s word.  The app now has over 110 versions and is translated in over 40 languages.  Over 19 million people have downloaded the Bible App (3.5 million in the last 2 months).  Over 5 billions minutes have been read on a Bible that is not bound with paper.  This is a form of being culturally relevant and engaging people “where they are” which is on their mobile device.

This app can be viewed as important and historic as Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, as it relates to people engaging in the Bible.  I would say a Bible Reading Revolution is one form of cultural relevance that outlines the importance of engaging people where they are.  The youversion Bible App was an easy one, but this applies to many other aspects of evangelism, style, worship, the church, sharing the Gospel and reaching people with the Good News of Jesus.

Dean William Inge says it this way, “A church that marries the spirit of an age, becomes the widow of the next generation.”

Those that argue that cultural relevance should not exist within the church; ministry and the body of Christ… are probably not culturally relevant.  The bottom line is that every church is culturally relevant, some are just relevant to a culture that has long past.

To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 1 Corinthians 9:22

Should The Church Be Culturally Relevant?

  • Dan Gross

    All churches are relevant to some culture at some time, just not necessarily to our culture at our time. There is no culture-free church. So the question isn’t “Should the church be culturally relevant?” but “To what culture will the church be relevant?”

    • Scott Williams

      Nicely said

  • I was mentored as a young believer by people who fought courageously (and foolishly I believe) against the concept of cultural-relevance.

    My answer to them now is that, not only is being culturally-relevant a Biblical principle, it is also commanded by God! That’s the heart of 1 Corinthians 14:23-24, to think about how we do church from the perspective of an outsider.

  • Scott. I couldn’t agree with you more!

    In the work that I do with church across the country, I face this question often. Many times the root of the question comes from fear of change, or the fear of adding more to an already heavy workload. We are charged as Christian to make disciples and we ought to use the resources we’ve been given to do so. Thanks for the post!

  • The church should be the image of Christ in culture. I think you have to be somewhat culturally relevant to do that. Those who often fight against cultural relevance are only practicing a model of church that was culturally relevant at a different time. Thats funny to me.

  • I completely agree with your take on the church being culturally relevant. It is not realistic to expect people to come to you. Jesus went out amongst the people, the church today should do the same.

    I would expand on that with a warning about becoming gimmicky. The most important thing is to be authentic. People need the church to be genuine.

    Hip hop is a perfect example. There is a whole generation that has been raised on hip hop music. How do we reach them? We have featured several christian hip hop artists at our church. Now if our worship leader was trying to rap and do hip hop songs that would not be taken seriously and seen as a farce. Instead we’ve invited Christian hip hop artist in to perform. Culturally relevant AND genuine.

  • The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Cor.2:14

    To me this sounds like our realativity doesn’t spark with the pre-Christian. Could go on but to the lost man salvation, Christ and the Cross just don’t make sense so how can it be relevant?

    Not trying to be rude, just don’t see it.

  • If a church isn’t cultraly relevant it won’t be able to help people grow in thier relationship with Jesus. If you look at the life of Jesus everything about him and his ministry was cultraly relevant. If we are to be a church/group of people that emulate the life of Christ then we should be as relevant as possible.

  • jimmy hankins

    the weak or the relevant? decisions decisions. mix it up. pre AND post! I know. I’m hatin again. bad judas! (grin)

  • “A church that marries the spirit of an age, becomes the widow of the next generation.”

    I love that.

  • Many churches try to mimic culture and call themselves ‘relevant’, like a Starbucks-wannabe coffee shop or something.

    I like your example of YouVersion — definitely a good example of true cultural relevance. However, in engaging culture the Church should keep in mind that we should be countercultural, which means to invest ourselves in culture yet leaving behind the fingerprints of Christ.

  • Tophertag

    I’m a little late to this article, but, I just came across it and would like to add my two cents.

    On the surface, I really appreciate the position many have taken in the church to become culturally relevant. I too see a big need for it. However, I’ve also seen a lot of damage that has been generated from it.

    In our attempt to be “Culturally Relevant” I fear we have become too much like the world. This has played out in so many ways throughout the church, it’s difficult to be specific. In one way this has touched me personally is in the area of our worship. There used to be a time when worship was all about Jesus. The focus of our hearts in worship was upon him. Now, in our attempt to be “Culturally Relevant” and meet the endless variety of musical tastes, our worship has become more like a production. Most of the time it sounds just like a rock concert than a worship service. As such, our congregations have learned to become spectators rather than lovers and worshipers of the Father. I realize this statement is an extreme and not true in every case, but I do believe it summarizes a general idea of what our worship has become overall throughout the years.

    I believe all we’ve done in our attempts to be “Relevant” is bring the church down to the level of this world so the world can relate to it more and in the process, we’ve failed to lead the world to Jesus who is the life changer. In other words, we’ve become so busy at finding just the right type of cup that would be relatable to the right type of people in the world, who are all dying of thirst, that we’ve failed to fill the cup up with water.

    As a missionary for the past 20 years, I can tell you from experience, the world isn’t impressed. They actually look upon our Culturally Relevant Churches with distain, because what they see is no different than what they already have. What they are really looking for is Jesus. The only way they will ever really see him is for the church to grow closer to him and allow him to live His life in, among and through our lives. This is a hard thing to do for all of us, because it requires surrender on our part and we don’t want to do that. Instead, we look for alternative means.

    We need to stop trying to figure out a better way of marketing the cross and simply introduce the world to the man hanging on the cross. All the world needs is Jesus, not the fluff and stuff we try to produce on our own. Jesus is the master at crossing cultural boundaries. When our focus is only on Him, the need to be “Relevant” diminishes. Instead, our focus becomes on loving others as ourselves. When our motivation to meet the world where they are at is done out of love, then we will be culturally sensitive as to not offend. This is what we should have been doing all along: being “Culturally Sensitive” out of love and respect. It was never supposed to be about being “Culturally Relevant”, because it’s a better marketing plan.

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