The Irrelevance of Being Cool
These days it seems like the first rule of popular youth ministry is: be cool. Nothing wrong with that per se. But that is not the measuring stick of Scripture where faithfulness tops the list. Many of the things we argue over in contemporary ministry, as well as youth ministry, are neither here nor there. They add nothing nor take anything away. Of course, we could argue all day but really, come on! A guy in a suit. A guy in jeans and a hip shirt. Cool. No power in the suit, no power in the hip shirt. A worship service with full lights and a pulpit. A worship service with spotlights and no pulpit. Fine. Cool. No power in the pulpit. No power in the spotlights. Relevance is important and you might want to do what you can to get at the level of the audience you are trying to reach. But do not mistake where the power comes from. Real ministry involves love, passion, time, commitment, and humility. That's what it takes and I've seen good examples and bad examples doing both models of ministry. Paul's love for people was such that he could set almost everything aside in order to reach people: "I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some" (1 Co. 9:22). But Paul would never set aside the Gospel nor fog it up nor make it cool:
"1And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." - 1 Co. 2:1-5
Coolness in Paul's day was speaking in a certain oratorical fashion using the rhetorical methods and flourishes of the day and Paul wouldn't have it, if it confused the Gospel. That's the key. And the same applies today. When we trip over ourselves to be cool we probably aren't clear on the Gospel and we probably aren't really that cool.
None of this is to say that we should excuse stodgy, stiff, traditional-"ism" and inflexible just-do-it-like-we-always-done-it ways. Of course, we need to be creative, innovative, relevant, and flexible just as the makers of this video were creative. This is just a warning. Most of this stuff doesn't matter either way, and, of course, it won't save anybody. But the Gospel matters. And the Gospel saves.
The following link leads to a great video criticizing over-the-top coolness in youth ministry. It is not for real; it is fake; this is not a real youth minister. It's satire, but it's good satire, and it's pretty funny, well it's really funny. But if you've ever seen this stuff, well it's pretty sad. But it makes some great points. We need to beware of the pitfalls of seeking relevance and trying to be cool. I think the point made at the end is right on. Youth ministers struggle with this issue often. But coolness for coolness's sake won't get you very far. I think there is far better advice, like: love young people, give them Jesus, teach the Bible, and be real. Also, understand that this video is in a different church context than ours. But you'll get the point. By the way, you may think that this sort of stuff doesn't happen in our common circles but it do, it really do, and I've seen flashes of it. Of course, I've seen this attitude on guys wearing suits and ties. It has nothing to do with the suit or the jeans. Anyways watch it and let me know what you think. In fact, please respond! I'm interested in your thoughts on this subject.