We had the chance to take our four boys to Disneyland this past week. It was a great, fun trip (and we’re glad to be home!). Walking through those gates brought back childhood memories of going there with my parents. It was a surreal experience now taking my own children to a place my parents took me as a child.
Much to my wife’s chagrin, my cultural wheels never stop turning. I couldn’t help but marvel at how relevant they have kept most of the attractions. Yes, some of them feel a bit dated, but overall, Disney has done a great marketing job recycling their movies and keeping certain fables alive so that kids of all ages are able to share in an overall experience. I couldn’t help but think that it is often the most long-lasting things that are the most “relevant.” The Matterhorn, Mickey Mouse, etc.
Yet, Disney has not always done the best at relevance. I couldn’t help but think that some things made it into the park quite prematurely. Roger Rabbit, anyone? Not only have my kids never seen Roger Rabbit, I have no inclination to show it to them. It seems to me that Disney took a gamble at something that would become a meme and they lost. Yet, after however many millions of dollars it cost to put in that ride, they are now that much more reluctant to simply remove it. The result is an oddly out-of-place ride with a goofy Bugs Bunny rip-off and an inappropriate Jessica Rabbit character that I don’t want to expose my four young boys to just yet, much less at Disneyland.
There are certainly lessons here for the American Church. We race after this trend or that fad, forgetting that to chase relevance today is to ensure irrelevance tomorrow. We end up as the Roger Rabbit rides of the world; cool in 1988 and a laughing-stock now. It is the enduring that is always relevant. Relevance is not a question of immediate popularity but of lasting impact. Everyone knows Mickey Mouse and very few people care about Roger Rabbit. Everyone knows the Cross and very few people care about your contemporvance.
It is the churches that preach the Cross deeply and live joyful, sacrificial lives that will always be the most relevant. This is not the same thing as being immediately popular, nor should it be. We as jars of clay (2 Corinthians 4:7) hold, proclaim and live the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). What could be more relevant than that? Is that enough for us, or would we rather be the Roger Rabbits of culture?