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Why Cool Church Doesn’t Work Anymore

IRRELEVANCE ISN’T THE ANSWER EITHER

So should you run from all things cool, trendy or hip?

No.

Relevance is better than irrelevance. Relevance matters simply because it gains you permission to speak into the people and culture around you. The culture simply doesn’t listen to leaders it deems irrelevant.

The answer to the challenge of keeping up with relevance is not to return to irrelevance.

Relevant church has many critics, but to not bridge the cultural gap is even more ludicrous (in my view) than trying to bridge it and maybe failing.

To agree to be irrelevant, ineffective and bad at what you do is a terrible option.

So what do we do as we head into the future?

5 KEYS TO REBIRTH

The church can take many forms. But for all those leaders who, like me, believe in gathering people together for the sake of a larger mission, what does the future look like?

I think you stay relevant (and maybe even a bit cool—growing charismatic churches are all that), but you go beyond that. Way beyond it.

Here are five keys I see to a future of greater impact. In many ways, they are the new cool.

Authenticity is the new cool. The mission is the new cool. Hope is the new cool. Community is the new cool. And so is experimentation.

1.  AUTHENTICITY

Sometimes under cool is an inauthenticity. Dump that.

Authentic resonates. People are looking for what’s real, what’s true and what’s authentic.

Here’s a post on how to be an appropriately transparent leader without oversharing.

2. A DEEPER SENSE OF MISSION

The church has always been about something bigger than itself. At the centre of our mission is Christ.

A church that is focused on a larger mission will never become self-obsessed. Cool can carry with it a sense of narcissism.

You lose your narcissism when you lose yourself in a bigger mission.

And that, by the way, is something Gen Z and Millennials are longing to give their lives to.

3. DEAL HOPE

We leaders are dealers in hope.

And Christianity provides more hope than anything.

I’m 100 percent behind making messages practical, applicable and helpful. I think the Gospel is that. But it is also much more than that.

If all we have is this life, we’re to be pitied more than anyone (pretty sure the Bible says something about that).

In an age where all most people see is that which is imminent, people need to be ushered into the presence of Someone who is transcendent.

Christianity at its best has always been about both immanence and transcendence.

If you become a student of preaching in growing churches, you’ll soon see that hope is a constant theme in their preaching, as it should be. After all, Jesus sees our hate and meets it with love, he took death and turned it into life. If that’s not hope, I don’t know what is. And it’s exactly what our world is longing for.

4. ELEVATE COMMUNITY

I’m all for lights, sound, relevance and even video walls if they help the mission.

But as my friend Reggie Joiner says, the church will never be able to out-Disney Disney.

And that’s true; we will never have the budget or resources to entertain or engage the best. But even if we did…what would be the point?

While we can’t out-Disney Disney, no one should be able to out-community the local church.

God is in the people business. He loves us. And the goal is to connect people with Christ and with each other.

As your church grows bigger, it also needs to grow smaller by connecting people relationally. I know we’ve said this for years, but it’s never been more urgent.

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Speaker and podcaster Carey Nieuwhof is a former lawyer and founding pastor of Connexus Church, one of the largest and most influential churches in Canada. With over 6 million downloads, The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast features today's top leaders and cultural influencers. His most recent book is “Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences.” Carey and his wife, Toni, reside near Barrie, Ontario and have two children.