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Forever Relevant
By Shawn Boonstra

At the age of forty-three, I find myself standing on that bridge that spans between youth and age. From that vantage point, I have a message for those who are at the beginning of their preaching careers: don't build your ministry on being cool.  Not that there's anything wrong with it, and you certainly don't want to be altogether uncool.  Just don't make it the foundation of your ministry.  The day will come - sooner than you expect, and through no fault of your own - when you will no longer be cool.  No matter how how you try, you will try to be contemporary in vain.  It just happens.

Those kids crawling around your ankles on playmats?  You know, the ones chewing on plastic teething rings?  In two short decades, they will take to the adult world with the starry-eyed idealism of youth.  You will not be one of them, and they will know it.    

You won't be cool.  Sorry.  I know it hurts, but it's absolutely true.  A little while ago, I asked my oldest daughter to weigh in on it: "Is Daddy cool?"  She didn't want to hurt my feelings.  She stalled.  "Ummmmm...."

"You know I was cool, right?"  Another embarrassed pause.  Embarrassed for me.  

Cool slips away from you quietly.  There is nothing you can do about it; in fact, trying to cling to it only makes it worse.   You cannot fool the next generation into thinking you are one of them.  


Don't pin your ministry hopes on being hip - cool - trendy - bad - sick - or whatever the next word happens to be.  Build your preaching on eternal concepts that speak to every demographic, in every age.  If you can do it and still put it in a contemporary-sounding context, by all means do it.  But make eternal principles the foundation of your preaching. 


There are some questions every generation asks.  Neil deGrasse Tyson, the popular director of the Hayden Observatory, in a January 2013 interview, was asked which questions he receives most often. The answer was telling: "I'd say there are three.  'What was around before the Big Bang?  How did life get here?  Are we alone in the universe?' And typically toward the end, I get a question about God."  Tyson is not a theologian. He is a physicist, and yet people still want him to deliver the big answers.  


Read the words of Jesus - the everlasting questions are easy to spot.  Jesus used one-size-fits-all stories that appealed to the entire audience - whether teachers and rulers, or farmers and laborers.  The stories had something for everyone. If you had little educational background, you'd easily get the gist of what Jesus was saying.  If you were highly lettered, there was enough meat in the story to provide endless reflection (we're still pondering those stories two millennia later, after all.) And notice: Jesus got right to the heart of the most important questions in the universe.  He spoke of love, life, suffering, meaning, purpose, death.  


He gave answers to the questions that, sooner or later, everyone asks.  Those questions will not lose relevance until the day people stop suffering and dying, and maybe not even then.   Contemplate the big questions that God answers in the book of Revelation.  The questions aren't spelled out, but the answers certainly are.  I was dead, and am alive forever.  I will wipe away every tear and make all things new.  I have the keys of death and the grave.  


Find the questions that these statements answer, and your preaching will be forever relevant - even if you don't seem to be.