Recently I have been hashing out ideologies and praxis of the “cool” church. This has not come lightly and has been a difficult struggle. I for one am a component of culture; I am affected by it, it manipulates my life and my appearance to be seen. Albeit, I would argue that I am always trying to be ahead of the so called “cool” zeitgeist of the day, I am typically in step or behind, not forming the trends, but being engulfed in the trend. Whether it be my v-neck shirts that my fellow friends love to pick on me for, or the so called “hip” facial hair and faux hawk that I have been known to wear, they all are manipulated by culture. Subconsciously, I would assume its about fitting in, being on the in-crowd and being seen, but again I would argue it is just me. As if I am above and beyond the cultural hipness of the day; that is just a lame excuse to deny my true desire to fit in, or make an identity for myself in our postmodern context. These innate desires of mine to be “hip” or “cool” however has its place in our secular world, but where do they succumb in our sacred world? This is the exact question that I have been struggling through and reading books on. Does the church really have to be culturally relevant to heed to the zeitgeist of the day? Knowing farewell that a fad is simply called a fad, because it does not last.
To begin with Christianity is always relevant. It has and always will be, since it’s intrinsic power lies with Christ and ultimately with God. It has no reason to promote itself as relevant, for in it is truth and truth that is eternally valid through all times to come. It’s eternal attributes are not limited by a culture or fad of the day, and it’s absurd to think so. But that does not negate the fact that cultures change and though the central message of Christ does not, reaching out to the culture might require some change. Now though I am still debating this statement, let’s converse on change in the church.
Culturally relevant, the up-to-date “cool” phrase of the hip churches of the day, in my opinion This is truly the manipulation of churches to reach the lost culture in a way that is relevant for the day. If anything, this sounds sound and a well worth pursuit. But in my experience of keeping up with culture, the church is always like myself…one step behind in fact, as soon as something is deemed as cool, typical hip people leave it, wanting to be ahead of rest. And then comes the church, following up with Godtube, or dance dance worship (whatever that is called), typically a lamer less worldly response. The world of apple, Microsoft, eBay, and others are leading the cultural revolution and Christianity is still trying a new form of Christendom (in my opinion) through culture to compete. But does Jesus and the message of truth need to compete with the present? The last I read the Bible said he was eternal, does a present day fad defy an eternal God? I think not…but let’s examine closer.
A Christianity that is bred on being “cool” and “hip” promotes a narcissistic society. “Lets cohere to culture,” simply saying, make Christianity hip and brand it like apple. Is this truly a counter cultural transcendent church, or a wishy washy, I want to be cool? Focusing on culture too much(notice too much), results in a consumer-driven church, where it’s all about me, and what I can get. Instead of the message of Christ, it is all about God and what I can give. This seems like the radical message of the cross, and our call to carry it! This message in itself is “cool,” it is timeless and brings true joy. Instead of the alternative, always being about me, and in constant fear of keeping up with the jones’s (sp.), leading a depressed, autonomous lifestyle. Trying to be “cool,” effaces sin and hell, for that is very “uncool.”. It takes the message of the cross, and Christ’s death as a mockery, eradicating its purpose to save us from sin, and to bring us into relationship with our Creator. To be “hip” , or mainstream in culture, waters down the eternal, into a fad which leads to destruction. Though the message of Christ is about love, it’s also about judgment and sin, they go hand in hand. I believe that is why in so many of our “cool” unique churches of the day, we find a bunch of Christians who look, and sound no different than the world. …swearing Pastors, drunken “Christians” at a Christian party, and other pluralistic attitudes and behavior, that culturally fit in with the world, yet who say Jesus loves.
Sadly, the culturally relevant discussion has opened up a black hole, where if it fits than bring it in. It has lost the purpose of the gospel, traded it for an empty void-less religion, making culture its purpose, instead of Jesus who is culture. I strongly believe there is purpose in reaching culture where it is, but the radical way it’s being done today is not the answer. The foundation of the message is strong, chiseling it out makes it a house built upon sand. Where it’s just waiting to crumble.