• johned@aibi.ph

The Delusion of 'Cool' Christianity

by Andrew Strom

Before I start to write on this rather controversial subject, I just want to say a little about myself and my own background. I am by no means a closed-minded or 'conservative' Christian. In fact, I am convinced that radical measures are needed to bring today's church into the kind of state that will truly impact the world and bring glory to God. I not only believe in the desperate need for true repentance and Revival in the church, but also of a thorough 'Reformation', so that today's church might become the kind of threat to the devil that she was always meant to be. I am a modern musician myself, and believe that the original message of the gospel really must be made "relevant" to each new generation.

However, having said all of this, I must also add that I have become deeply concerned in recent times, that much of what we call "relevance" in the church today, is really little more than 'hip' worldliness, compromise, and a desperate attempt to impress the world on it's own shallow, hedonistic terms, rather than anything Godly. It is obviously no longer 'positive' enough (in the modern TV-marketing sense of the word) to GlobalChristians.Org emphasises on the cross, deep repentance, holiness, "death to self" and all the other meaty elements of basic Christianity which the New Testament emphasizes again and again. And so we change everything (even the very essence of the gospel itself) to fit the spirit of the age in which we live. Tell me, does this sound like God to you? Or is this yet another form of convenient compromise, like all the others that have enslaved and bound the church in recent times?

As history clearly shows, if the devil cannot bind or deceive the church by pushing her to extremes in one direction, then he will gladly push her as far as he can the opposite way. If he cannot bind her with legalism and spiritual pride, then perhaps he will have more success in pushing her to "hyper-liberty"-type extremes (the casting off of restraint, soulish excesses, spiritual "license", etc). It is my belief that this is exactly what has occurred in the Western church over the last ten years or so (particularly in Charismatic circles). The dangers of legalism, heavy pastoral domination, and spiritual pride have been so thoroughly exposed in much of this branch of Christendom, that there has arisen the opposite danger. (Which is just as deadly, as history clearly demonstrates).

It is my belief that in recent years, because of their fear of legalism and pastoral domination, many of today's Christian leaders have essentially reacted against the old 'straight-laced' style of Christian leadership, and have instead gone right over to the other extreme (ie. they have become over-accomodating and completely anti-authoritarian, wanting to be seen as modern, open-minded, `hip', and dynamic. Thus "authority" has become a dirty word). As always, this has created a huge "absence" of real authority in the church, which the devil has been quick to exploit. Fruits of this modern "cool" Christianity are: Worldliness, rebellion, compromise, soulishness, carnality, etc. The Scripture, "they sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play" has, in recent years, become very applicable to large sections of the modern church. Many of our young people in particular have never known anything else but a kind of shallow, "good times" Christianity.

They can often be found 'raging it up large' at modern youth events and concerts, not because they are just so 'passionate' in their deep worship of God, but rather because they really enjoy riding the shallow "buzz" of the music, etc. Let me be very clear here: This whole "cool" thing comes from the `spirit of this world', not from God. And it is not just the youth who have succumbed to this shallow "partying" spirit. Many of the older ones have now also given themselves over to it. Anyone who objects to this "party-time" emphasis in the church is soon labeled sneeringly as being `legalistic' or judgmental. Like the youth of the sixties, we are now being told to just `let go', to "yield" to the impulses we receive, etc. We are told that in doing so, we are breaking free from tradition and religion.

In actual fact, what we are doing is giving ourselves over, lock, stock and barrel to `Jezebel', to do with as she pleases. (Remember that I write this as a fairly `liberated' modern musician myself. I am not at all "anti" most Rock music or youth culture, but I am certainly against the kind of shallow `casting off of restraint' that we are seeing in to- day's churches. This can only ever lead to deep deception). It was Pentecostal pioneer Frank Bartleman who lamented, concerning the early Pentecostal movement: "As the movement began to apostatize platforms were built higher, coat tails were worn longer, choirs were organized, and string bands came into existence to `jazz' the people. The kings came back once more, to their thrones, restored to sovereignty. We were no longer `brethren'. Then the divisions multiplied..." And as Samuel Chadwick has so insightfully stated: "A religion of mere emotion and sensationalism is the most terrible of all curses that can come upon any people."

It had actually been prophesied in the 1906 `Azusa Street' Revival that: "In the last days three things will happen in the great Pentecostal Movement: 1) There will be an overemphasis on power, rather than on righteousness; 2) there will be an overemphasis on praise, to a God they no longer pray to; 3) there will be an overemphasis on the gifts of the Spirit - rather than on the Lordship of Christ." As I have said, today much of this error is flooding into the church under the guise of "relevance".

In the name of `relevance' we are rushing around desperately trying to make our music "cool" and our leadership style "cool" and our gospel "cool" and our youth events "cool", etc, etc,- all in an effort to attract the world on it's own terms. Let me say again: None of this is of God at all. It relies almost entirely on the `arm of the flesh'. It is really nothing less than worldliness, compromise and rebellion in a new and very subtle (yet deadly) form. Instead of "holier than thou", it seems like we are now expected to be "cooler than thou". Our whole effort is aimed at proving to the world that Christianity is just as cool, just as much shallow fun, just as much of a party, as the world has to offer. And so, to prove all this, we have to entertain and entertain and entertain. We feel we have to become just like the world, in order to impress the world on it's own terms. Thus, we now need to be seen in fashionable (or better-still,`hip' or alternative) clothes. And our youth events become an excuse for a "party". And our presentations become entertaining multi-media extravaganzas. All in an effort to equal or "out-cool" the world. (Which is why you now see `stage-diving', etc, at our youth concerts - matching the world on it's own mindless, hedonistic terms. "Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God").

Like I said, cool pride, worldliness and rebellion - all in the name of "relevance". JUST LIKE THE WORLD IN EVERY SENSE. Does this sound like God to you? As Jesus Himself said: "If you were of the world, the world would love it's own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (Jn 15:19). And as the apostle John wrote: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 Jn 2:15).

The apostle James like- wise wrote: "Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4).

This whole "cool Christianity" thing is the complete opposite of the true gospel. The true gospel message involves "denying self, taking up the cross, and following Jesus." But this new gospel of `cool' says, in essence, "indulge yourself, enjoy it all, look cool, be cool (-carnal human pride in all it's `look at me' glory), and have God as well!" The true cross of Jesus speaks death to self, death to hype, death to pride and worldly `cool', death to loving pleasures more than God. This is why the true gospel and the true message of the cross have always been "foolishness" to carnal man. They speak the OPPOSITE of worldliness - in fact, DEATH to the world!

Surely today's Christians can see the difference? (`Cool' is just another name for "pride", after all). I am convinced that what today's youth need is a CHALLENGE worth giving their lives for, not merely an- other round of mindless `entertainment'. The fact is, I am a great believer in "relevance" myself. But it must be a relevance that PREACHES THE ORIGINAL GOSPEL WITH IT'S ORIGINAL UNCOMPROMISING MESSAGE, using modern means. In other words, the gospel must remain as cross- centered, as convicting and as radical in it's demands as it was in the beginning, but the means of transmitting it may change (though never merely for the sake of being `cool'). I actually believe that God is going to greatly use the secular media (including the TV networks) to spread news of what He is doing right around the world in the coming Revival. And neither do I mind a certain amount of being "all things to all men" in order to reach the lost (after all, Jesus Himself came as a poor man preaching to the poor). But if our motive for this is to enjoy appearing cool or `hip'/alternative, or to appeal to the "God is fun" brigade, then we have gone way too far, and our bowing to the `spirit of this world' will greatly distort the message that we bring.

I hope you can see that I am by no means advocating some kind of strict, cloistered, "joy-less" Christianity, or a return to the dark days of conformist conservatism in the church. What I am, in fact, advocating is a vibrant, relevant brand of the ORIGINAL NEW TESTAMENT FAITH - updated for the 21st Century, but full of the essence of everything that made the early church what it was. This is clearly the only way that we are ever going to impact this present generation with the life-giving power of the cross of Jesus Christ. I believe that the Christianity that is coming will be truly `liberated' and yet completely unpretentious and down-to-earth (rather than `hip'-cool or `party'-fun). It will be a gritty, street-level faith - truly `in the world but not of it' reaching out to the "man on the street", and utterly glorifying to God.

Probably more than at any time in history, we have a crying need today for searching, convicting `repentance' preaching in the churches. The Laodicean church is in desperate need of some good, old-fashioned `Revival' preaching on "sin, righteousness and judgment" (Jn 16:8). This is why I believe that Revival and Reformation are now so urgent. I do not believe that God can live with a compromised Laodicean church. There can be little doubt that He is about to take drastic action (as He has done many times in the past). Today's church should be on her knees, begging God for forgiveness, not "partying up large".

But again we hear her cry: "I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." Sick, selfish, lukewarm church,- do you not care that God has promised to "spew" you out of His mouth? (Rev 3:16). As the apostle Peter declared, the time has surely now come for judgment to "begin at the house of God" (1 Pe 4:17).

Please click here to go to the book, "The Coming Great Reformation" by the same author.

Copyright (c) Andrew Strom, 1996. Please feel free to photocopy.