Pastor Phil McCutchen

Cool Church, Cringe Moments & Remaining the Hope of the World

1 Corinthians 14:23 If unbelievers or people who don’t understand these things come into your church meeting and hear everyone speaking in an unknown language, they will think you are crazy.

I have a burning passion for everyone to know about Jesus.  Because making Jesus known is the primary role of the church we say, “the church is the hope of the world.”  Hey, read the four gospels and tell me if you don’t think everybody following and being more like Jesus wouldn’t be heaven on earth. Almost none of the garbage that you saw in the news and felt soiled by even knowing about wouldn’t have happened if the whole world followed Jesus. I LOVE JESUS!

The whole goal of rightly motivated cool contemporary churches is to remove cringe moments that Churches have created so people can see Jesus.  For the Pentecostal churches of my youth the cringe moment was often related to the unscripted outburst of emotionalism by our pew mates. There was Sister Brooks who at a quiet moment in the service would have a private revelation of perhaps a coming zombie apocalypse and she would let out a blood curdling scream.  I am not kidding you, this would really happen on a regular basis. For some of you fundamentalist Christians your cringe moment was when your pastor chose to pound the pulpit thundering against the evils of  the latest fashion like men with long hair or miniskirts.  If you went to a Roman Catholic church your cringe moment might have been trying to explain to your friend that in spite of the fact that you just heard a homily on Jesus welcoming sinners they were not allowed to go up and take communion lest hell open and swallow them up on the spot because they weren’t confirmed in the church.

Well just when we thought we could be cool enough because the pastor preaches with no vestments and his shirt tail out and the music sounds similar and often just as quality as what your visitor friend experienced at the night club the evening before, from which they are still experiencing a hangover.  As a bonus, in the cool church we are not going to associate the alcohol still in their system with sin in their soul.  But just when we thought we had checked off all the cool boxes somebody moved the goal post back another twenty five yards.  Now I don’t think the moving of the target is a conspiracy by the American Humanist Association, It’s just the nature of the restlessness of humanity versus the stability of God.  My point is that relevancy is also subject to the law of decreasing returns. There is a point at which being just like the the society we live in means we are also not helping them.  As many of you know I am going for  radiation treatments every afternoon.  I find hope in knowing the fine people down at Dana Farber Cancer Center know more about cancer and medical technology than I do, so why would I seek out a religion that doesn’t know more about spiritual truth and God than I do as well.  A sincere seeker doesn’t want to have to tell us what we should think and believe. 

Regardless of the agreement that we think the church has something to offer the Apostle Paul teaches us in 1 Cor. 14 not to be so self absorbed that we don’t care how people are perceiving us. Remove all the cringe moments you can, but we are going to exhaust ourself if every new social mandate send us off to twist scripture so it doesn’t say what we used to say it said. We simply aren’t going to be progressive enough to stay ahead of the cultural cool police without losing the  thing that makes us a source of hope?  The thing that makes us a source of hope is that we potentially have in our message the timeless truths about beliefs and behaviors that we think will save the world.  It’s not about who is right but what is right. Subjectivity is an illusion.  For example gravity says, “what goes up must come down.” If gravity doesn’t work for you, too bad.

So here’s my conclusions about cool churches, cringe moments and remaining the hope of the world.

  • Keep striving to be cool, it means you aren’t becoming self absorbed and aren’t thinking the church is all about you.  This may mean being willing to abandon a long held belief or practice that really doesn’t hold up to white hot light of truth.
  • Stop being afraid of all criticism and all social shamingThe balance of being willing to change is that we must never change just to avoid persecution.  You’re the people of God not a public relations firm.
  • Create a priority of message and practice that makes finding out, “what pleases the Lord” #1 and what doesn’t offend people #2.  Your hope is built on what God knows, not what people think.  10 of Jesus 12 disciples were murdered that should tell us what pleases God often displeases people.
  • Reestablish the role of the prophet in the church, understanding that prophets live among us to reveal the mind of God, not just foretell future events. Prophets tear down our lies and lift up our truths; that’s how they preserve us as the hope of the world.
  • Communicate love and respect to the cool people in the society but be especially loyal to the common people who are asking for our guidanceCoolness is related to going after the audience that’s barely committed to us and that’s important, but don’t forget there are good salt of the earth people that already “have ears to hear,” and hearts to follow even if the stage lights aren’t working and the worship teams cover of the latest Hillsong hit doesn’t really sound very much like Hillsong.