I think I have finally come to accept the fact that I will never be a “cool” Christian.
Now, before you start to send me messages like, “C’mon Tim, you will never be a cool person, period”, let me proactively respond by saying, that’s harsh. But let me also explain what I mean.
Growing up in my bubble of a Bible Church in little Duncanville, Texas, I wanted to experience some form of social acceptance or popularity much like any other kid/teen in the world. Sports gave me this to a degree and being a pastor’s son provided me some notoriety, I suppose, but the idea of being cool was completely subjective and based upon my ability to take what I knew of the world’s definition and apply it to each area of my life.
This, of course, included my faith.
As a child of the ‘90s, this usually meant lip syncing to DC Talk or Carman’s all-to-provocative A Witch’s Invitation (Click here for a peek at the intense level of cool I was living in.). I’m pretty sure these didn’t make me cool among either my Christian or non-Christian friends, but as a restricted pastor’s kid, I did what I could with what I had access to. (yep, finished the sentence with a preposition just to mess with my English teacher friends)
I’m not sure why we are so eager to dwell in the approval of others, especially since we have the ultimate example of Jesus who so clearly was not motivated to seek the same. But, I guess we can chalk this up to a larger question of human nature for now and just agree it’s an issue pretty much everyone faces.
As I grew in my understanding of what it meant to be a Christian, I quickly began to realize the values and principles given to us through the Bible were not cool according to the standards of the world. And, at some point, I came to be fine with that notion since Christians were called to be more of a light in the darkness anyway.
But, you see, what I have come to notice in “mainstream” Christianity of our day, is this verbal acceptance and declaration of the foundations established by Christ with an all-to-often, equal focus on relevance in the world as a whole.
The simplistic, Billy Graham-type message of the gospel has been replaced, in many cases, by a church focused on the latest new program based on a best-selling book by a pastor who is HUGE in Christian leadership, services centered around popular social themes and design that seem to resemble a TED talk, denominational competition and the action-affirmed belief that the world’s idea of success through money and fame is somehow completely applicable to ours as believers.
Believe me when I write, this is not a statement about the authors, musicians, pastors and speakers who pour their hearts and God-given talents out for the benefit of the church, but more of an inquiry as to why we continue to request and feed on these expressions of worship as our ultimate (and often overvalued) source of spiritual direction and frequently as the standard of Christian relevance among other believers.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love me some worship. Incredible music by talented musicians and voices that tune out my own joyful noise (or to the untrained ear – sharps and flats) in the midst of praising my King and Savior, I am all for it. But the stage fog, laser light show or even “performing” in front of me is not really necessary as I will usually have my eyes closed during this part anyway.
And with all the effort put into creating these types of socially acceptable God-encounters, I can’t help but wonder if there is just something I am missing.
I guess I have failed to understand how we can embrace the idea of living in this world but not being of it, while at the same time fostering a drive to emulate it in the midst of creating our own, comparable subculture.
I’m not cool.
I’m not super-ambitious, don’t make a load of money or accumulate clothes, cars or twitter followers.
I am not smart enough nor do I care to wrap my head around the minutia of denominational foundations, which seem to cause more breaks and cracks in the church body than healing.
I couldn’t pick 19 of the top 20 most influential pastors of the last decade out of a line-up and I have yet to attend a concert by Hillsong (although I’m sure it would be pretty cool).
I’m not clever enough to write an inspirational tweet everyday or well read enough to post one by Brennan Manning, Rick Warren or Oswald Chambers.
As a mainstream Christian, that’s not cool. But I’m ok with it.
I love my family.
I love God for blessing me with them and I love Jesus for giving us the opportunity to enjoy eternity together.
I am accepted as a son, brother, father, husband, nephew, uncle, friend and, most importantly, child of God. (And by “accepted” I mean graciously tolerated in most cases.)
Understanding I will never be a cool Christian, feels like I am finally free to live my unpopular life with less of a focus on acceptance by others and more of sharing an acceptance that matters and the love of Jesus with others.