Being the church, or chasing cool?

In the last week there have been two blogs that seemed to have made their way into my stream of thought.  One is by my friend over at Spiritfarmer who provides a thoughtful, funny and provocative rant about churches who have subtle ways of saying all other churches suck, but theirs. 

It’s a post (Read Here) worth your time.

The other is a video blog from pastor Ed Young who leads the Fellowship Church in Dallas.  Fellowship is a huge church known for it’s creative talks which deal with topical issues such as sex, parenting, money, and marriage.  Last year I wrote a blog about Pastor Young and his message to the Fellowhip staff about not ever planting churches within the area of Fellowship church.  He claimed then that those who do that are “church pirates”.  It remains the most read post of my short blogging career for some reason…

Recently, Young decided to video himself while driving to illustrate a point about pastors “chasing cool” by swearing and talking crudely.  While I understand what he’s getting at and believe he makes some good points.  I find it very funny that the master of creating a church service which delivers “cool” to the people each Sunday would warn against such a thing.  Here’s the video…

Let’s be honest here.  The fact that pastors are being included into the discussion of “chasing cool” in terms of how they lead and shepherd their churches is not a good thing.  Both these blogs have forced me to look at my leadership, pray for pure motives, and make some changes about the way I think and approach my church.  It’s an easy trap to fall into these days…especially in my Seattle / Eastside culture defined by it’s high achievments. 

I find myself thinking today not about what is cool, but rather what is relevant.  I believe media and creative teaching series’ have there place in today’s church, but the reality is that there is nothing more relevant in all the universe than Jesus and the Gospel. 

It’s with that thought that I also challenge the person who’s seeking a church to attend…a faith community to journey with…or maybe even an intentional community to live with.  Stop gauging your attendance or ability to commit on how cool the church or pastor is.  These things will certainly catch your eye and draw you in, but if many of us are honest about why we’re desiring church…it’s because we want to know how to contextualize God’s word into our everyday living. 

We want more than happiness…we want to be whole.  We don’t really want entertainment…we want to know how to cultivate true contentment.  We want more than priciples…we want to Truth.

But in order for this to happen, those of us who pastor have to stop thinking about how to make empty seats full, and lead those who are commited to the church into authentic disciple-oriented lives.  They will then be the ones to “build” the church by “being the church” within their workplace and neighborhoods.  As well, the people who come each week should stop with their demands to be entertained and stroked.  Stop the mental church shopping where visions of bigger kids programs, sermon props, and state of the art media convince you to “chase cool”.

I guess the last thing I should say is that I can see how this might seem like a small church guy ranting against the big churches who have the resources to afford certain things we don’t.  That’s not it.  I know of plenty of big churches who have a missional approach to their existence, and small churches who emphasize cool more than being the church.  Size doesn’t matter when it comes to being the church, or chasing cool.  The point of the blog is to encourage every pastor or church goer who reads this, to be thoughtful about what their true hopes and intentions are for leading and attending church.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Am I making too much out of this idea of chasing cool?

Love and Peace.


3 responses to “Being the church, or chasing cool?

  1. I think you are on to something. I just finished an internship at a larger church and got to witness the balance between chasing cool and relevantly reaching the congregation. The truth is that there is a very thin line between chasing cool and being productively relevant.

    While I was at this church I met a few people who may not have realized it, but they were coming to church because they loved the church culture, there was really no commitment.

    The solution to this problem for the teaching staff at this church was to make sure that everything they did was grounded in scripture – even if they did integrate relevant movie clips or themes – it all had to answer to the text.

    It’s all about balance.

  2. I’m absolutely horrified that anyone would use crude language like “sucks” just to be cool. I mean, really! Who would do such a thing just to be cool? Anyone who uses “sucks” really should have more integrity than that. I mean, if you can’t say “sucks” and really mean it from the heart, you shouldn’t say it at all! To think that people would say that just to win cool points with others would be like, so totally fake.

    I can speak with complete sincerity: when I heard what Ed Young said about the church planter pirates, I said, “That opinion sucks.” And I really meant it.

    Just to be fair, most of the time, I also think SpiritFarmer sucks too.

  3. In my personal life, I gave up trying to be cool a long time ago (let’s face it, there was never really any hope). The funniest thing about “cool church” is that no matter how much we try to dress it up, the life the Cross calls us to will never be cool. Attractional ministry models promise ease, comfort, and social status, Jesus invites us to the Cross.

    The “cool church” mentality also promotes pride and arrogance, both in the staff and the congregation (our church is the best becuase of xyz…).

    Been there. Done that. Not going back. I have left more than one leadership position over this exact issue – alway sin search of genuine disciples of the homeless and penniless Jesus the Son.

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