“Laugh or Cry?” That’s what CPYU’s Derek Melleby put in the subject line of his email to me this morning. The email contained a link. As I clicked on that link, I knew I was about to see something interesting. . . most likely related to us. . . the “us” being the church. We spend a good amount of time looking at and discussing “ourselves” here in the office, so this was right up our alley. This is the kind of stuff that we email to each other.
The link took me to Cracked.com. . . the online home of that Mad Magazine knock-off known as Cracked that I remember from my childhood. My adolescent self chose to never read Cracked because it always seemed like a second-rate knock-off to me. I read Mad. After all, I was oftentimes told that I bore a striking resemblance to Alfred E. Neuman, who happened to be the Brad Pitt of that day. But my adult self is much more grown-up and mature. . . so I went there today!
The link took me to one of Cracked’s “Quick Fixes” . . . advertised as “fun-size” versions of Cracked. But is this Quick Fix fun? It’s titled “The 5 Most Embarrassing Ways Churches Are Trying to Be Hip.” Five?!?!? Only Five?!?!? I knew this was going to be interesting. . . and too short. After all, we’ve become masters at embarrassing ourselves in an effort to be hip. The list is prefaced with this descriptor: “Church attendance is dwindling in this day and age, and churches are finally starting to realize that if they don’t adapt, they’re going to go extinct faster than gingers. Hilariously, this is the best any of them have come up with so far. . . ” Okay. Go back and read that again. . . a few times. Now ponder it. You’ve just seen and heart the impression our efforts are leaving on the watching world. Go ahead and take a look at the list. Sadly, I could add at least a few dozen additional embarrassing ways to this list.
I think stuff like this is good. . . and helpful. . . and worthy of our careful attention. I think that it’s important to see ourselves through the eyes of our critics. On a personal level, it’s that kind of exercise that helps us to see our sin. . . it sure has worked that way for me. I think it can function well on an institutional level as well. . . and maybe it should work that way for us. There are profound implications for what has become known in the age of hip Christianity as “how we do church.”
So, here are a few questions to ponder and discuss. . .
- Is there a difference between pursuing being informed about culture, and being culturally relevant?
- Are we spending too much money, time and energy on trying to be hip?
- Does being hip compromise the Gospel?
- How far should the church go in embracing and using marketing methods to get people in the door?
- Do churches that exist “for people who don’t like church” create situations where we might move to creating “a God for a people who don’t like God” and/or “a Christianity for people who don’t like Christianity?”
- Are there things we do that come nowhere close to being like the stuff on this list. . . but maybe they should be on the list?
- Are efforts to be hip productive or counter-productive? And, how do we measure productivity or counter-productivity?
- How should our theology inform ecclesiastical practice?
- Are we really as stupid as we sometimes come off to the watching world?