too cool for the cross

Just so you know, “too cool” is a song from Disney’s Camp Rock, where Meaghan Jette Martin’s character sings

Yeah I’m too cool
To know you
Don’t take it personal
Don’t get emotional
You know it’s the truth
I’m too cool for you

Too cool is also a tag team in professional wrestling.

And sadly, it’s also the mantra of the post-emergent church, where indie music and sermons about sex are the wrong answer to the question about declining interest by young people.

In The The Perils of “Wanna be cool” Christianity, an article in the Wall Street Journal,  Brett McCracken says the young people pouring out of the church are the cause of this, a crisis that dwarfs the Gulf oil spill.  70% of young Protestant adults between 18-22 stop attending church regularly, he says.

Except it’s not true.  Over at his blog, pastor Kevin DeYoung says the numbers to support such a claim are skewed, or at least misunderstood.  The actual study says 70 percent of young adults 23-30 who attended church for at least a year in high school stopped attending church regularly for at least a year from age 18-22.

That’s not the same thing at all.  (DeYoung also examines larger attendance trends very thoughtfully in his important book Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion .)

But McCracken, whose new book is Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide, still says stuff we should consider.  References to Stephen Colbert and Lady Gaga, church sponsored screenings of R-rated films, and pastors with skinny jeans and $80 haircuts may not actually be what young people are looking for, he says. Such churches appeal to a narrow demographic, and it’s proponents are often smug and condescending, too cool for those who take the Scripture seriously.

McCracken concludes:

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.

Good for him.

It’s certainly possible, and even probable, that many churches are too cool for their own good, and for the good of their people, regardless of age or demographic.

The gospel itself is offensive, crucifying our pride and pointing us beyond ourselves and our pretensions.

And the cross? Well, there is nothing phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed or sex-drenched about that.

13 thoughts on “too cool for the cross”

  1. Love this. So true and so very well written. Sometimes churches and the well-intentioned leaders called to them, work entirely too hard to “sell” the Gospel to those who aren’t interested.

    Instead of trying to reach the broken, the lost, the hurting, and the poor – we bend over backwards trying to bring in ‘the cool kids’.

    Sometimes, its because its easier. Sometimes its because it doesn’t require us to get our hands dirty. And frankly, sometimes, its because its an appealing demographic if you are trying to ‘grow’ a church and produce some good looking numbers for a spreadsheet.

    And that is what happens when we attempt to apply human logic to a spiritual situation. Instead of watching where God leads and praying for his direction, we do what we think is best and attempt to ‘fix’ problems that really aren’t problems at all.

  2. Dare I say it, that ‘Cool Christianity’ is slapping a new coat of paint on the very things that turn young christians away from church without addressing the underlying unmet needs of a teen or young adult raised in a post-modern culture?

    Those ‘cool’ youth pastors and ministers are only cool and relevant to people who go to church. Outside the gated community of the church, they’re not engaging anyone.

    That, IMHO, is the problem.

    1. I knew you were lurking out there.

      Thanks for reading. And for sharing this perspective. I hope you find your way to a community of like-minded believers and bring this thoughtfulness to their effort.

    1. Thanks for sharing this link. I’m aware of my own inability to separate my assessment from my own cultural bias. But taken as a whole I hope my blog continues to stress the importance of the gospel itself, and to challenge things that distract us from it.

      I agree with DeYoung that our churches are not as badly broken as we are sometimes led to believe, while at the same time in desperate need of focus on the thing that truly matters: that our brokenness reflects out rebellion and the gospel is about a needed reconciliation with a holy God.

      Again, thanks for joining the conversation.

  3. My 7 year old friend, Ethan, said it well when he told me that there is nothing more uncool than someone who is trying to be cool.

    Personally, there is no place I would rather be than a with a group of people that take Jesus’ message very seriously without taking themselves very seriously at all.

    I consider myself fortunate to have participated in such experiences/communities and enjoy it to this day.

  4. I wonder how much of “falling” attendances is just the 15% of Christendom church hopping to where the cool crowd is? Perhaps the best barometer of how a church is fulfilling its Commission mandate is measured by how many new attendees are from the 85% of the population ambivalent about the gospel.

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