Hipster Christianity

August 17, 2010

Someone sent me a link to this recent Wall Street Journal op-ed and wanted to know my thoughts…

My first thought is that the Wall Street Journal must have had some space to fill! There is very little substance here. Notice that the author, Brett McCracken (who has a blog here), doesn’t cite any evidence that young people either like or dislike these recent church trends that he criticizes. Young adults may be fleeing church in droves (I doubt that’s anything new), but it’s hardly because of what people like Rob Bell and Mark Driscoll are doing.

On the contrary, I’ll bet that young people disproportionately go to Rob Bell’s and Mark Driscoll’s churches. Are young people going to these churches and somehow not being “reached” with the gospel? Are they not growing in discipleship and love? If Bell and Driscoll are—as I suspect—filling their churches with young adults, another interpretation could be, “We need more churches like this!”

I can’t say, but neither can McCracken. The long and short of the piece is, “I’m 27 years old, and I don’t like it. I can speak authoritatively for my generation.” He’s also able to see into the hearts of pastors and worship leaders who have edgier sermon topics and music, and who take advantage of the latest technology. He implies that they’re acting in bad faith: they’re only doing these things to attract young people, not because they really believe in the messages they’re communicating.

How does he know? Since I only have a passing knowledge of Rob Bell and Mark Driscoll (who are very different from one another), I have no idea to what extent I “agree,” theologically, with either of them. But I have no reason to doubt that, like most pastors, they’re sincerely doing the best they can to share the good news of Jesus Christ with people who need to hear it.

By all means, we worship planners—especially those of us who are involved in something usually called “contemporary worship”—don’t want to pander. We don’t want to chase after a demographic. The questions we need to ask are the following: “Are we being faithful to the gospel in the messages that we communicate? Are we leading worship with integrity? Do we really mean the words that we say and sing and pray?” If we answer these questions “yes,” what does it matter what style or form worship takes?

As someone with otherwise strong opinions about liturgy and tradition, I’m almost surprised to read that last sentence, but that’s what I believe! After all, regardless of our best and most thoughtful worship planning, the Holy Spirit enables true worship and makes it effective. It’s not ultimately up to us. Didn’t Paul say something about that? “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6).

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