I wanna go to an un-cool church


“We want our own thing. We crave the experiences we define as essential. We want them in the form and fashion that we denote as “high quality,” when and where we want them. I’ve observed that this is not only the mindset of the people we’re trying to reach, but it is often our “ministry” mindset as well. Why would anyone want to go to an old, boring, traditional church or ministry and be forced to deal with all the crap I don’t enjoy instead of having continual excitement and gratification in a cooler setting?”

This quote and the article it came from, “Craving Cool”, got me thinking about the things that make a church ‘uncool’. And unlike a lot of my generation seeking ‘cool’ church, I kind of want ‘un-cool’ church life.  I want to go to church and do boring, uncomfortable things. I want to do things I don’t particularly like doing. I intentionally do not want the things that the bread and circus crowds desire at the local big, sleek and shiny new ‘cool’ churches entertainment complexes.Instead I want to gather with the followers of Christ where uncool things like the following occur:

  • The music is amateurish and the singing of all can be heard
  • Babies and toddlers are present and disruptive
  • One can make eye contact with the pastor, preachers, teachers and others during a service
  • Drum solos, stage lights, guitar riffs and moody fog never takes center stage.
  • Those with mental disabilities are welcome and can disrupt at will
  • The older generation and their needs and preferences are honored and incorporated
  • Drinks and food are shared, not bought from the ‘cafe’
  • There are no ‘celebrity’ pastors or musicians
  • Uncomfortable things happen and my comfort zone is shaken

I wanna go to church and do old fashioned things like:

  • Sing from a hymn book
  • Kneel on the floor
  • Hear an organ playing a prelude
  • Sit in a pew before church starts and hear serene music and hushed conversation
  • Dress up for services as an expression of reverence and awe
  • Hear prayers, readings, and poems from ancient books
  • wash feet at Communion time
  • be challenged and convicted, be troubled and mind-boggled by the deep complex way of Jehovah and His Words/Ways

I want to gather with believers and be asked to do things that I feel are uncomfortable:

  • pray out-loud or speak publicly 
  • sit through someone’s long, overly dramatized testimony or prayer request
  • hear claims, propositions and ideas I disagree with
  • serve in an area I’m not gifted in because there’s nobody else to do it
  • be alone in a particular belief or conviction

I want to meet with followers of Jesus and do un-relevent things I might not be doing much of during a normal american work week – like:

  • Share communal meals together
  • Be quieter, more peaceful and less stressed
  • Hear real life happenings, prayers and praises from many – not just from the m.c, preacher or band leader
  • See and hear things that don’t come from an electronic device

These are some things I’m blessed to experience now, but I know there is more un-cool things that God wants for His people as they gather locally. As I consider modern church life and the churches I’ve come from and been to, the more appreciative I am of those churches and denominations who are going against the grain of trendy, seeker-friendly, church-growth oriented contemporary church life. Many of the Orthodox and Catholic churches with their rituals and reverence have my respect for being ‘uncool’. Old Order Mennonite, Amish and Hutterite churches with their austerity and separatism are extremely ‘uncool’, but their open repudiation of american self-gratifying church life is admirable. Some quaint mainline Protestant churches continue to endure despite being abandoned by cool-seekers and the reverent space they create in the midst of this world’s rat-race is worthy of praise. Other plain Mennonite, Beachy/Amish groups and churches with their ‘un-cool’ dress-codes and church accountability dramatically counter the selfish don’t-tread-on-me attitudes and lifestyle that characterizes the ‘churched’ and the un-churched alike. Some New Monastic, Neo-Anabaptist, and emergent communities with their simple living, close quarters, hang’in with hoodlums and risky radicalism resist conforming to trendy churchianty.

Despite appearances, I believe the world does long for something transcendent and not-of-this-world. And although many american churches seem to ignore those deeper longings, and act and build their programs and institutions to pander to the shallower, rock’n roll/Jumbotron wants of the masses… there are still churches where you can go and get away from the rat-race of everyday worldliness.  I hope and pray I can do more to build the “un-cool” church that will glorify God and His ways and put off the old man and his self-centered, self-pleasing ways.

(Image done with old, very unpredictable Wacom tablet)

About Andrew Zook

Artist dad husband writer progressive post-evangelical emergent Anabaptist graphic designer web designer reader video editor
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