A little over a year ago, I had a strange thing happen in the middle of one particular church experience. I walked in open-minded but quickly got this sick feeling that I didn’t belong. As their service progressed, I started getting an even sicker feeling that if Jesus Himself walked into the middle of that service, even HE wouldn’t have met the cool factor that had become the culture of that church. The vibe communicated clearly to me that the ’20-something’ segment of that crowd had become a little like the rich man Jesus urged us not to favor over the poor (or aging, or non-conformist…) Mind you, I LOVE being around the cool kids of the world. But that day it was very obvious that I wasn’t one of them and, therefore, not really wanted there. I sat there hurting while a group of 40-something leaders did a ‘dog and pony show’ to appeal to people half their age. In doing so, they came off entirely inauthentic. (Please know, I’m not judging their motives here… this is just my impression of their methods.)
That said, I believe Jesus’s cool factor is off the charts. During his time on earth he blew people out of the water with his originality. NO ONE could draw a crowd like He could. Before the days of internet and Ticketmaster – heck, even before the days of seating – He could pack a hillside with thousands upon thousands of people from all segments of society using nothing more than word-of-mouth communication. He didn’t rely on carefully worded mission statements, create social media networks or conduct surveys to see how he could appeal to them aesthetically. He also didn’t rot in tradition and narrow-minded thinking like the religious minority of that day. He did dare to look into the eyes and hearts of people, even when it hurt. He did listen with His heart… tell stories to their children… offer water to the thirsty. He did dare to ask penetrating questions. He came not just to ‘appeal’ but to heal… forgive… redeem. His ‘target market’ was not a target market. His target was every needy heart – whether or not they knew it.
I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t draw thousands to the hillside because He had rock star hair or florescent white teeth. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE rock star hair and beautiful teeth – and maybe He had both. But that wasn’t his ‘Ace’ card. Might have turned a few heads (including mine) but hello?? Crowds would’ve been outta there fast if they had to sit on rocks for anything short of ‘riveting’. But what’s more riveting than personalized love? Grace? Forgiveness? Oh, and redemption! Redemption’s my favorite. But talk about an ugly process! That one is saved only for those courageous enough to roll up their sleeves and let Him rock their world on the inside, where it counts.
Being intentional in ministry is imperative. I’ve sat through lots of those ‘behind-the-church-scenes’ meetings. What we’ve got going for us, Church, is a Gospel that does have a relevant place in the trenches of real life. That’s a really good place to start. But that Gospel attracts all kinds of people. We’ve got to be ready for that.
I also think young “pretty people” are fabulous. In fact, I’d love to be one of them. I work a solid 45 minutes a day toward that end (which, I might add, gets harder every day as time takes its toll). But like it or not, having an impact on society for eternity isn’t about appearances or our sweet moves. It’s about a life-altering Person we know personally and are willing to communicate by whatever means necessary.
Being led by His Spirit is more up-to-the-minute than Twitter (I know, hard to believe, but He isn’t bound by the limits of years, hours, minutes or nano-seconds). His mercy is absolutely timeless – a renewable resource, coming to us live every single morning. His love is hotter than pop charts because it alienates no one. And nothing but NOTHING is sweeter than that.