I recently came across a piece in The Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal by Brett McCracken entitled “The Perils of ‘Wannabe Cool’ Christianity.” It made for interesting reading insomuch as McCracken delved into the current American Evangelical scene which tends to go all out for the latest trends. The reasoning often used is that they need to attract the younger generations to church. But, as McCracken rightly asks, “What sort of Christianity are they being converted to?”
In his book, “The Courage to Be Protestant,” David Wells writes: “The born-again, marketing church has calculated that unless it makes deep, serious cultural adaptations, it will go out of business, especially with the younger generations. What it has not considered carefully enough is that it may well be putting itself out of business with God.
“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. (Read the entire article here.)
I have long been a critic of the attractional model of doing Church [follow the link for an excellent post about the attractional vs missional models]. It seems to me that if our aim is to attract people into a church service [and thus into a relationship with God] by offering targeted programs, contemporary high-tech services, and barista coffee, those people are just as likely to walk out the door when a church down the road offers more ‘relevant’ programs, better worship bands, or better-tasting coffee.
What we need to keep in mind in all our church activities is the power of a real relationship, both with God and with each other. And I’m not just talking about saying that we have a relationship, but living that relationship every day.
And that, in its essence, is love. It’s what St Paul speaks of so highly when he writes a enormously-relevant verse in 1 Corinthians 13:
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. (1 Cor. 13:1-7, The Message)
So much as I’d love the chance to tweet my thoughts about the pastor’s sermon during the service, or hook up on Facebook with the middle-aged adults group, join YouTube’s battle of the church bands, or participate in “iChurch,” nothing–absolutely nothing–substitutes for genuine, loving relationships in the context of Christian community.
I don’t think I’m alone on this one.