I’ve mentioned many of Os Guinness’ books on this blog in the past, including this one: Prophetic Untimeliness. Guinness is one of those authors I always enjoy reading. Below is a section from Prophetic Untimeliness that I have marked up quite a bit; it is on the topic of relevance and the church today.
“Simone Weil, the French philosopher, [said], ‘To be always relevant, you have to say things which are eternal.’”
“So how on earth…can we achieve the impossible? To begin with, we have to face the fact that the pursuit of relevance as being constantly timely is a mirage. When relevance is invoked as a self-authenticating concept, it becomes meaningless and dangerous because it begs the questions, Relevance for what? Relevance to whom?”
“Such questions are commonly ignored in today’s headlong rush after the unholy trinity of the powerful, the practical, and the profitable. But if we don’t ask them, the constant appeal to relevance becomes an idol, a way of riding slipshod over truth, and a means of corralling opinion deceptively. Until, that is, we finally deceive ourselves.”
“The fact is that nothing is finally relevant except in relation to the true and the eternal. Unless something is true; its perspective will at some point be wrong and its practical value in the end will be nil. Only truth and eternity give relevance to ‘relevance.’ To think or do anything simply ‘because it’s relevant’ will always prove to be irrational, dangerous, and a sure road to burnout. It may taste like unpleasant medicine to our practical modern thinking, but in fact it’s a powerful antidote to perpetual folly: There is an irrelevance to the pursuit of relevance just as there is a relevance to the practice of irrelevance.”
Os Guinness, Prophetic Untimeliness (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 105-106.