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'Hip' Church

19 February, 2004 12:02 PM

After yesterdays post on the article in the NY Times on Emerging church I've been thinking a bit.

There is an interesting discussion going on over at Metafilter on this article...

One thread has caught my attention....someone said:

'I'm not so sure I want my church to be hip. It would make me suspicious or something.'

Someone else responded with:

'I want MY church to be real.'

Very interesting stuff. Something inside of me started to ring warning bells when I read the article yesterday - I too worry when the 'hip' type language gets associated with churches. For me 'emerging church' is not about 'hip' or 'cool' - its not about turning down lights and changing the music to attract unchurched people - its about rediscovering the call of Jesus to Love God, love our neighbor and love each another as followers.



I don't know if you in Australia ever see the animated U.S. show "King of the Hill," but it had an episode a month or two ago where Bobby, the young boy character, gets involved with a super-cool youth pastor who trots him around to Christian rock festivals and what have you.

His father, the staid viewpoint character Hank Hill, disapproves of this and finally goes to get Bobby, who has disobeyed him by going to a festival. I forget the exact metaphor Hank uses, but he explains to Bobby about some goofy fad of his youth and then says he doesn't want church to become the same thing -- a fad which Bobby will be excited about one day and reject the next day.

"King of the Hill" is a complex enough show that the fact that Hank takes a position may not automatically mean that it's what the writers or producers are espousing. (I am certainly not holding out the producers as speaking in any way for evangelical Christianity, although they are sometimes quite perceptive about it.)

I think the producers also had some sympathy for Bobby and his youth pastor friend. But I think they were serious about believing that a Christianity which is too "hip" may become "unhip" just as quickly. I think I see that danger, but I certainly don't agree with Hank Hill that Bobby needed to be "rescued" from the youth pastor.

John Carney » 19 February, 2004 12:32 PM

Yesterday at our Book Group someone said, 'Where are our young people on Sundays?' and I replied, 'At ......... Church! Hundreds of them! At the last Communion Service, there were some even sitting on the floor because all the seats were full!' This was not our denomination, but our young people can be found there.

OLDER MEMBERS of my own church have different spiritual needs and there is a danger that, if the emphasis changes too much to appeal more to youth than to their elders, then the older members can find themselves undernourished at a crucial time in their lives.

ALL AGE WORSHIP has tried to address this but seldom is sufficiently effective to fulfil the needs of both old and young. So what IS the answer?

PARALLEL CONGREGATIONS? This is being advocated by our District Chair and this what is happening in the church with all the young people that I have just mentioned! They have a late afternoon service for the older people who cannot cope with the livelier worship so loved by the young.

So WHY NOT? Because Ministers and lay people are afraid of all the extra work and personnel that this would involve. Is this the challenge? Surely, bringing the Gospel to all ages (and all conditions of people) IS - and should be - COSTLY! We were told 'TAKE UP YOUR CROSS!', weren't we? Is this why we fail? Both old and young are hungry for the Good News, so let us stop playing one type of worship against the other, begin by providing the worship that is needed for each age group, and then allow the Spirit to join them together in common worship brought about by their separate journeys towards it!

Olive Morgan » 19 February, 2004 8:12 PM

I'm glad to report that the emerging church is alive and well in the Cincinnati area. Our local news station had a special segment about new and rapidly growing churches in the area following the broadcast of the Mel Gibson interview.

An interesting aspect of it was that a couple of the new, young pastors that are organizing these modern-day, appealing churches came from the ranks of Proctor and Gamble's employees. They left high paying jobs to go out and purchase old cinema plexes and convert them into spacious facilities that feature coffee bars where it is said "If you can get it as Starbucks, you can get it here."

The worship is loose and liberal, people can sip their coffee while they worship or listen to James Taylor style Christian singing groups. These churches are attracting a group of younger people that don't like the older, traditional churches.

It is said that moving around in the packed parking lots on Sunday morning is a miraculous religious experience in itself. The buildings have plenty of room but the church has already outgrown the parking facility. Sounds like an excellent opportunity for people to fellowship while they carpool.

I don't think this is a passing fad.

Clarence » 19 February, 2004 10:31 PM

I read the article and appreciated the fact that at least there is attention being brought to the emerging church in the sense that most of the evangelical world doesn't even know that it exists. Anyway, how I saw the "hip" statement was the newspaper's interpretation of what we're doing. What other description is the world going to put on it? I think we who truly are seeking to be an emerging ministry know we aren't trying to be "hip", and once those we're reaching become involved and see the authentic expressions of our faith, not just the "hip"-ness, then they'll know it too.

Skywalking » 20 February, 2004 3:26 PM

Several Points -

While I find the 'DNA' of Metafilter (if i can repeat such a sad euphemism for 'heart of') to be viciously anti-Christian, (though they'd never cop to it any more than the anti-Semites cop to their affliction)
I find some of the most interesting Christian articles there.

I think that's probably because the hard core leftists that make up the matriarchy there 'study' Christianity in Napoleonic fashion to see what the enemy is up to.

Anyway, it's from a Metafilter backtrack that I arrived here.

I minister at a mega church. The church prides itself on it's use of what Tony Robbins calls transformational vocabulary.

So I actually don't go to a mega church.
I 'gather' at a 'campus' and 'connect' in an 'auditorium' with other believers.

Some have 'crossed the line of faith' while others
are still 'seekers.' But everyone who wants one gets a church 'program' which are available as you walk in for the 'talk' after picking up your latte at the cafe.

I'm an adult volunteer leader in the youth ministry. If you know anything about Youth Pastors, the church's challenge is to hire someone dumb enough to take the job, but smart enough to do it.

It is a low paying, low priority ministry that almost always plays second banana to the 'big church' aka main service.

There's a window of opportunity in someone's life when they make a good youth pastor. You gotta get him then and, unless he's a dud, you'll only be able to keep him for about 5-y years max.

It's usually a married guy (5 years minimum) in his early 30's from a Christian home with at least one kid and at least one more on the way. A kind of invisible geeky/nice guy in high school who now has taken on enough of the 'look' of today that the elders of the church think he's hip enough to work with the youth.

This "look" is obviously evanescent but, in 2004, it's a male with short cropped hair and goatee who favors wearing plaid shirts over dark T's with jeans. He should also know how to play one instrument (preferably the guitar or keyboards) pretty well. No ink or piercings yet.

The assistant youth pastor should be about 19, just out of high school and still totally able to relate to youth down to the 7th grade. He can have a tat and a piercing or two. (Probably just one.)

Our assistant youth pastor has taken some students to concerts, not where Christian bands played, but where groups like Linkin Park etc perform.

If I sound cynical in my characterization, I'm not.

I would be if I hadn't been able to freely share my observations with those whom I minister with and who knowingly grin in simpatico and mild bemusement.

And, as long as the Gospel is preached and not watered down, which I don't sense it is, than I'm cool with it.

I can tell you that a whole lot of kids in our ministry ABSOLUTELY love our church. They love! love!! love!! it. I'm not sure why, but they do, and they're not faking.

I'm not talking about only the geeky ones, either. I'm talking about the very cute girls who have dozens of other options. OK, there aren't as many boys in that category but, gender disparity is almost universal in the churches I've attended.

I don't agree with our youth pastor justifying (and who cares how he does) taking kids to Linkin Park.
I think he takes them there because HE likes them period.

In fact, I consider that a form of spiritual child abuse when the students in question are already Christian.

And I don't agree that our message is that Christianity is 'cool' that it's 'cool' to be a Christian.

SOME Christians are cool no doubt. (I rather fancy myself to be one of those! lol!) But seriously, some Christians are cool; many are not.

Who cares? It's not about being cool.

And, I can tell you as someone who didn't get saved (oops! I mean cross the line of faith!) until I was 20 that to non-believers, most Christians are NOT cool.

At best they look like Christians TRYING to look cool. Which is probably worse.

Bottom line: Being a Believer/Christian/Whatever the heck we're calling ourselves these days is about having the goods.

Plain and simple.

Maybe you're cool. Maybe you're not.
Maybe you're rad. Maybe you're just sad.
Doesn't matter.

Having the goods means you have developed a relationship with God that's long enough and strong enough that, when you interact with other people, be it in business, at the gym, the grocery store or wherever, that it'll impact them.

They'll like you. You'll have favor. You'll also have flavor. You'll have a vibe that's attractive, that people will be drawn to and respect.

It can all be reduced to a very simple mathematical equation.

What I've described will happen as Jesus INCREASES and you DECREASE in what you bring to the table.

Now true, some people will HATE what you do and what you stand for. See Gibson, Mel for details. LOL!

But, mano a mano, you will just know how to connect with most people.

So, the bottom line is NOT being cool.
It's NOT being modern or post modern.
It's NOT about calling yourself the E-Church or emergentchurch or whatever.

The bottom line is knowing God.
And that takes time.

A lot of it.

You'll never get there unless you first have given him your heart. A lot of it.

Like ALL of it.

Now, since it doesn't matter, one way or the other, if you're cool, relevant and emerging...

...If you want to, go for it.

As long as you know that's not the bottom line.

BTW, sexual PURITY has a lot to do with whether or not you 'have the goods' as well.

Just thought I'd throw that in to ruin someones day.

Even though I currently minister at the PROTYPICAL cutting edge, hip, relevant, post-modern, mega-campus church, my own personal tastes lean toward the home church.

But, the kinds of scale a mega church offers affords you the opportunity to create a home church which is exactly what I'm involved in developing during the week.

The ONE SINGLE MOST OBVIOUS FAULT I see in the church today is as follows:

Those who HAVE THE GOODS (ie Anointed, Powerful Worship that makes brings you right into the Holy of Holies) are HOARDING it so that you'll come to their church building.

Ironically, the churches that are willing to be more OUTWARD looking, like mine and a lot of other so-called emergent churches, DON'T HAVE THE GOODS!

Don't you just LOVE life's delicious ironies?

As far as ministry goes, the most intelligent thing I've read is developing what someone called "PARALLEL CONGREGATIONS" or stratifying our ministry by age.

Of course, for years the church has been stratified by race, but people keep kept getting mad at us about that! lol!

But age stratification is something I hadn't seriously considered. And it's brilliant in it's simplicity. The reason I hadn't thought about it is cause I hang around with people of my own age and at least my own sensibility. Surprise! We didn't consider the fact that others might think differently.

Of course, today's church does offer age stratification of a sort. If you don't like what we're doing here, go find a church more suited for your age. LOL!

I know our pastor has crowed for years
about how he turned our church from one where the average age was about 50 to where it is now - early 30's. I often wondered...What about all those 50 year olds? Do they not want go to church anymore?

There's also the vexing debate about whether the service should be seeker-friendly vs focused on the
deeply committed Christians. Currently that battle is being won by those gearing towards the seeker-friendly and I'm cool with that. It's easy for a COMMITTED Christian to find another service sometime during the week to supplement.

But, just like we stratify our single's ministry by age, why not all of our ministries?

Sadly, I'm confident the churches that first latch onto this will do it stupid at the beginning...

20's-30's go here.
30's-40's go there.
and 50's up over at the Senior Center!

But, the way it should be broken up is by generational SENSIBILITIES.

So, if you're a 60 year old that has a gen X sensibility...then go with the gen X'ers, man.

And vice versa.

Hope this contribution sparks some thought...

TD » 22 February, 2004 7:48 AM

I would like to contact someone about attending the cool hip church you are talking about so I can mingle with cool people who while being with god can have it living inside their hearts too and I do believe cool people possess both which is a personal relationship with god and wanting to put the good feeling into anyone they interact with which is not what I would say for the preaching unhip hippocrites who go to church.

Jonny » 3 December, 2004 11:42 AM

I would like to contact someone about attending the cool hip church you are talking about so I can mingle with cool people who while being with god can have it living inside their hearts too and I do believe cool people possess both which is a personal relationship with god and wanting to put the good feeling into anyone they interact with which is not what I would say for the preaching unhip hippocrites who go to church.

Jonny » 3 December, 2004 11:42 AM

I would like to contact someone about attending the cool hip church you are talking about so I can mingle with cool people who while being with god can have it living inside their hearts too and I do believe cool people possess both which is a personal relationship with god and wanting to put the good feeling into anyone they interact with which is not what I would say for the preaching unhip hippocrites who go to church.

Jonny » 3 December, 2004 11:42 AM

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