Henri Nouwen writes in his book In the Name of Jesus there are three temptations Jesus faces in the desert with Satan. He frames them as:
- Relevancy – turning stones into bread
- Spectacular – leaping off the temple
- Powerful – bowing to satan
Why is relevancy a temptation? “I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in the world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self.”
He goes on to say, “The great message that we have to carry, as ministers of God’s Word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life.”
Finally he says, “The leaders of the future will be those who dare to claim their irrelevance in the contemporary world as divine vocation that allows them to enter into a deep solidarity with the anguish underlying all the glitter of success, and to bring the life of Jesus there.”
As I read it, Nouwen is saying that more and more people are feeling irrelevant. People feel irrelevant as they watch automation take their manufacturing job. People feel undervalued at a their job that gives little to no benefits. People feel more replaceable than ever as the world changes faster and faster. The rise of the irrelevant is well underway and there is no place in the world that cares about irrelevance because we assess people’s worth on how relevant they are.
The Church and Church leaders are to stand with the growing number of people for whom irrelevancy is the norm. Relevant pastors will continue to peddle the wares of the culture that values relevancy. Success in the Church is not being more relevant. Success looks like being in solidarity with the irrelevant of the world.
You know, like Jesus did.
May we be like Jesus who resisted the temptation of to be relevant. May we be like Jesus who defined success by our willingness to follow.