I’ve heard it many times, “a pastor shouldn’t try to be cool.” And I certainly agree, for there is nothing more “uncool” than a man attempting to be cool. But what about those who are naturally gifted in the realm of coolness? What if you are genetically conditioned to have great hair? What if you naturally exude style and cutting edge fashion? Should a man’s superhero jawline, name-brand sunglasses and winning sense of humor be held against him? I’m asking for a friend. ??
Here is the reality—being cool is not the goal—approachability is.
I’m speaking to young men in ministry who often get the two confused and may need to focus on one rather than the other.
Being Approachable Is Being Like Jesus
Luke 18:15-16 And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me.
The difference between Jesus and the other religious leaders of the day is that Jesus didn’t set himself apart from the people but set himself as part of the people. While the typical fisherman, tax collector, prostitute or centurion would have felt extremely uncomfortable around a Pharisee—they felt completely at ease in the presence of Jesus. Did Jesus try to be cool? NO! But Jesus did try to be approachable. He became a normal man who was raised in a normal home who had a normal job.
II Corinthians 8:9 For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.
A pastor should do whatever it takes to relate to the people with whom he is ministering. This is a philosophical choice—one the Pharisees rejected—one that Jesus embraced.
Being Approachable Is Determined by Context
If 90 percent of your community loves NASCAR then you’d better know who Dale Earnhardt was. You might even want to put a #3 window decal on you F-150. In certain parts of the country it’ll make you “cool” or approachable. If 80 percent of your community goes hunting every season then you’d better hit the shooting range a few times per month. In a certain town or county getting a few guns and learning how to shoot might make the difference between a successful pastorate and a failed one. Paul knew this principle:
I Corinthians 9:20-23 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law… To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake.
This is why it is so foolish for a young minister to dress like Justin Bieber while pastoring a church in Montana or dress in overalls and a straw hat while attempting to reach the people of Miami. You should know the culture of your mission field and contextualize your dress, speech, hobbies, diet, sports teams and even speaking style to help people understand the message of the Gospel.
A missionary truly does attempt to “fit in” as much as possible so that he/she can be accepted by the people as one of the tribe. From the position of tribal acceptance the missionary can then share the unchanging truths of the Gospel.
Being Approachable Is Evangelistic
Mark 2:15-17 And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
I love this passage. Do you see how much the average person liked being around Jesus? The newly saved Matthew threw a party and invited Jesus to attend. The place was packed out with average Joes and everyday Janes. People flocked to Jesus everywhere he went because He was kind, gentle and relatable. On the other end of the spectrum we see the Pharisees who were mean, arrogant and judgmental. The Pharisees debated the finer points of the law, compared endless genealogies and rubbed shoulders with political leaders. Jesus spoke to farmers about different types of soil, to shepherds about looking for lost sheep, and to fishermen about the catch of the day.
The Bible says that we are to be peculiar people (1 Peter 2:9). But this doesn’t mean we are to be strange, weird or uncool. Do you know what is truly peculiar? A religious leader who can relate to the common man, this is truly an anomaly. A man of God who steps away from his dusty library and goes to a ballgame with his community, this is beautifully unique. A preacher who is as comfortable talking about comic-book movies as he is talking about eschatological timelines, this is wonderfully strange. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Pharisee that could relate to the average Israeli as well as the carpenter of Nazareth.
I get it. There’s nothing worse than watching someone strive desperately to be cool when coolness is often shallow, phony, and a moving target. So, instead of cool, let’s just shoot for real, genuine, accepting, relaxed and relatable. For if people find that we are relatable they will also see us as approachable. And when they approach us to talk about football, star wars, children, pets, politics, hunting or their favorite restaurant—we will be able to deftly pivot the conversation to the Kingdom of Christ and hope of the Gospel. And that will be pretty cool.
What are your thoughts? Where am I going wrong? Where do you agree? What have I missed?
This article originally appeared here.