The Beatles and The Mark of Relevance

No one was more surprised than Paul McCartney when he was chosen to perform during the Super Bowl half time show based on the criteria of “family-safe” entertainment. During his stint with the Beatles, McCartney had been the rebel who questioned the establishment and could never be considered safe entertainment due to his connection with the drug culture of his generation. So what has changed since the time of the Beatles (60’s and 70’s)? Are we just more depraved?

My wife Julie seemed to have hit upon the crux of the matter in a very revealing statement. She commented, “Well it’s just like the church. Once we are no longer challenging the norms and standards of the times and cease to be revoluntionary, we lose our relevance.” One of her examples was John Wesley who tried forms of evangelism and smaller Christian societies that were simply unheard of in his day. He was critiqued and doubted, but now we look back and think of him as a great Christian evangelist, discipler, etc. Yet, the very things that he did in his day that made him so effective in his own day, simply do not connect with today’s society. In other words, the Beatles were so controversial because they challenged the values and norms of their day, and therefore were the rebels. Now that our culture has shifted in its values and priorities, their message is no longer threatening or revolutionary. We can argue about whether our culture has become more “depraved,” but that seems to miss the larger point. I think each time period thoughtout history will have things to commend and things to detest. The idea of relevance (which is not the same as being cool!) to culture is the issue that should most concern the church.

The church has a message that will be heard as foolishness, but should not be told in a foolish manner. The message may be offensive, but should not be communicated in an offensive matter. The message is revolutionary, but should not be told as if we are rebels. If our message ceases to be revolutionary, foolish, or offensive, then perhaps we have accomodated ourselves too much to our culture. We should always seek to speak with our culture’s language and metaphors, but if we don’t stir the pot a little bit with the Gospel, perhaps we have added some things to the Gospel or to Christianity that simply do not belong. If it’s too familiar and comfortable, maybe we need to do some searching, repenting, and perhaps even some rebelling.