Thursday, April 22, 2010

Should Christians Be "Cool"?

I was reading a blog the other day and while I'm not sure I agree with some of it, there was an idea embedded in there that got my wheels a-turnin':

"You don’t have to go to a “cool” church with a name like “Revolution” or “The Rock” or “Journey” or “The River.” Your plain ol’ First Presbyterian or First Baptist or First United Methodist will do."

While I acknowledge that a church's name has little to do with what's truly, deeply on the "inside," the comment made me wonder...  Is it okay for Christians to be cool?

I mean, as Christians, we're called to be aliens; to be in, but not of, this world. We're told that people will know us by our love for one another.  I haven't seen a Bible verse that says, "They will know you by your stylish Christian t-shirts, your fancy light shows, your rockin' praise team and entertaining messages."

I think that somehow the American church has been sidetracked with being attractive to the world. Jesus said that people would hate us because we followed Him. So why has "being cool" become so incredibly important?

We call it being "seeker friendly." But it seems to me that using the media budget to take care of the widows and the orphans would do a lot more to attract people to Jesus than awesome sound equipment or a children's ministry that looks like Disneyland.

We say we want a place where our non-believing friends will feel "comfortable." But do you think, just maybe, that we like going to a "cool church" because we won't be embarrassed to take our friends there? Because our church really doesn't look that different than the concert they went to last Saturday night? (And trust me, when I say "we," I am including myself, because I have had this thought.)

Why do we even care about being cool? (Besides the obvious - that we are, in fact, human.)

Now, I am definitely for Christians representing Christ in a positive, Biblical way. I like using media and the arts to teach people about God and I think we should do it with excellence. What I see as a problem is that our churches today seem to be focused so heavily on the cool-factor.

What would Jesus think of our modern architecture and cutting-edge videos? Would He nod at our creative genius and brilliant marketing strategies before turning to look at the world's 132 million orphans with tears in His eyes?

Even as I type this, I keep thinking, Oh man, if I post this it's going to really offend some people and then they won't like me and won't think I'm cool anymore.

Oh.  Now hold on just a-hypocritical-minute!

If I want to be counter-cultural and make even a dent in hopelessness of this world, I've got to be different. And a whole lot of the time, being different makes you very not cool.

Now, I'm not saying we need to go out of our way to be completely and utterly lame. After-all, our love for God and others should exude a certain kind of vibrance. I'm not saying that we shouldn't use our talents or creativity for God. And I'm certainly not trying to generalize here. But just imagine the difference we could make if we weren't so concerned with being popular... or rather, if we were concerned with being popular for all the right reasons. Maybe being cool in the world's eyes isn't having the best facilities, clever t-shirts, etc. Maybe being Jesus to the world is cool. Jesus was hated by hypocrites and we will be too. But to those with eyes to see, He was a different sort of way.

I'll leave you with these verses:

"If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." - John 15:19

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." -James 1:27

"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." - 1 John 3:17-18

So here is the big Q4U- Do you think that Christians/churches should be cool by the world's standard?


  1. I've been thinking about this/struggling with it A LOT lately. For a long time actually. You haven't really helped me a whole lot here. :) Just made my mind churn even more. I'm kidding--that's totally a good thing!

    You make a VERY good point about wanting to bring our friends to a cool church. Ouch.

  2. @Marla Taviano: I'm in the same boat Marla - I see the problem but I'm not sure what to do about it. I guess it just starts with one person's life and grows from there.

  3. This whole issue is the reason Daniel and I decided that we wanted to move to Columbia and become a part of our church whether they hired him on as the youth pastor or not. When I see how much money they give away and use in our widows and orphans ministry and other stuff like that, it makes me proud to be a part of our church body. And then other times I think, "maybe they should spend more of that money on fixing up our not-very-nice bathrooms, or giving the staff raises, or paying someone super talented and kind of famous to be our worship leader," but then I stop and realize that that's Satan talking. Satan who wants us to spend our resources on things that won't last. I believe that, as believers, we should most definitely be attractive to unbelievers. But I think that Jesus is what makes us and our churches attractive, not big fancy buildings and impressive shows. Just Jesus. If we want to attract the world, we have to act and look like Him. And he didn't focus on making his ministry "seeker friendly."

  4. Stephanie - It is interesting that Jesus focused so much on seeking the lost and yet wasn't "seeker-friendly." He was certainly not interested in making people feel "comfortable", but with confronting them with the truth and with a love that cared too much about them to let them stay in sin.

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  6. So, I read in a study that the "cool" part was the least important reason for youth to come to youth group. And yet, it seems like churches are trying to go that direction anyway...the youth probably have it right. It's not about "cool" it's about message, training up, and the focus on the Lord. Being cool is least important. In a culture that tries to be cool, we need to separate and sanctify ourselves to stand out not become a part of...

  7. a great post and something I think about often...

    Be sure and stop by and read about a miracle in our family....

  8. I read this post the other day and have been thinking about it a lot.

    Here is my opinion: We do not trust God enough to bring the people that He plans to bring. We have tried to take all of this into our own hands, and have stopped trusting God to do His will. Those that God wants to come to church, will come to church. I think we have a lack of faith. We feel like if we don’t have the bright lights, coffee shop or the rock climbing wall (don’t laugh, churches in Texas have these) people won’t come to church. (I do however believe that God gives us gifts and we should use them and if you can use them in the church, that’s great.) If we look back at Jesus' time, they didn’t have anything. They met in houses or out in fields. People came because they wanted to hear God's word.

    I think that’s a big problem too. Pastors get caught up in the “we need more stuff and more members” and start to lose focus on the real purpose of it all, God’s truth. That, in turn, begins to reflect in their preaching. When they are not preaching from the heart and get caught up in the money and numbers, people stop growing spiritually and at some point stop coming...which in turn continues the cycle to get bigger and better things so that people will come.

    The problem of being “cool” arises when we start to feel like it is us that saves people and not God.

    Ok, sorry, I wrote too much. Just my thoughts on it all. Grandma and I had a good talk on it all:)

  9. Oooo, girl, you are preaching my language.

    You might be interested in a book called Quitting Church by Julia Duin. She talks about how despite all the cool tshirts and bowling alleys - actually, perhaps BECAUSE OF the cool tshirts and bowling alleys - people are leaving the Church in record numbers. The glitzy mass-marketed church does not appeal to the post-post-modern generation. We, and the generation right behind that, are in fact utterly turned off by that.

    So then the church tries to be cool and edgy and hip and 'emergent' and usually does so at the cost of theology and sacrament, which completely alienates its older generations, so that all the 'wisdom' is being bestowed by barefoot 32 year olds with goatees and highlighted spikey hair.

    Recent studies have shown that the parishioners of megachurches, specifically a humongous one in California, feel spiritually unfulfilled after initial conversions because there is little to no programming in place to make mature disciples. I see that with the two megachurches in our town all the time (I am in Joel Osteen land. Shoot me now.)

    This also explains why there is such a 'return to Rome' among Protestants. So many Protestants are overlooking the glaring theological flaws of Catholicism and all that was fought for in the Reformation because the Catholic church experience is almost just the same as it was 500 years ago.

    The churches that are growing are the ones that preach the old fashioned, conservative, offensive Word of God, that give the un-dumbed-down gospel every stinking Sunday, and that put their money and their feet where their mouth is as far as helping the poor etc. And it doesn't matter one bit what how fancy the building is.

    As you can see, you touched a nerve with me ;)


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