‘Cool’ Church

7 05 2015

It seems to be the latest trend in the church today – bashing congregations attempting to be hipper or edgier, and attacking pastors shunning their clerical robes for Hawaiian shirts or skinny jeans. Books, articles, and blogs are all jumping on the bandwagon of those criticizing the use of chairs instead of pews, music composed less than 200 years ago, and 21st century technology.

Many of these churches (perhaps most!) warrant a great deal of criticism, for they are the very same churches that continue to perpetuate an arrogant and intolerant faith; one that is unabashedly anti-gay, anti-science, and anti-intellectual. Their Scripture is so watered down that it is only read literally, and grace is nothing even close to amazing because it has to be earned by believing all the right things. In so many of these churches faith has been reduced to 4 simple laws, which when embraced in this life, only appear to prepare people to sit back and enjoy a supposed life to come.

But HOW they do this does not deserve our criticism! Yes, WHAT they do is cause for concern; but HOW they do it – that is commendable. Their methodology can and should teach us all a great deal.

Now having said that, let me be clear. I’m not an advocate for raffling off iPads on Easter Sunday, nor do I think Church Music Directors should begin teaching us songs that make Jesus our boyfriend and God our buddy! I don’t think all tradition needs to be jettisoned, or that church sanctuaries should be turned into gyms.

However, we need to be careful not to pit a method, against a message. Contrary to what so many seem to believe today, it is possible to side with the marginalized, maintain a healthy sense of mystery, and work to develop a deep sense of authenticity, while at the same time attempting to be relevant to our culture. Is it possible to be a church that leaves room for doubt and is tolerant of people of other faiths, while at the same time seeks to carefully consider new and fresh ways of being the body of Christ in the world today.

What many of our old, liturgical, progressive, and forward-thinking congregations have failed to realize is that it is just as possible to engage in faithful and effective ministry with a good, freshly ground and brewed mug of fair-trade coffee, as with a Styrofoam cup of Folgers, ground several months ago, and left to ‘cook’ on a hotplate for three hours every Sunday morning!

No! The Church today simply cannot afford to pit a method against a message. Much of the methodology of the corner evangelical Bible Church works! So let’s learn from them, not condemn them! Let’s carefully discern what they are doing and how they are doing it, and then not be afraid to adapt some of their models of ministry for our own congregations. For when paired with a more liberal understanding of the Gospel, with an inclusive grace, that is truly amazing, and with a mission that is all about being seekers of justice, peace and love – when this becomes our reality, the trajectory of our churches will change dramatically.

I don’t want to drive my father’s Oldsmobile, and I don’t want to worship in my mother’s church!  Rather, I want to be part of faith community that is not afraid to embrace the best of our past, but that also acknowledges the work and movement of the Spirit today, and thus is also open to new and contemporary expressions of faith. I want to be part of a church that values the historic traditions of our faith, but that is also willing to rethink the way we attempt to be the body today, and that is not afraid to create new rituals and traditions. And I want to be part of a congregation that is that is warm and inviting. We’ve been the frozen chosen long enough; it’s time to warm up a bit.

And if that means I’m cool — well, I have no problem with that. I’ve been called far worse. And so has the church!