Merriam-Webster defines these two terms this way:
robust – a: having or exhibiting strength or vigorous health; b: having or showing vigor, strength, or firmness; c: strongly formed or constructed
relevant – a: having significant and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand; synonyms include words like: germane, pertinent, and applicable, the latter meaning “bringing a general rule or principle to bear upon a particular case”
I have contemplated a question quite often recently that includes both of these words. Here’s the question:
Can a church today be both theologically robust and practically relevant?
Some say, “No.” “Practically relevant?” Why “Yes, of course,” they say. “Theologically robust?” “No,” they say, “there’s no appetite for that today.”
But the truth is that to attempt to maintain Christian “practices” or “values” without their “biblical” and “theological” roots is like cutting a flower. It will look good for a little while longer, but soon it begins to wilt and then it will die.
When I look to Scripture and the broad sweep of history, I see the imperative to build a church that is both theologically robust and practically relevant.
Theologically robust. It means to have a “strongly formed and well constructed” understanding of Scripture. It means growing beyond superficial and shallow. It means putting down deep biblical roots. It means developing a coherent doctrinal framework. It means cultivating thoroughly Bible-based perspectives, values, and convictions characterized by “vigor, strength, and firmness.”
Practically relevant. It means to allow the Scripture to actually impact the way we live. It means we connect God’s truth to daily life. It’s what Jesus did when he taught about anger, lust, marriage and divorce, truth-telling, retaliation and revenge, and loving your neighbor and your enemy (and that’s all in just one chapter of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5!). It means not only “hearing” the word; it means “doing” it!
Thank you for joining me in praying and working to build a church that is both theologically robust and practically relevant – for our good, the good of our community, and for the glory of God!
Your Pastor and Friend,