I used a rather weird illustration yesterday during the sermon. It was actually a kids' story that I decided to turn into an "everybody" story. I wanted a visual to remind the people that if we want to know God, we need to get deeper with our relationship with Him. So I told everyone to take a certain page from the morning bulletin and wad it up. I produced a crudely made target, which I set at the front of the seats. Then, row by row beginning in the back, I instructed the people to stand up and throw the paper wad at the target. Being a small church, it only took a minute. But the point was made -- it's easier to hit the target if you move closer. And if your target is knowing God, you begin by getting closer to Him. Deepening the relationship. It was fun and memorable.
Later in the day, I talked to one of the teenagers who had brought two of her friends to our church for the first time that morning. She said that one of her friends thought our church "was so cool, cuz, like, well, I've never ever seen anything like that in church before!" Of course, her friend was Roman Catholic, so she probably went home and told her parents who promptly barred her from associating with us heathen paper-wad-throwing Protestant freaks! But it was an interesting switch for me. We're a small country church. I doubt that in the church's entire 130-year history that we've ever been referred to as "cool". I'm not sure that it's a bad thing, but it's really not what I'm striving for.
I know churches who try to be cool. I don't doubt that the staff and many of the people truly love the Lord. But I missed the part in Scripture where the church should try to fit the world's definition of "cool". It seems to me that the object is to get the world to think that what we do naturally is cool.
Some churches are a cool place to hang out. Coffeehouse, hot band, great activities. I don't have a problem with that stuff per se, but my question is all about the motive. Do we bend to fit the world? Or are we expressing our love for Christ in a heartfelt manner?
I can get cynical. Especially when I see dozens of churches planted in the well-to-do sections of town, but only a couple dare to bring the Gospel to those on the wrong side of the tracks. Or when I see congregations very concerned about needing new classrooms and installing theatre lighting, but only giving token mention to helping the poor. And I get frustrated. Do we have our priorities in order?
Our church isn't very musical. Yesterday we sang along with a Michael W. Smith CD, sang another song a capella and sang a hymn with piano accompaniment. We make a "joyful noise" but we won't be recording our own worship album any time soon. We'll use tunes from 1521 through 2003 as the mood fits. But I read various places from people who look down upon congregations who actually sing songs from the 1970's. Apparently a few of these people think that the worship team should be playing only the Top 40 praise songs or else, well, they're uncool. I don't get it. Did the early church stop singing old songs when something new was written? I have my doubts.
So what's my point? I guess I just wonder how much importance we place upon being cool. In my opinion Jesus was cool, but not because He had a great place to hangout or played in a hot band. It was His love. He healed the sick. He fed the hungry. He looked to accomplish God's work and bring Him glory. He spent much time in prayer. He served others. He welcomed obvious sinners and had the harshest words for the religious establishment. He lived what He taught. And He told people the Truth in many different ways for the sole purpose of bringing them to God.
That's what I want a church to be. That's cool.