Pastor Phil McCutchen

Why we can’t just be a cool church.

I am grateful to be a part of a cool church.  The coolness that oozes out of BCC is due to a lot of cool millennials around me that form the cool patrol and an amazing group of Baby Boomers who affirmed me twenty years ago when I asked “do you want a church your grandkids will want to come to?”  If anything, the grandmas and grandpas at BCC don’t get enough credit for answering affirmatively in so many ways to that question.  By the way, I would love to know how you non-church folks feel about the trend toward cool churches.

Yep, I’m setting coolness up to knock it down a bit, but don’t get me wrong, I am positive that God honors people who love their culture enough to study it and accommodate it. Plus it’s really enjoyable to be cutting edge as opposed to being a curmudgeon who’s always harkening back to “the good old days.”  So, next Sunday we’re not going to pass out hymn books, replace the drums with a pipe organ, or replace the small round table I use with a massive dark oak pulpit that could anchor a battleship, but I am going to challenge anyone who’s made an idol out of contemporaneity.

I will fiercely defend the belief In the virtue of love for our world and refusing to change can be stubborn and selfish; however, there is a danger right now of compromising Biblical truth and just being so full of stinky smelly pride over our guitar solos, smoke, and glitzy graphics. I don’t entirely endorse this statement by Brett McCracken from his new book “Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community, but I want us to pause and ponder it. He writes, Cool is about self-promotion and narcissism, while Christianity is about selflessness and altruism. Cool is transient and obsessed with the “now”; Christianity is transcendent, mindful of eternity. Cool is elitist while Christianity is humble. Cool is cynical while Christianity is hopeful. Cool is about being the first to discover a new trend.”  He goes on to say, “When the Christian church is comfortable and cultural, she tends to be weak. When she is uncomfortable and countercultural, she tends to be strong.”

Probably where the modern evangelical church is most sensitive to coolness right now is on social issues. I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t  jump on the bandwagon and join the world in condemning bullying, sexism, racism, predatory sexual behavior, the sad role that families and religion might play in gay teen suicide and genuine love for immigrants.  However there’s no way that people who are loyal to Christ will just always be an echo of  celebrities, media, and politicians.  There’s a difference between an echo and a voice.  John the Baptist was “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'”  Matthew 3:3   If the church wants to be relevant she needs to be cool but she also needs to find her voice if she doesn’t want to become irrelevant.  You see, we can be irrelevant because we are so weird and out of touch no one can relate to us, but we can also be irrelevant because we provide no alternative and no contrast to the sinfulness around us.

Writer and blogger Anna Smith has this scathing assessment of the modern church: “We’ve ceased to be a prophetic community grounded in Scripture and are content to parrot the prevailing ideology of our culture. Because American Christianity is so comfortable, so easy, we have claimed the title of “Christ-followers” without actually counting the cost of embracing the radical worldview of God’s Word.”

Again, I don’t totally endorse Anna’s sentiments.  I think she’s being a little too negative.  However, I am going to honor those darker voices that are warning me because whenever God’s people have ignored warnings they have paid the price.  So love or hate cool churches but don’t neglect asking what Pilate asked, while looking down at a condemned Jesus, “what is truth?”  and then don’t do what Pilate did.  Pilate let the crowd answer that question instead of taking a bold stand and proceeded to crucify Jesus.  The modern church must answer the question, “what is truth?” and then answer, by putting Jesus on the throne and not on the cross, even when the latest poll says, “crucify him.”