Christianity Church of England & Ministry Sermons & Scripture

Being different and being relevant…


I’ve been thinking recently about how hard it is to balance trying to be relevant as Christians in society, with being Godly. By which I mean for example, I find it helpful to use every day life examples when I’m preaching or talking about God. I might refer to a current song or TV show, a piece in the news maybe, or something I’ve seen on Facebook or Twitter.

But at the same time that requires us to be up to date and know what is going on in the world, the things that people are into, the music that is popular and the TV shows people are watching. Which isn’t in itself a problem, until we come up against something that is hugely popular but might go against our Christian principles. Now listen I’m not going all fundamental here, I’m not saying we shouldn’t listen to Radio 1 or watch Harry Potter (and I’m not talking about hard core stuff which most people would be offended by anyway) but I’m just thinking about where the balance is. 

Here’s the challenge – ask yourself, how much TV do you watch, say 10 hours a week? and then ask yourself how much of that is spent watching anything Christian? Or how much time do you spend reading books and then compare that with how much time is spent in God’s word? How much do you listen to the radio, versus listening to preaching podcasts or Worship music? How many posts do you put on Facebook each week and how many of those reference your faith or something God has done in your life?


As Christians we often quote the line that we should ‘be in the world but not of the world’ and say it’s from scripture. Actually it isn’t, the theme is biblical but the line itself is not. Probably it’s one of those things that someone has paraphrased from scripture and then it has been repeated so many times that people believe it is in the bible.

The nearest we can get to it is the following:

If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you.       John 15:19

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.       
Romans 12:2

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.     1 John 2:15

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.        John 17:19

All of which point to the fact that we are called to be different, but not that we need to be completely removed from contemporary culture.

I think the most helpful line here is from Romans 12 – ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind’. And that is the challenge – how are we allowing our minds to be renewed? If actually the majority of the time we are simply filling our minds with the X Factor, Kanye West or Fifty Shades of Grey that sounds like our minds are more likely to be transformed and renewed into the culture of this world, not of the Kingdom of God.

So back to my original question, how can we balance being relevant with being Godly? Well, I don’t have a magic formula I’m afraid. But the key has to be in seeking God and being led by him. My husband and I watch a lot of what we call ‘murder based entertainment’ – i.e. crime drama. I like the challenge of it, the suspense, the trying to suss out who did what. But just recently I realised that is pretty much all we watch on TV! So, we have been choosing to fill our minds with stories of GBH, murder and deception and the scenes that go with it. And let’s face it, TV dramas these days don’t hold back on the gore and realism do they? And I have to be honest I’ve felt challenged on that. Do I want to fill my mind continually with this kind of stuff? I’m asking myself how is this renewing my mind? So instead I’m trying to balance what I put in to my head with a range of things, We’ve switched to watching something less murder themed, I am trying to listen to more sermon podcasts and choosing to watch less TV in general actually.

I think it’s good to challenge ourselves on these things regularly, that is not to say ‘that programme/book/song is not Christian’ but more to balance it out. We do need to know what is going on in our world, we need to be able to relate to people who are not Christians and we can’t do that by hiding ourselves away, but let’s really think about how we are feeding ourselves and how our minds are being renewed and transformed.

I would love to know peoples thoughts on this. Do you think we can we find the right balance? What about your own popular culture intake – do you think you have the right balance? What might God be saying to you in this?

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  • Reply
    Alice C
    March 8, 2016 at 10:11 pm

    Firstly – do not underestimate the importance of downtime. You will be very busy in your new parish and you must permit yourself to relax. TV is great because it is often a shared activity with partner and/or children.

    Secondly – I don’t watch much TV because I grew up without one and never got the habit but I keep up to date by following appropriate twitter accounts and hashtags. It is a very efficient way of tapping into trends and events and I can always switch on and watch if I think that I am missing out.

  • Reply
    March 9, 2016 at 11:54 am

    Thanks Alice, you are not the first person to talk about rest to me recently, so I am going to embrace it 🙂
    and yes, LOVE Twitter! that’s where I get most of the news, in 140 characters!
    Bless you


  • Reply
    Mark Bushell
    March 13, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    Oh Jules.
    Thank you for your inspirational blog.

    Could seriously write an essay on this topic but won’t!!!
    Truth is I have struggled with this for a while now. Not the T.V.. Don’t really like much of it especially anything that’s cruel or has stuff in it that depicts unsavoury aspects of life (almost everything!!!)

    Like books..Apologetics and classics so o.k. there?

    But…… I really like rock music and stuff, stand up comedy etc.. And like you i don’t want to get fundamental about it either (unless of course what we mean is that we believe in the fundamentals of my faith). But…. What if… I got a phone call tomorrow from Jesus and he said he wanted to spend a couple of days with me. Would I tidy up the house first?. Hide some of the DVD’s? Get rid of some of of my CD”s (especially the rolling stones one with sympathy for the devil on it!).

    Would I invite him to my local pub where he will hear his name shouted out occasionally as an exclamation. Or would i tell him I’m busy………

    Upsets me Jules. But. Like you I am really trying. But I fail sometimes. And it makes me cry.

    I know that “everything is permissible” But……………………………..

    • Reply
      March 14, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      Thanks Mark 🙂
      Yes it is a tough one, I think I struggle with it daily. like your challenge of if Jesus was coming to stay, that really made me think – would I love stuff? change things? I think though as you say, we just have to keep trying. That’s really all we can do.

  • Reply
    October 30, 2017 at 7:46 pm

    Hello, I love your article. My interpretation is that God wants us to be different to set us apart from the world. Because the world is not of God. He rules all creation but apparently evil rules Earth. If you should love God, He wants you to love Him completely. In Everything you do, say and think. It filled with nothing but Him. 🙂 I’ve read something similar where it is EVIL that truly rules the Earth but it cannot contend with God. For He alone is GREATER than anything and anyone in the entire world/universe! Hope this helps! 🙂

    • Reply
      October 30, 2017 at 7:54 pm

      Oh! And absolutely NOTHING can be compared to God!! Nothing at all! Because He has no rival! 🙂

  • Reply
    Steven Tyler
    February 18, 2022 at 12:52 pm

    As a Pastor I believe that people will do what they want or what benefits them, at that time or the situation they are dealing with.
    However, we as leaders must teach what God’s word declares and encourage people to grow in Christ by reading and knowing his character.
    We can challenge God’s people by what we teach how we live before them. Jesus won people by teaching, by miracles, but most of all by love, showing them how much he cared for them. Letting the people know how important they are to God and that they are citizens of the Kingdom of God.

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