When Being Authentic Becomes the New Cool

One of my good friends sent me an article from Relevant the other day from Rachel Held Evans – a well know Christian blogger and author. The article, which is pretty well written, makes some solid points about the flashy show of the postmodern Church. Evans calls into question much of the structure of a stereotypical modern church and poses the theory that maybe less flash…less cool, allows room for the normal guy. The uncool guy. The Jesus guy.

From there, she proposes that less cool gives way for a more authentic, Jesus-like community.

I’ll say this right now…I’m not going to make a whole post debating Rachel’s article (she really does make some valid points). Rather, it got my head spinning, and I had a few thoughts from the other side of the ball.

Every few years, some trendy catchphrase or word pops up in the Christian-ese lexicon that it seems like everyone and their church planting mother grab on to.

“Relevant”
“Authentic”
“Acts 2 Church”
“Relational”

These ideas, these words, these things on their own are actually great. Of course I want to be in community with people that care about doing God’s will in a real and tangible way, everyday. Of course I love the idea of being in such tight community with those that I worship with that we would break bread and pray together often. Of course I’d rather “do life” with people that are willing to be real, open and vulnerable.

But…can we take a step back for just a second, and stop attacking the church down the street with expensive intelligent lighting? Or at least solely on the fact that they have intelligent lighting?

The line is fine.

I’ve been a professional church staffer since I was 17, in varying capacities. I have been guilty on both sides of this issue, without a doubt. But here’s the thing: I promise you, it’s not the fog and lights that’s preventing authentic community.

If you’re attending a church, and you’re looking for real, deep community – and it’s not there, it’s not the lighting. It’s not the fog. It’s not the 16 flavors of coffee at the bar. I’ll even go as far to say that if these are things that are keeping you from community…leave. Nobody said you had to get your Jesus in a U2 concert-styled package. It’s OK if it’s not doing it for you.

The flip-side here is that tons of churches pour their efforts into everything…but people. But even still, it’s not the lights, the fog, the 16 piece drumset. It’s the core structure and value of the church. If you’re not on board with the core structure and values of the church, but you dig the lights, maybe you’re there for the wrong reasons, eh?

I love high production value. I really do. I grew up in a family where we all did. Two of my older siblings went to a performing arts high school. My oldest brother is a phenomenal lighting designer. My sister holds a degree in Theatre. Without question, it was bred into me.

What I find funny is that, obviously, based on the numbers, I’m not the only one. You never see articles or blog posts out there on how awesome a well-executed service is though. Where’s the article about the church with the painfully awful amateur music, that has completely stopped engaging anyone beyond the four walls that are being held up by the same 12 families since 1952? I mean, great that you have that history and connection, but there’s a whole chunk of Christ’s calling in the New Testament that’s missing from the life of the church? Nobody wants to take that on…

And let me be clear, I am not suggesting that a higher production value will revitalize the thousands of American churches that have decided that inbred stubbornness is a better version of the gospel than Jesus’. But really, it’s sure easy to make flash and fog the scapegoat for your unwillingness to invite your neighbor to church, and the subsequent stagnancy. Fog didn’t make the megachurch grow, and it’s also not there in lieu of Christ-centered community.

From my angle.

Here is what I know about myself. Quality production is a glorification of God. I seriously feel blessed and worshipful to witness people giving their best at their craft. Beautiful lighting, used to its fullest, creates an environment that enhances messaging, mood and music.

I love when music is at a quality high enough that I get lost in it.

When church becomes something that is experiential, through as many senses as possible, we are truly creating, and not re-enacting. High-quality production is art, and I’m deeply passionate about it.

Thank God that I work for a Church that would sell everything in the building if we believed that it would allow us to reach more people for the cause of Christ.

The reality, at least in our neck of the woods, is that we still reach more people through our Sunday morning services than any other avenue currently. When this changes, we’ll pour our resources into the next direction. The environments that strive to create (and trust me, we’re nowhere near where we’d like to be) allow people to experience the truths that we know about God.

So yeah. If the fog is keeping you from community, deal with it. Act on it. But don’t blame the fog. So if “authentic” is the in word this week, so be it. Just remember that “authentic” and “real” are not the antithesis of excellence.

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6 thoughts on “When Being Authentic Becomes the New Cool

  1. These are really great thoughts. I’m glad you wrote this. I particularly think you stated it well with:

    When church becomes something that is experiential, through as many senses as possible, we are truly creating, and not re-enacting.

    Amen!

  2. I find your argument to be well thought out and compelling in addition to being balanced. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I completely agree that the culture within Christian churches seems to be trending in such a way that people don’t feel responsible for themselves, and therefore will blame whatever it is they don’t like about the church they’re currently attending for whatever shortcomings they find in their spiritual life. It’s as if they’re completely helpless on their own when it comes to spirituality, so they count on the church to push along that part of their life.

  3. I totally agree with you. There are a lot of different types of churches out there because one way does not work for everyone. I don’t think it’s the church’s fault if the service isn’t working for you. It’s your choice to be there or not. I went to a big production, flashy fog + lights church for a few years. It wasn’t for me, but I definitely realize that there’s a place and a reason for it. Especially for the younger crowd. I also appreciate the fact that it’s a little easier to invite your friend to church when, yes, it’s a little “cooler” than regular church.

    • Yeah, it’s really funny, because I honestly love a church where they just sing loud.

      The church we went to when I was in Chicago had zero flash and fog. Notta. Just a solid band and people that wanted to be there. Loved it.

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