Many church leaders pursue relevance with a passion. But are they providing a truly relevant ministry?

Relevance—connecting God to people’s everyday lives—is a good thing. But some things done in the name of relevance can make us look, well, like wannabe cool Christians.

Many churches try to capture relevance through cosmetics—surface applications that attempt to polish a public image. Examples:

• Trendy-sounding church names, such as Liquid, Paradox, Flipside, and, of course, Relevant.
• Hipster graphics.
• Flashy technology.
• Dirty jeans, soul patches, and funky eyewear.

These things aren’t wrong. It’s fine to keep up with the fashions of the day. But they don’t deliver relevance.

Fads and fashions are mass-produced. Relevance, however, cannot be mass-produced. Relevance is extremely individual. What’s relevant for me is not relevant for the person sitting next to me in church.

If we want to be relevant we must find ways to make a message personalized, individualized, and customized to each person. That’s true relevance.

We work at this individualized relevance every week at our Lifetree Café gatherings. We do that in a variety of ways, including creative participatory experiences, individualized prayer times, and guided conversation. We pose compelling questions for people to relate to their individual lives. At tables of four, each person gets to talk about his or her own unique joys, pains and challenges.

Today we talked about how God gets our attention. One woman talked about a situation with her son. A man next to her talked about everyday evidences of God’s hand in nature. Another described the wonder of childbirth. Each ah-ha was relevant.

No two people had the same relevant experience—or the same discovery of God’s customized interaction in their lives.

If we desire a relevant ministry, sometimes we need to get out of the way and make room for God to minister—one on one.