RICHMOND, Va. (BP) – I had to sympathize with rock singer Bono when he discovered he was uncool.
Uncool? The frontman for supergroup U2, one of the biggest bands in the world? The activist who travels the globe and meets with kings and presidents? The guy so hip he probably wears his trademark designer shades in the shower?
Yep. Uncool. He learned the hard truth a few years ago from his teenage daughters. First off, to teenage daughters a dad is uncool by definition, especially if he’s pushing 50 (Bono was 48 at the time). But they were particularly mortified when he droned on and on about global issues while some other celebs were visiting their home. He overheard one daughter telling the other, “He’s probably boring their [pants] off talking about Africa.” Actually, he admitted, “I probably was.”
The horror. I can relate.
In truth, I’ve been uncool so long that I no longer know (or care) what is cool. I haven’t even heard the bands that were topping the charts 10 years ago, much less the ones with the most iTunes downloads now. On the plus side, there’s liberation in being terminally uncool. You don’t have to watch trends anxiously and waste a lot of time and money trying to keep up with fads. That’s for teens. There’s something sad about a middle-aged man or woman trying to look and act like their kids – or grandkids.
Too often, however, churches try to do that.
Tullian Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has a “You may be too fashionable if …” list for Christians.
You may be too fashionable, he warns, if:
– You look around at church and notice that everybody is the same age and looks and dresses pretty much like you do.
– You can’t stand singing a worship song that was “in” five years ago – much less singing a hymn from another century.
– You believe social justice is more important than evangelism, or that evangelism is more important than social justice.
– Your goal in spending time with non-Christians is to demonstrate that you’re really no different than they are. To prove this, you curse like a sailor, drink like a fish and smoke like a chimney.
– You’ve concluded that everything new is better than anything old, or that everything old is better than anything new.
– The church you’ve chosen is defined more by its reaction to “boring” churches than by its response to a needy world.
– You’ve decided that everything done by the church you grew up in was way wrong and you’re now, thankfully, part of a missional “community” that does everything right.
– The one verse you wish wasn’t in the Bible is John 14:6, where Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” That’s way too narrow!
Way back when I was cool (like, 35 years ago), I played drums in a Christian rock band. We took old-time hymns and turned them into 15-minute jams. “Jesus freaks” with long hair and tie-dyed T-shirts were coming into traditional churches in those days, and it caused a commotion. I remember when we played at our church and cranked up the amps. Our pastor’s wife, who had really big hair and played solos on a grand piano like Liberace, stood up and walked out on us. We needed a spirit of unity. We – some of us, at least – found it in the words of one of our favorite songs, “Little Country Church” by Chuck Girard:
“They’re talkin’ ’bout revival and the need for love
That little church has come alive
Workin’ with each other for the common good
Puttin’ all the past aside
Long hair, short hair, some coats and ties
People finally comin’ around
Lookin’ past the hair and straight into the eyes
People finally comin’ around. …”
God’s house can accommodate many styles. He doesn't have security at the door deciding which sinners are trendy enough to enter.
There’s nothing wrong with seeking relevance and connections to the world beyond the church. Effective missionaries are passionate and respectful students of the cultures they’re trying to reach with the gospel. They seek to learn which aspects of culture are bridges they can use to share Truth, which aspects oppose Truth and which are neutral. As the Apostle Paul, the greatest missionary of all time, said, “I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22b, NASB).
But Paul never hesitated to deliver Truth straight-up, unvarnished and in your face when the situation called for it, regardless of the consequences.
“Christians make a difference in this world by being different from this world; they don’t make a difference by being the same,” Tchividjian writes. “To be truly relevant, you have to say things that are unfashionably eternal, not trendy. It’s the timeless things that are most relevant to most people. … When the relevance of God’s Word reigns supreme among God’s set-apart people, we influence the wider culture by expressing His revealed truth with both our lives and our lips.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is IMB global correspondent. Visit “WorldView Conversation,” the blog related to this column, at http://worldviewconversation.blogspot.com/. Listen to an audio version at http://media1.imbresources.org/files/148/14842/14842-82233.mp3.)