The fallacy of coolness
Trouble was on the horizon for me when skinny jeans became the thing. Well, even before that. My bulges defied polyester suits and white belts too, or most of the trendy labels that gave me the look of being contemporary in four decades of ministry. But, the truth is when we try to brand authenticity and relevance, we always miss the mark. Usually, it's the fallacy of coolness.
It's not new to this generation either. All of our population cohorts have struggled with connecting to the hipsters of their times. There were pastel socks, penny loafers, red ties, leisure suits, Hawaiian shirts, Birkenstocks, Crocs, beards, mustaches, jewelry, and dozens of others long before we wore ink and shirt tails out. Usually these identifiers were sincere efforts to resonate with people on the outside, those who were alienated from church for one reason or another. Now, I'm doing the hyperbole trick when referencing the apparel lines that have defined us. There's much more. You know, language, music, teaching style, social events, outreach, schedules, communication, and whatever. Over the centuries church people have tried to be distinctly separate from the world around us, but cool in some ways. It's simply because society has a way of making traditional church appear so uncool. We want the world to know that we're just regular people, sinners saved by grace.
The fallacy of coolness is that our attempts to be something other than what we are is not authentic or real or relevant. We really aren't the issue. If what that Holy Bible says is true, Jesus is always the issue. And, he's "...the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8, ESV). The message of the Gospel resonates with fallen humans on every continent, to every known tribe, in every language, in every generation. When we live in a growing personal relationship with Jesus others see the one that is the answer to the cool and uncool regardless of how they are defined. Sooner than we realize, the coolness of these times will yield to the next markers, maybe before the labels on our plaid shirts have been removed.
The Bible never indicates that coolness, or mirroring the cultural fads, is a way to attract unbelievers anyway. Yes, of course, we are to engage the world and culture at every possible turn in all the ways authorized in Scripture. At the same time, we are to be a "...chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9, ESV). Our motion to this world is to be at another level of spiritual connection.
Paul wrote to the Colossians, "Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time" (Colossians 4:5, ESV). This instruction identifies wisdom as our path to those apart from Christ and the community of faith. It also reminds us that these opportunities are rare and should be handled with great care, noting the time element as these doors of witness are occasioned by God.
The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Psalms 111:10, and Proverbs 9:10). We cannot hope to to resonate with culture apart from a deep, reverential fear and genuine respect for God. In another important lesson James reminds us that "...if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him" (James 1:5, ESV). It is a promise of God that should direct our contact and approach to the people around us. What I'm calling coolness is as fickle as the wind, the whims of a world on the make.
If we're serious about connecting to the vast number of Gen X'ers and Millennials, the other cohorts too, we'd better renew our commitment to the ways God has directed us to them. Coolness or any of the methods of the world around us just won't cut it. They'll last as long as those old leisure suits and all that hip language. Living in healthy fear of God, asking him for wisdom, and being guided by the precepts of Scripture is our guarantee of the wisdom to reach them his way.
It's the fallacy of coolness, and the promise of wisdom. Count on them.