Let me start my entry today by disclaiming something: I am not cool. Yep, I admit it, I am unabashedly, and down right completely uncool. I know this to be true because I have a 6 year old daughter that tells me this quite regularly. I used to be cool. I was the lead singer in a fairly popular local band, a top of my class student at my tech school in high school, I even traveled a lot and won competitions and had really unique experiences. Now, I’m a youth minister, a dad, a full time employee for an insurance company, and I enjoy eating all kinds of food and watching Food Network all day if I can find the time to rest. I’m pretty sure most of that stuff are automatic qualifiers to the land of the uncool.
The question I have today, though, is “Do we need to be cool?” I find myself reading a lot and so often in most of the stuff I am reading you see people searching for or trying to make God “relevant” or “cool” to today’s generation. I’m completely guilty of aspiring to this myself, especially in my youth ministry, but I’m finding more and more that I don’t think that cool is where we need to be. Nope, as a matter of fact, instead of cool we need to be “strange”. In the book of Romans, good ole Paul says “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” I can’t speak for you, but I don’t hear any cool in that statement, but I hear a lot of strange.
Words like “non-conformist” and “transformed” usually not connected to cool unless your one of those cats that are into the whole “I’m a non-conformist just like all these other people” types. That’s a much more stereotypical cool I reckon, but not what I mean for all intents and purposes here. I guess though, people thought Jim Morrison was cool, but all he wanted to be was “strange”. I think being strange is great though. It works out to my advantage quite often, being cool only worked for so long.
We are called to “pray without ceasing” as it says in the Bible, and that is a GREAT example of strange. I pray all the time these days, though it doesn’t always resemble typical prayer. For example, I typically do my grocery shopping late Sunday night every week. I chose Sunday night because it’s a low traffic time in my grocery store and it gives me an opportunity to spend some time praying over the week ahead as I select our menu for the week, in addition to the fact that when I go by myself, I spend a lot less money. Now, inevitably some folks see me meandering down the aisles staring at the items and, in their eyes, mumbling to myself, they immediately assume I’m some crazy mental case that has wandered into the store so they leave me alone, thus allowing me to continue my shopping in peace, if I were cool these people would want to talk and totally disrupt the whole experience. Strange: 1 Cool: 0
Another great thing about being strange is that quite often, I find myself in the position where people that I interact with ask me questions about why I’m so “strange”. Of course, the first order of business in these situations is to explain that it’s all because I recognized my call to be “set apart” and be different. Everything else just falls into place conversationally from there. All I can do is be that strange guy mumbling as I walk down the aisles of the grocery, or the guy that actually enjoys watching all of those documentaries on Netflix, or the guy that decides to pay for the meal of the person standing in front of me at Subway without handing them a business card or a pamphlet, or the guy that always talks about burritos. Either way, I’m a pretty strange guy.
I recently put together a contemporary service at my church and in doing so, was very purposeful to not follow a set formula in the order of worship. At the end, I walked up to give the closing, right after playing a video making fun of the way everybody closes a worship service. My church is a small one, and virtually everyone that showed up, I knew on an extremely close level, and knew they were all saved, all born again Christians. The strange part? I planned on that being the case, and gave an invitation anyway. Most often at the end of a service, you hear the “Altar Call” but I borrowed a quote from Shane Claiborne and gave an “Alter Call” because I know that there are a lot of people out there that have already been saved, what I want to see is a whole lot of people who are ready to change, be different, and show that they’re “set apart”. I’ve seen what people look like when they’re cool, I want to see what people look like when they’re strange. So do we need to be cool in order to reach this generation, or will strange work all the same?
Zach is a father, husband, and social media addict that describes his approach to faith as being a “Charismatic, Evangelical, Anabaptist that loves Catholic traditon, or just a plain old ‘lover of Jesus’ for short. He is the Youth director at Poages Mill Church of the Brethren and hangs out with an odd group he calls the “Holy Burrito Crew”.