Should We Try to Make Our Churches Cool?

Cultural relevance
Are we sacrificing truth in our churches in order to be culturally relevant? (Lightstock)

The concept of church is thousands of years old, yet we're still understanding, debating and re-forming what we believe church should look like.

We all grew up with different experiences of church. Some of us grew up in small, family-oriented community churches, while others of us didn't grow up in church at all. For some of us, church was the kind of thing you had to dress up for, while others of us only attended on Christmas and maybe Easter.

For many of us, church is topic of great debate, great frustration or even great pain. Many of us haven't connected with the kinds of churches we've experienced, or we don't agree with how we've seen church done. And so in response, some of us have disconnected completely, deciding church just isn't for us. Still others have decided to do things differently.

A result of this church frustration is what I am calling "cool churches." More than ever, churches are striving to be culturally relevant in every way they can think of, attracting church-goers with their décor, their cool music and even their coffee.

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Churches are more creative than ever before, striving to be places people want to be, adapting to fit what they think people want. But is this a good thing?

That's what I'm asking today, the conversation I want to start. I don't have a clear-cut answer, because I see pros and cons on both sides, but I want to hear what you think.

Do we need our churches to be cool?

Here are some of the benefits to the attempt to make church "cool":

1. Diversity is a good thing. Something we sometimes miss in thinking about the diversity between churches is that our churches could, and maybe should, be as diverse as the people who attend them. A group of artists will hear and respond to the gospel in a different way than businessmen in Manhattan would. Although we're all speaking the language of the gospel, why not allow room to speak in different dialects?

2. How else could we attract new people? One-size-fits-all churches can be a major deterrent when the size doesn't, in fact, fit all. If we want to attract a different kind of person to our churches, we need to be different too.

3. It's important to stay in the conversation. One complaint I often hear is that churches are out of touch. Sometimes this is remarkably true. Many churches skate around pressing issues, preferring to do things the way they've always been done. But in order to stay relevant in the conversation, to continue to have a voice that people listen to, we have to be willing to adapt and keep up.

Here are some of the drawbacks to making church "cool":

1. We may lose our focus. One legitimate question we should be asking ourselves as we're revamping our churches to try to be cooler is this: Are we losing our focus? Where are we putting our money? Where are we finding our identity? What takes most of our time?

Demonstrating our church's personality through décor and the service is a great thing, but it should never trump our focus on the gospel.

2. We might get lost in what people want, rather than what Jesus wants. Are people craving the same things from their churches they'd look for in an apartment building or a restaurant? Is this what's actually important to the people looking for a place to belong? That's a question with many different answers, but one to think about as we're making decisions.

3. We run the risk of sacrificing truth. Something "cool" churches seem to value more than more traditional churches is a feeling of acceptance for everyone. This isn't a bad thing at all. Jesus modeled nothing less.

But one question we should consider as we're setting the tone for our churches is this: As we're striving to create a place where everyone feels comfortable, are we ignoring the truths Jesus taught us in the process?

Jesus' truth isn't always comfortable. In fact, it rarely is.

As we're creating an environment that feels welcoming to everyone, we need to make sure we're not ignoring uncomfortable yet important truth. In this sense, welcoming and comfortable aren't synonymous.

Can we find a middle ground? 

I think so. There are pros to doing church in a new way, to revisiting what Jesus said church should be and trying our hand at hitting the mark more accurately. But there's also wisdom in focusing on what's most important instead of trying to appeal to everyone or make everyone happy.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Should we be trying to make our churches cool?

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