We often feel the tension between being relevant and rooted. For academic leaders, this is a tension between theory and practice. For business leaders, this is a tension between production and marketing. For ministry leaders, this is a tension between biblical faithfulness and cultural relevance.
The answer, of course, is not picking between rootedness OR relevance, but rather being rooted AND relevant. We might label this middle-ground of both-and as Grounded Relevance. This is a place that holds in harmony and tension the need to be both rooted and relevant in our approach to leadership and thoughtful practice.
For example, as a leadership professor, I desire my students to engage significant theory and research, but I equally desire students to translate this into leadership practice. Theory without practice is often irrelevant. Practice without theory is often misguided. Students and practitioners of leadership need both—they need theory-informed practice.
Biblically-Grounded & Missionally-Relevant
Ministry leadership from a place of Grounded Relevance is rooted in Christ: “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). It is also rooted in a commitment to God’s word and follows the Ezra-like example of treasuring God’s word as a ministry foundation: “Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statues and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10).
But Grounded Relevance is also about missional relevance. Grounded Relevance is about connecting an eternal message to temporal people in specific times and specific places. Christian leadership that responses to its times by walking the pathway of Grounded Relevance will not be content with business as usual but rather will take seriously the call to engage culture both authentically and missionally.
Rather than leadership that reacts, reflective Christian leadership that is Grounded and Relevant takes seriously the whole of God’s Word and provides the basis for engaging culture with the power of the Gospel. Such leadership holding to the path of Grounded Relevance can, in the words of Henri Nouwen, be:
“flexible without being relativistic,
convinced without being rigid,
willing to confront without being offensive,
gentle and forgiving without being soft, and
true witness without being manipulative”
This is the call for Christian leaders in our day. It is a call to be so rooted and grounded in Christ that we have the capacity to be relevantly engaged with the world around us. It is a call to be Rooted AND Relevant.