Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Guest Blog - 6 Steps to be a Cool Christian


While I was out of town on vacation, Pleasant Grove's totally awesome music minister, David Crawford, preached about how to be a cool Christian.  He graciously agreed to let me share his message on my blog today.  Enjoy!
Romans 12:2 - Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

When I read this it makes me wonder about how we “fit in” with society. I mean if we are to have enough influence to persuade someone that they should give their life to Christ, then surely they must respect us as a member of society, or at least their social circle. And our influence within society, or our social circle, will be greater if we don’t appear to be strange, odd, out of sorts with reality, or lost in space. I would think we need to have a modicum of normality, and perhaps even a bit of “cool” if we are to persuade someone else they would benefit from being more like us with regard to living out our Christian beliefs. So, can one be cool and Christian at the same time?

If not sooner, then usually by middle school, we all start noticing where we fit in socially, and most of us would like for the people we are around to think that we are “cool”. We want to fit in, and be accepted. And while the awkwardness of adolescence and our mission to be popular or cool doesn’t last forever, we always want others to respect who we are and what we are striving to be. While it may not be our main focus, even now, we want those with whom we associate to think we are cool. So how do we reconcile being cool, with being a Christian? Are they at odds with one another?
So, naturally the first thing I did was go to Google and type in “Cool Christians.” And one of the search results that caught my eye was something called “Hipster Christians” and I was intrigued. The “Hipster Christian” churches actually have a checklist you can follow to make sure you are staying cool while practicing your faith and here are some of the items that made the list:
  • Get the church involved in social justice and creation care. (Okay, I’m down with that)
  • Show clips from R-rated Coen Brothers films (e.g., No Country for Old Men, Fargo) during services. (Hmmm)
  • Sponsor church outings….(sounds good) to microbreweries……(really?)
  • Put a worship pastor onstage decked in clothes from American Apparel.
  • Print bulletins only on recycled cardstock. (Ehh, yeah I guess, that’s better)
  • Use Helvetica fonts as much as possible. (I had know idea I was such a rebel)

This wasn’t exactly the direction I felt pulled in, so I abandoned the hipster Christian train and searched, instead, for how to be cool. I wanted to see what a secular site had to say about how to be cool.

I found a wiki (I feel cool just saying the word "wiki") on how to be cool in school, and I thought I’d see if their advice was reconcilable with my Christian beliefs and ideals. I picked six of the steps to share with you today. I think you might be surprised, I was.

Secular Coolness Step 1: Don’t just think about it — do it. It’s all very well to read books and blogs about self-improvement, but you have to actually get out there and apply the theories that resonate with you. Let’s replace a few words there and it reads like this instead: It’s all very well to read the Bible, but you have to actually get out there and apply its teachings.

It would appear the first step in being cool within society sounds a lot like verse 20 in the 2nd chapter of James: “But are you willing to recognize, that faith without works is useless?”

Secular Coolness Step 1 continues: Do it! It’s scary but so, invigorating. Who knows who you’ll meet and what they might be able to offer you?

Stepping out can be scary. Expressing your opinion on a subject, especially religion, can open you up to ridicule and you risk a piece of your pride, but it is worth it, and while the first step to secular coolness ends with what you may gain from putting yourself out there, as Christians we must deviate a little from their script and I would challenge you to imagine what the people we share the good news with will gain, and perhaps scariest of all, what the people we do not share the word with may lose.

Thinking things through before jumping the gun is a great trait. But thinking things through and then not doing anything won't get you anywhere.

So the first step in secular coolness is to take action. And a major component of our Christian faith is to take action.

Secular Coolness Step 2: Be yourself. It will be something that other people will look up to. You are unique, and you don't need to join a clique. Make your own friendships.  Don't try to be like anyone else by copying someone else's moves or act. Live life for who you are. Don't lose sight of yourself or your morals. Being cool isn't about changing who you are, its about being confident enough to let people see how awesome you really are.

My dad always said, “Be who you is, ‘cause if you be who you ain’t, then you ain’t who you is.” But sometimes we don’t feel like we are awesome enough to be “cool”. Not a problem, because Psalm 139: 14 and 15 says, "I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth..."

The article continues by saying, “If you don't let people see the real you, then what's the point? Being able to be yourself and to have people appreciate you is the coolest thing of all.” So let’s play the old word replacement game and say it like this, “If you don’t let people see the real you, and you have been made new in Christ, how will the world see Christ in you and come to know Him as their personal Savior?” 

Secular Coolness Step 3: Speak up. Observe people who are "cool"; they usually speak confidently and clearly, at a good pace. They don't chatter rapidly, pause, say uh, um..., or mumble. They say what they mean, and mean what they say. Be confident in your word and don't let anyone try to change it. If you state your opinion and people disagree, don't worry. Say what you feel and people will respect you for that, unless you say it knowing it will offend someone. Don't shout out your opinion just to be heard. Make sure it's relevant, and be ready to back it up soundly.

If speaking up and speaking confidently is cool, then I believe Paul is one of the coolest people in history, because Colossians 4:3 says, “...praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned..." Yep, you heard that right, he was in prison for speaking the living word, and while in prison he was praying he would get the chance to speak the word again to someone else who needed to hear it. I also like what the article says about people disagreeing with your opinion: the article says, “don’t worry.” I think sometimes we feel like if we speak about our faith or share the living word, and we are rejected or rebuffed, then somehow we have failed. NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER THAN THE TRUTH. We plant the seed. God makes it grow.


Secular Coolness Step 4: Keep your "cool". The very definition of cool is being calm, composed, under control, not excited, and socially adept. This is especially true right now with so many highly controversial issues blazing through our society. There are people out there who will purposefully try to “get us going” when they find out we are Christians. They try to “set us off” by “setting us up” with questions about these controversial subjects. It is our job to remain calm. Know what we believe and be able to back it up with scripture, doctrine, and our beliefs. It is also ok to admit that we may not have the answer, but we trust in our God and know He is in control. I would say that most, if not all of us, have been fired up by someone pushing the right buttons, but if we can remain cool, it will be more apparent that we have faith in someone bigger and more powerful than all of our problems. And according to Proverbs 15:18, "A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute."  So there must be something to staying cool. 


Secular Coolness Step 5: Have faith in your friends. There’s a reason they hang around you. The personality traits you may think make you socially awkward, may be the very quirks they find endearing. If you want to be cool, then you have to believe that the people around you genuinely like you and find your relationship meaningful. Remember that it's not cool to hang out with people who you think are cool just because you think it'll make you cool by proxy. Life doesn't work that way.

Another aspect is to consider the people who make up your social and work related circles. We have all been given gifts and abilities that we use to help build God’s kingdom on earth, as well as make a living within our community. Those gifts and interests have drawn you to a certain group of people and similar people are drawn to you because of your gifts and abilities. Contractors don’t always run in the same social circles as ballet companies. Because we are varied in our interests and abilities we have a chance to reach a multitude of people from very diverse social circles. Embrace where you are and look for opportunities within your circle to witness through your actions and when the occasion arises by sharing words of faith. The friends who make up your circle will be there for you. After all, they are your friends.

Jesus said it like this, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

Secular Coolness Step 6: Don't be afraid to be different. Whether that means defending someone else, or taking interest in something that no one else does, like playing an instrument, try to be different and stand out. (16) The coolest people are the ones who occasionally break against the tide and make people question the status quo. Take that last statement and change coolest to Christian. The Christian people are the ones who break against the tide and make people question the status quo. Most of us have been involved in that conversation. You know, the one where everyone seems to be agreed in a course of action, or an opinion is shared by the majority; and then there you go having to interject your Christian morals and beliefs making everyone reevaluate their position. It is not always met with kindness, instead it is usually met with exasperated sighs, but it is the Christian thing to do, AND it is cool when you are part of redirecting a situation onto a Christ-like path.


So, can you be cool and be a Christian? I don’t think you can be a Christian without being cool. One of the online dictionaries defines cool as fashionably attractive or impressive. As I look out on the congregation I don’t think we need to worry about fashion or attractiveness, ya’ll are a pretty good lookin’ bunch. So I think we are talking about cool being impressive. And there’s really no denying Jesus was impressive. He calmed the storms, He turned water into wine, He healed the sick, raised the dead and saved the entire human race. That’s impressive, that’s cool, and that’s who promised to be with us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. We walk with Jesus because we are Christians. Because we are Christians we strive to be like Christ. We are most like Christ when we are least like ourselves and we surrender our body to the will of God. And in those moments we are cool and it is cool. Not because of who we are or what we do, but because of whose we are and what He can do through us for the rest of the world.