I know that some people chafe at the term “relevant.” They argue that God’s Word is not irrelevant. And, of course they are right. But God’s Word can be taught in irrelevant ways.
In my view, preaching in a contemporary way means that you make reference to things currently occurring in our culture. If we only talk about the ancient world, people may assume the church has nothing to say to the 21st century.
I see relevant preaching in a slightly different light. For example… Perhaps you want to preach from Genesis 27. It is the text where Jacob steals his father’s blessing by disguising himself as his brother, Esau. To the modern listener this seems completely irrelevant. Who cares about a blessing? Why couldn’t Isaac simply take the blessing back? This sounds so superstitious.
A relevant way to approach the text might be to ask the question, “Have you ever pretended to be someone you are not, just to have someone say what you wanted to hear?” With that question, suddenly lots of people can see themselves in the story. Now they want to know what happened to the character and what could happen to them.
The key to relevant preaching is to divulge the possible motive of a character in Scripture. We don’t all do the same things, but we all struggle with similar motives.
Preaching in a contemporary way communicates to the listener that you understand their world. Preaching in a relevant way, you communicate to the listener that you understand their heart.