Should Pastors Try to Be Cool?
Many people assume that the best way to reach people is to be like them. So, if pastors want to reach cool people, they should try to be cool. But there are several problems with the idea that pastors should try to be cool:
- Being a cool pastor is not the power of God unto salvation—the gospel is. If we think that the success of our evangelistic efforts depends on the image we cultivate, we show that our trust is not finally in the power of God’s Word working by God’s Spirit, but in our own ability to attract people to ourselves.
- Being connected to the culture is a double-edged sword. Having tattoos may endear you to bikers and hipsters, but it certainly won’t endear you to most Muslims.
- Our desire to be cool may reflect more pride than we’d like to admit. Let’s say you want to be cool. Is your desire to cultivate that image driven by a desire to save the lost or a desire for people to like you?
- Much pastoral ministry is profoundly un-cool. Preaching the cross is a stumbling block and foolishness to cool people. Moreover, faithfully pleading with others to repent of their sins and be reconciled to God requires a pastor to be earnest and enthusiastic in a way that is utterly at odds with the ironic detachment that being cool requires.
- We must never despise “un-cool” brothers and sisters in Christ. The more we try to be cool ourselves, the more we’ll be tempted to look down on Christians who are not like us.
- Being like the culture can make it hard for others to see the gospel. The more we understand the world and its definition of “cool,” the less attractive we should find it. In fact, in a society that is increasingly morally and spiritually bankrupt, it may be our incongruity with the culture that serves to highlight the gospel. Rather than trying to be cool, pastors should lead their churches to cultivate a vivid otherworldliness (to borrow David Wells’s phrase) that points to a gospel that is genuinely different from what the world believes.
(Much of this material has been adapted from Michael McKinley’s article, “Contemplating Cool”)
Find more great resources for church health from Mark Dever and 9Marks Ministries at www.9marks.org