I often don’t feel cool enough to go to some churches.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had this experience – and it’s possible you’ve not, either because you’re not interested, or because you’re better dressed and better looking than I am, but occasionally, when I’ve visited a church, especially when it’s a hip, new, fast growing church, I immediately feel out of place. Everyone dresses better than I do, is in better shape than I am, has better style hair, better grooming, and is, in short, to all appearances, more put together than I can be on my best day.
The worship is always shockingly competent. The videos put most production companies to shame, the band somehow takes really trite three chord praise songs with lousy lyrics and makes them sound awesome (while looking like they really love doing it),and the preacher is either really a) funny b) hip c) earnest in a way that connects with the audience.
And I think – damn, I’m not cool enough to be here.
It’s a good thing I don’t belong to a cool church.
We were having our monthly worship gathering a few weeks ago in a our friend’s backyard a month ago, when I looked around at the people.
Most of us had left the slim section of the clothing store years ago.
None of us, (okay, maybe just one or two of us,) would look particularly at home at the Gap or Abercrombie and Fitch.
Our one child, who happens to be autistic, happily ran around during the entire service, upending my friend’s front lawn, as we took turns chasing after him.
Some of us stutter.
Many of us talk with Mass accents so broad that you could drive a mac truck through them.
Some of us are scarred, from bad luck, or violence, or self-violence.
Many of us can’t carry a tune in the bucket.
Some of us struggle with addiction.
Some of us obviously need to see a dentist.
Put us all together, it’s very clear that we are not a cool community.
There are days that I wish we were cooler – that we were younger, hipper, richer, but I’ve come to realize that it’s not us. And, I’ve decided, I’m glad about it. For, although I realize that many cool, hip, happening churches are doing great work, and I realize that my feeling out of place perhaps has more to do with my own insecurity than it does with them, I can’t shake the feeling Jesus and his crowd weren’t cool either.
After all, that first community was really just a bunch of disreputable, morally questionable, socially unacceptable outcasts following around a day-laborer turned homeless itinerant teacher: definitely not the group of people you’d put on a flyer or a billboard. I’d expect they were also, taken as a group, rather grubby, somewhat profane, rather awkward, and, generally speaking, not the type of people you’d want to invite to your next party.
I think that’s good to keep in mind, in a culture that’s filled with small enclaves and microcultures, where it is now entirely possible to be with people who almost exactly like you. It’s easy to forget that we need each other: the have’s and the have not’s, people from all walks of life, from those who have the resources to shake the world, to those who should really get a parade if they manage to get out of bed and successfully tie their shoes in the morning.
We need each other, in all our glorious uncouth uncoolness.
And that way, I know there will be at least one church that I’m cool enough to be a part of, too.