I have been a bit frustrated with myself this week, to be honest. I simply have not been able to find anything to write about. It’s not writer’s block, seeing that once I start writing, words seem to flow with ease. It’s just been more of a lack of any inspiration. But maybe that’s the problem. Perhaps I shouldn’t be looking for inpiration and much as simply seeking God and listening to Him speak to me. Yep, that’s probably it. But even still, I never want to force words onto the page. It needs to be real and honest. It needs to have soul behind it so there is something to really grasp. I believe authenticity must be at the heart of any creative venture and I was sensing a void of any real, true words to speak on. So, all that to say, I do sense inspiration (Well, God) in this moment….and it seems to happen one sentence at a time. Bear with me because I don’t even know what will be written on this page in the next few hours but whatever it is, I sense it needs to be said.
If you’re reading this, you either go to my current church, went to my old church, went to my christian school, or you’re my mom. So presumably, you are a Christian or you at least know about God on some level. If you do know God, this post could be offensive to you. It really shouldn’t be but I know someone will think I’m wrong about this (if I say something fundamentally incorrect, please let me know…seriously). But sorry because I’m not sorry at all. I must write about it. I must. I’m not writing out of anger but out of urgency. So please, judge me if you want. But believe me when I say I’m not trying to come across condescending, judgmental, or jaded. Perhaps, you’ll agree with what I have to say. Who knows. Either way, it’s important to address and it’s becoming the common way of the Christian church and that is what scares me.
So, if you hadn’t noticed, churches are trying to be “cool” or whatever. The typical church promos look more like a Fyre Festival ad *cue lo-fi indie instrumental* than an informational video about the upcoming sermon series on the life of Paul. The over abundance of fedoras, leather jackets and Chelsea boots on virtually every guy makes you feel slightly uncomfortable and confused. And my favorite one of all, “church merch”. Ahhh yes, I love overpriced t-shirts I will only sleep and paint my house in. Of course, I’m only teasing about these things but it seriously does make me want to throw up in my mouth from time to time. It can seem gimmicky but in their defense, humanity will always create and replicate ideas, which is a beautiful thing. However, it does seem the church attempts these particular ideas on such a massive scale which typically comes across as “trying too hard”, which is so painfully obvious to spot.
Now, what is the motive? Why must churches personify themselves this way? There may be multiple reasons on the surface but at the core, it’s all the same. I believe it’s because churches are trying to emulate societal fads in an attempt to demonstrate that being a Christian isn’t actually lame, which will draw masses of people on any given day. (I’m generalizing but there is some truth to it.) If I’m honest, I cannot stand it. It just feels…..fake. Now maybe that seems harsh or whatever but I’m just putting it bluntly. That may not be the heart of whoever is promoting this idea. This could be a subconscious thought. There are probably are good intentions behind this, but I believe it brings about a myriad of destructive issues into the house of God.
There are two main points I would like to address: Vanity and Grace. One relates more to the promotion of the Christian church at large and the other deals with the heart the Christian individual. These two issues may seem like an uncommon pairing but they are the main themes I notice. I will relate them back to one another but will address them separately.
You could say the “cool church” thing is similar to pop music. Take Maroon 5 for example. They are massively popular. They just played the Super Bowl Halftime Show, which is one of the pinnacles of any major artist’s career. They have so many hit singles and I’m sure their concerts sell out. Adam Levine is hot, he sounds good, has good branding, and his music is undeniably catchy. But how many people do you know that are die-hard Maroon 5 fans? Probably none. They are good (well, their first album was) and their music makes people happy but it’s not sustainable because the message behind their songs doesn’t have much substance. I mean, “Moves Like Jagger” has ZERO substance and if you like that song, I deeply question your musical taste. Of course, I suppose this is all an opinion but I think there lies a point here. On the opposite spectrum, take Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, or The Beatles. These are artists who have completely shifted the musical culture for generations. But why? I believe it’s because they defied the societal mold of the time. They presented ideas through their lyrics that move the soul to acknowledging change as well as a solution to a problem. Their music is riddled with emotion and depth, not just surface level niceties. Obviously, these artists are not always promoting positive values, or certainly Christian ones at that, but the underlying theme possess similar parallels to the church. Is the motive of church culture to encourage happy thoughts, free of any substance or permanent change or to encourage change on a soul level? Is modern Christianity really promoting for the unpopular, scandalous, passionate, fully immersive, all-consuming version of Jesus?
I find being “cool” to be quite subjective. I said in a previous post that it really doesn’t exist. There are trends which may find more cultural popularity than others but really, it’s a facade. Overcoming the fear of people’s perceptions is terrifying, and so many times, being “cool” and conforming to society is actually easier. When I look at churches today, I notice a massive amount of effort being spent to make church seem hip and relatable. Every established church seems to have fancy lights, cool graphics, Insta- influencer inspired promo videos, a donut wall, and the list goes on. In theory, these things are fine, but I would question if maybe too much reliance is given to these tools. Also, church is intended for believers to gather to praise God and more commonly, I see the praise being directed to the individuals for accomplishing a successful Sunday service or creating cool branding which draws the people in. Maybe I’m wrong about this but perhaps there’s a subconscious desire to want “cool” people to attend the church, more so than others. Perhaps one would want these people to feel comfortable in the church environment and not be turned off by “Spirit- filled Christian” words, phrases, or practices. But why?! This is Jesus we are talking about! He was the most passionate person who has and will ever walk the earth and was crucified for His highly criticized teachings! Church should never be about appearances, but about speaking truth! But for some reason, I see Christians dumbing down the Bible in an attempt to make the non- believer or new Christian feel at ease.
It bothers me just how much comfortability has become a selling point. I suppose I understand why this kind of promotion is encouraged. Walking into a church is scary enough if you don’t do it often so, naturally, one would want the guest to have an enjoyable experience. I believe this is well-intentioned. But why in the world would anyone ever want to present a mediocre version of God? This consistently confuses me. I’m just going to say it: Why bother making church comfortable for a new attendee if Christianity requires the complete abandonment of comfortability? Being a Christian is one of the most uncomfortable things you could ever do. Death to self and devotion to God requires submission and what good could ever come from a softened version of the Bible, especially when it sometimes come from the one place you wouldn’t expect? I mean, let’s present the facts as they are! I would argue that if the church helps to properly equip people with the knowledge of Christ, an authentic, passionate, evangelistic faith will take care of itself. As you follow the leading of the Spirit, you will naturally stumble into a growing church, not because of some strategy meeting and free coffee. I believe this kind of authenticity is what’s actually “cool”. Not by societal standards, perhaps, but because people who actually know what they believe, are passionate about it, and don’t care what the world thinks are the ones to be admired. And they probably don’t even know it.
The argument may be, “Who’s to say these churches aren’t passionate?” “Who say’s these churches don’t have substance?” “What’s wrong with being culturally relevant?” (I say “these churches” because there is a specific movement of Christianity I’m addressing.. I’m aware many churches are not like this). These are really difficult questions to answer (please know, I am trying to speak truth in grace, as best I can). I believe some of them are passionate, do have substance, and can be relevant while simultaneously walking in truth. But there’s a deeper issue here. Although I believe these churches teach Jesus, there seems to be somewhat of a contradiction happening. If you have a love for God, and I mean that you truly know Him, it is presumed you desire to be like Him. You make every effort to walk the “narrow way” (Matt. 7:13-14) in pursuit of divine obedience because you actually desire to please Him. I know Christians who believe in God and love him deeply but their passion seems maybe…”watered down”. This is the best way I can describe it: If you really believe something, it is likely won’t compromise your position on the subject. If you know any vegans, my point is here is proven. Hardcore vegans will not only adhere to a strict diet but will also not even want to own anything actually made from and animal, like leather and things like that. (These people would despise me.) And as crazy this lifestyle seems to me, there’s dedication is something to be admired. The same is true for Christians. Full devotion to God on that sort of level is what we ought to strive for. However, I know many Christians who claim to follow God, yet there lifestyles make me question their position.
Now, we are not perfect. Our sin nature proves this. We sin time and time again and we will continue to do so. But how often do we sin and are comfortable with it because we know we are covered in God’s grace? In Romans, Paul confronts such thinking: “Should we sin because we are not ruled by law but by God’s grace? Not at all! Don’t you know that when you give yourselves to obey someone you become that person’s slave? You can be slaves of sin. Then you will die. Or you can be slaves who obey God. Then you will live a godly life” (6:15-16).
I’ve encountered many believers who usually attend the churches I speak of, who seem to behave in this manner. I see this to be the widespread issue: lowering God’s standard of living to suit the non-believer (and the Christians, too) for the sake of, as I mentioned, “comfortability”, and using the religion of love as a means of justification. “You are covered in God’s grace….You are no longer called a sinner….It’s doesn’t matter what you could ever do, God will still love you and call you a son or daughter” and things of the like. PLEASE understand me, I wholeheartedly agree with this but I notice this kind of preaching can tend to be one-sided, leaving out the other vital element: you must abandonment sin, live in repentance, and choose daily to live to the higher standard that God would call you to if you really call yourself a Christian! The Bible says, “Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). Yes, God does love you so much! Yes, you are covered by His grace and He loves you regardless! But you cannot use His love as a way to continue living like the world!
I have to say before I continue that I am no better than what I’m discussing. I am guilty of these things just like everyone else and I do not place myself on higher pedestal. But I grieve these things. I grieve that I behave this way. I do not like it and continually work to walk in holiness to then encourage others to do the same, out of care and concern.”“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with righteous judgment.” –John 7:24
I look at the lifestyles of Christians and sometimes I cannot even tell who is the Christian and who is the non-believer because their lives almost mirror each other. For example, I see Christians speaking like world, using foul or crass language. I see Christians drinking like world, continually getting drunk and going to bars with other Christian friends. (Will this action really bring you closer to God? Can His spirit properly work through you when surrounded in such an atmosphere?…..WAY different topic for another time, but I will get there). These things don’t mean that you do not love God or that you God doesn’t still call you a son or daughter. But shouldn’t we live to walk in holiness while encouraging our neighbor to do the same?
This is the common issue I find with many modern Christians and perhaps this is why “cool” church can feel stale. The lack of conviction proves so obvious and it causes church experience to seem fake. Following Christ is not lame, in the least bit. It’s the greatest decision you could ever make. I want to be around Christians who live in holiness and believe is so strongly, that I have no choice but to be excited and inspired by their convictions. I want to become better after I spend time with them, not feel validated in my current lifestyle. I want to emulate Jesus so much and to be “transformed by the renewing of my mind”, not be fed the religion of love and happiness. That will never bring about permanent change to my heart.
In conclusion, there is nothing I desire more than to be genuine. I just want live as Christ lived, free of any social constructs to determine my lifestyle of faith. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be “cool” but I find that we just take it too far. Focusing on God’s holiness will bring about passionate people and speaking Biblical truths will bring authentic life into the heart of the believer and then to the church culture, not just making church a hip place to meet some nice, well-dressed, people who will make you feel good about yourself. We are all a continuous work in progress, I know this. But may I encourage you to be passionate! Live with a fierce desire to live as Christ did! Don’t try to keep up an image or live in contentment with your current lifestyle because God continually calls us to more of Him, and less of ourselves. Let’s believe what we claim! Belief is the driving force behind passion, and in turn, passion makes one believe what is being promoted. There must be belief, which is faith. This is essential. If you don’t want to believe in Jesus, then don’t. But if you do, believe is with every fiber of your being. There must be passion. In my opinion, if you believe Jesus, passion has no choice but to follow. God is too good to let us not fall in love with Him over and over again. Lastly, there must be change. When in love with Jesus, change will follow suit because must. The more we understand the heart of God, the more we will change, even if it seems nearly impossible.