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‘Wannabe Cool’ Christianity?

Brett McCracken names examples of various ways that churches try to be ‘cool’ and ‘relevant’:

  1. Quote and reference cultural icons during sermons (e.g. Stephen Colbert and Lady Gaga)
  2. Sponsor the screening of the R-rated movies
  3. Give the pastor a metrosexual makeover, with skinny jeans and a $80 haircut
  4. Insist on trendy eco-friendly paper and helvetica-only fonts on all printed materials
  5. Hold a worship service in a bar or nightclub
  6. Stream online church services
  7. Encourage texting, Twitter and iPhone interaction with the pastor during the service
  8. Shock people with sex-themed marketing gimmicks (e.g. sermon titles like “Biblical Oral Sex”)
  9. Worship with indie-rock music

“But are these gimmicks really going to bring young people back to church? Is this what people really come to church for? Maybe sex sermons and indie- rock worship music do help in getting people in the door, and maybe even in winning new converts. But what sort of Christianity are they being converted to?

“‘And the further irony,’ he adds, ‘is that the younger generations who are less impressed by whiz-bang technology, who often see through what is slick and glitzy, and who have been on the receiving end of enough marketing to nauseate them, are as likely to walk away from these oh-so-relevant churches as to walk into them.’

If the evangelical Christian leadership thinks that ‘cool Christianity’ is a sustainable path forward, they are severely mistaken. As a twentysomething, I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don’t want cool as much as we want real.

If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it’s easy or trendy or popular. It’s because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true. It’s because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched—and we want an alternative. It’s not because we want more of the same.”

The Perils of ‘Wannabe Cool’ Christianity by Brett McCraken (Wall Street Journal, Aug 13, 2010)

I agree very much with McCracken, and I don’t think it is necessary to do any of those 9 things above in order to attract young people, but what’s wrong with #4?

Any comments or thoughts?

P.S. I just realized I might very well be a “Bookish Intellectual” Christian hipster. What do I do now? =P

Posted in Church, Culture, Mission & Evangelism, Posts in English.

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3 Responses

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  1. Rob Haskell says

    I’m curious how he documents all this. Does he give examples of specific churches, and can it really be a trend? I’m just asking bc I don’t see most of those trends. It seems like it would take a lot of work to make this anything more than one person’s observations, you know?

    • Anson says

      I haven’t read his book, so I don’t know. But you are right, he could have exaggerated his personal observations of a few prominent emerging churches and called it a “trend”.

      Anyways, I think he’s just lamenting the fact that many churches seem to be losing confidence in Jesus Christ’s own appeal and his promise in saying that: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32)

      I remember Darrell Johnson said something like if we feel we need to make Jesus or Christianity relevant to the world, we are actually presuming that he’s not relevant at all in the first place. But if we truly understand that all things were created through him and in him all things hold together (Col 1:15-20), then he is actually intimately related to everything in the cosmos.

      I think I’m very much influenced by Hans Boersma’s theology, seeing how nominalism led to the loss of universals and the sacramentality of the created order, making us think that “nature” is independent and self-sustaining, which in turn renders God irrelevant. That’s why I think our philosophical outlook deeply influences the way how we do church too.

  2. Rob Haskell says

    Hi Anson – Thanks. I totally agree with your critique. I’m just concerned about overstating the problem and thereby losing the opposition. I’ve never heard of a church insisting a pastor change his dress style, and certainly not to a metrosexual look (which i’m told is on the way out in any case – ha ha).

    But as for the connection to nominalism…. I get what your saying (obviously, we’ve sat in the same courses), but I’m more sympathetic to nominalism. For me the biblical emphasis is not on universals but on historical revelation. I’ll grant the legitimacy of the observation about the loss of universals. But that is all an ancillary discussion, I think. The primary question is not whether there are universals, but whether Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

    In any case, we agree that the pursuit of relevance can be very problematic. For me it’s unfaithfulness to the revelation.