The Cool Churches: sermons held in bars and other “cool places” has lost its appeal.
In 2010, Brett McCracken published his book Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide. The book aimed to answer several major questions, including what people wanted from church, predictions of what occurs after churches become “too driven by the desire to be trend-savvy” and if a “cool church” can be considered credible. This year, he chose to write a major piece about how religion and churches have changed in the past 5 years.
Have Hipster Churches Helped Religion?
In a word, no. In more words, seriously no. According to the PEW Research data released in May, the decline is across the board as far as Christian Americans go, while unaffiliated groups are simply climbing. Christians are declining, even with the wide number of “cool churches” across the United States. Research from a 2014 Barna study indicates that millennials actually want churches to be “real” rather than “cool.” 67% of participants described their ideal church as a classic one, while 33% said they wanted a trendy one. It’s pretty clear that churches made a major mistake by hosting their sermons in bars and other “cool” places.
Cool Churches Tend to Flame Out
McCracken discussed a number of religious figureheads and institutions in his book, including Rob Bell, Mark Driscoll and the Hillsong movement. Rob Bell was the head of Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan. He was considered a poster child for the cool-church movement. He stopped pastoring, left Michigan for California, became buddies with Oprah and essentially changed his life completely. Now, 5 years later, he doesn’t even go to church, much less pastor for one. Driscoll was head of the Mars Hill in Seattle, and loved to spark controversy. He was a part of a number of scandals, including plagiarism of his book, altering the bestseller list and posting outrageous online rants. He resigned from his church in 2014, and not too long later, 15 of the Mars Hill churches disbanded.
Hillsong NYC is going strong under the guidance of Carl Lentz, a tatted up alternative looking pastor who avoids anything that might offend anyone. This brings us to the next major point: is it a good idea for churches to avoid parts of the Bible that might be offensive? In reality, no, it’s important to incorporate the sacrifices that the disciples went through, revealing the sacrifices they made. According to one of McCracken’s readers, this actually harms the church because the goal isn’t to reflect the outside world, but rather come somewhere that they can lay it all down and receive forgiveness.
Interest Isn’t in “Cool” but in the Truth
McCracken writes that anyone who is interested in Christianity is not seeking out something “easy or trendy or popular,” but rather a reprieve from the phony world we live in today. “We want an alternative… not because we want more of the same.”