Cool Church

“You can’t make yourself cool. You can’t buy cool. You’re either cool or you aren’t. The harder you try to be cool, the more you look like a dork.”

I don’t know if someone told me that in 9th grade or if it’s from an episode of Saved by the Bell or maybe it was from Family Ties?

Either way, it’s a good starting point for my point: Please stop trying to make church cool.

I know how it gets started…  you go somewhere… say an amusement park or concert or conference or even watch a TV show… and something cool happens. In the moment you are overcome by the cool factor and you make a mental note.

Then, let’s say in a planning meeting or a staff meeting, an idea pops in your head… “Hey, that cool thing happened on stage, our church has a stage, we could do that cool thing in church!

When you do that you break Rule #1 of Being Cool: The harder you try to look cool, the more you look like a dork.

I’m not saying it’s impossible to do something cool in your role at church. But I am saying that it’s pretty tough when you start from a place of copying something cool.

Rob Bell? Dang, in his prime that was one cool cat. He was doing things in a pulpit no one had seen before. He was a Charles Finney level game changer. He was cool.

But the next hundred people who wanted to try to be like Rob Bell? Not cool.

You go to a conference and see $100,000 in lighting effects and think, that’s cool. So you go home and try to do the same effect with $500 in lights. Not cool.

You go on a date with your spouse to see see a comic. This professional comedian tells a bunch of jokes and takes the audience somewhere to talk about something really deep and you think, that’s cool. You go home and add jokes into your next message– you get 3 jokes in and you realize– not cool.

You Are Not an Entertainer

At the core of this [somewhat natural] desire to be cool is a misunderstanding of the role of a minister in the life of the individual and congregation.

Whether you are a youth pastor, senior pastor, worship pastor, kids pastor, executive pastor, small groups pastor, church planter, missionary, whatever: You are a minister of the Gospel and not an entertainer. 

Comparing your work to that of an entertainer is not going to lead you to a healthy place. Instead, it’ll lead you to confusion, and frustration. You didn’t go into ministry to be an entertainer, did you?

The word “pastor” relates to a rather humble and straight-forward role of a shepherd. Like with sheep or goats– more cowboy than anything. Even in an age where everything is back-to-the-farm, most real-life shepherds aren’t cool.

I’ve never seen a title: “The Most Entertaining Shepherd in the World.

That’s why it’s so weird to see pastors trying to be entertainers. It’s a misunderstanding of your role in a person’s life.

People come to your church looking for (and needing) a shepherd.

See, my family has enough entertainment. What we don’t have enough of is shepherds. We don’t go to church for a laugh or have our face melted off by a band. We go to church to worship in community, to gather together with fellow believers.

We need ministers to minister to us.

Really, the last thing we need is more entertainment.

Your Message is Important

Scariest of all? With the American churches desperation to be seen as cool we’ve become infatuated with what’s hot instead of what’s important.

I think that many churches, particularly non-denominational evangelical congregations, have gotten unmoored from millennia old traditions and are just floating out there in a sea of felt need.

Instead of being informed by a liturgical calendar they are informed around their needs and what they perceive to be the needs of people in the congregation or community. I don’t think there’s any ill-will or intention to do anything other than serve the community. But I do think that felt needs get old.

The course is actually easy to correct. Just stop trying to be cool and be a regular, old-fashioned, weird church.

And, what’s hilarious in all of this? The more we give up trying to be cool and go back to the “old, uncool way” the cooler we’ll likely become.

Because just like the end of every after school special taught us: The coolest person you can be is your real, authentic self.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

2 comments

  1. Very comforting for us non-cool kids out there trying to faithfully serve.

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