What’s wrong with the concept of relevant preaching? Everything. You see, there’s no point in fussing over relevancy unless you are the one drafting the sermon, and as soon as you’re the one doing the writing, you’ve completely lost sight of what it means to be called by God to preach.
Whenever you see some famous world leader speaking on the news, you can safely assume that he did not compose the speech which he is reading into the microphone. Influential leaders hire people to write their speeches for them, and those writers spend countless hours fretting over things like political correctness, target audiences, and relevancy. Because the Church at large is entrenched in willful rebellion against God, she teaches men and women that speaking for God should be no different than making some political speech, and this means that pleasing human egos should be your top priority. You can’t just let God speak for Himself, because He might do it wrong, so you have to edit His work. The Church is big on the notion of target audiences: this is when you decide to really suck up to one subset of your audience and treat the rest as expendable. Young families bring in the money and the kids—let’s cater to them and kick the elderly to the curb. Or maybe we’re located in some impoverished section of a major city: let’s target the troubled youth in every speech we make and disregard everyone else. Or maybe we decide to favor one particular ethnicity—you know, because God is such a fan of shunning people due to their appearance and cultural backgrounds.
Thinking about target audiences is a strategic move when you’re creating a commercial for your product or trying to boost your votes in some demographic. But we’re not supposed to be preaching to get more votes or increase profits. Unfortunately many preachers in the Church are doing exactly this because they’ve never really been authorized by God to speak for Him and they’re just viewing the role of spiritual shepherd like yet another worldly career. For many preachers, it’s just about raking in more converts and increasing the giving. But as a soul who has been legitimately authorized by God to relay His messages to the flock, you need to operate quite differently than most preachers.
Is relevancy in your sermon important? No. Honoring God is important, and you’re not honoring Him when you’re analyzing His message for errors. You see, it’s impossible to even get into a discussion about how relevant your sermon is without implying that there’s some standard of relevancy which it is supposed to meet. But who set those standards in the first place? Arrogant humans. Those who train you on how to be relevant will give you a bunch of tips for how to ensure you’ll have a strong impact on your congregation. But since when is it your job to make an impact? It’s not your job, it’s God’s job. You’re not selling God to people, so stop treating Him like a product. Stop trying to market Him. Stop trying to add your opinion to the mix, because when it comes to imparting spiritual wisdom to others, your opinion is worse than useless. What souls need to hear is the wisdom of God, not our silly prattling. God isn’t interested in whether or not you approve of His teaching style. He doesn’t expect you to grasp the wisdom of His topic choice or appreciate the brilliance of His timing. But He does demand that you submit to His Authority and stop trying to tell Him that you’re smarter than He is.
You’re just a little dot of a human with a very limited mind. The complex task of drawing souls closer to God is so far over your head that it’s laughable. None of us have the first clue about what is really going on between some other soul and God, let alone what is best for that soul in any given moment. One of the most insulting things we preachers do is try to improve God’s messages for Him. Think about it: what is more insane than creatures trying to “fix” their Creator? What is more obnoxious than us preachers giving God lessons on how to handle His own creatures? God has created zillions upon zillions of human beings from scratch. How many have you created? None, yet you’re giving God lectures on relevancy? Really?
The concept of relevant preaching is offensive to God from beginning to end because it assumes that we humans are the ones crafting the messages. God is allowed to throw in a dash of inspiration, but after that, it’s all down to our wit and logic and finely honed communication skills. As soon as you attempt to be relevant, notice what happens to your focus: you stop thinking about God, and you start thinking about humans instead. Notice how your measure of success is the approval of other humans instead of the approval of God. You’re no longer trying to honor God when you start fretting over relevancy. Instead, you’re trying to please people. Pleasing people is not what the calling is about.
There are only two kinds of preachers in this world: those who are authorized by God to speak on His behalf, and those who are not. Those who are not are already in a mess of trouble, and the Church is working hard to corrupt those who are legitimately called to preach by punishing them if they actually do what they are supposed to do, which means relaying God’s messages to the flock without altering them. Relevancy is utterly irrelevant. Relevancy shouldn’t even be on your mind. If God tells you to preach in Swahili to an English speaking audience, then you need to do so out of respect for who He is. You don’t sit there saying “But why God? No one will understand if I speak in a language they don’t even know.” Since when does God have to justify His orders to you? Since when does He have to defend His methodology? You’re not His judge. Your approval is meaningless.
It’s so easy to forget our place in this whole serving business. We’re the slaves; God is the Master. He gives the orders. He calls the shots. He writes the sermons. We just take notes on what He wants to say so that we can make sure we’re not leaving anything out. He chooses the tone, and He tells us which points to emphasize. We don’t edit God. We don’t take responsibility for how other souls responded to His words. If you defy God’s Authority by mangling His message, do you really think He’s going to shrug it off just because your message was well received? No, He’s not, because you dared to attach His Name to your guff. That’s obnoxious behavior. That’s begging for a spanking.
You’re not going to learn the right way to preach at seminary. Instead, you’ll get your head crammed full of a bunch of useless blather from idiot humans who have lost all respect for God’s Authority. The minute we even go down the road of trying to teach people how to write a sermon, we’re talking like rebels. God writes His own sermons. If you can’t hear Him writing one for you, then obviously you’re not called to preach. God doesn’t expect you to read His mind. When He wants you to say something, He will make it clear to you. If He’s not saying anything to you, then you need to zip it. Preaching for God can’t be approached the same way as you would approach some essay for school. There’s no hopping online and looking up tips from other preachers on how to improve your style. There’s no regurgitating some other fool’s carnal rot just because he packaged it in a book and sold a million copies. Preaching is a very unique situation. It comes down to publicly speaking a speech that someone else wrote, and that Someone Else is the Creator of the universe. God is always relevant. God always makes an impact. His timing is always perfect. If you can’t see the brilliance of what He’s doing, that’s because He’s blocking you from seeing it. God doesn’t want you obeying Him because you approve of Him—that’s way too arrogant on your part. He wants you obeying Him because He’s the God and you’re the created speck. Let’s remember that maintaining an attitude of humility is critical to pleasing God, and godly humility comes down to keeping an accurate grip on reality. God is magnificent, brilliant, perfect, and all-wise. We’ve got nothing to add to Him. We are incapable of improving Him. So forget about relevancy. Just say what God’s telling you to say how and when He’s telling you to say it. If people don’t like it, it’s too bad for them.