One of the major themes of Os Guinness‘ short book Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance, is the following provocative phrase:
“Never have Christians pursued relevance more strenuously; never have Christians been more irrelevant” (p. 12).
Essentially, Guinness says that most “Christian” attempts at relevance end up being trivial, trite, and transient. This relevance is not based on truth but popularity, and thus Christianity today is largely irrelevant in the United States (and elsewhere where the same “relevance” is desired, such as here in South Africa). How many non-Christians listen to Christian radio or watch Christian movies because they are so relevant to the deep and fundamental issues of life?
Here’s a synopsis of the book in Guinness’ own terms.
“By our uncritical pursuit of relevance we have actually courted irrelevance; by our breathless chase after relevance without a matching commitment to faithfulness, we have become not only unfaithful but irrelevant; by our determined efforts to redefine ourselves in ways that are more compelling to the modern world than are faithful to Christ, we have lost not only our identity but our authority and relevance. Our crying need is to be faithful as well as relevant” (p. 15).
Later in the book Guinness says, “Is the culture decisive and the audience sovereign for the Christian church? Not for one moment” (p. 66).