A few years ago, I repented of my attempts to be cool.
At that time, I’d led Good Shepherd to have a “church crush” on a large congregation in the northern part of the U.S., and so for a season we tried to mimic much of what that church did.
And that church was cool.
The problem was, in our attempts to be cool, we often overlooked the raw power of the gospel. In our efforts to mimic someone else, we forgot how God had implanted us with a once-in-the-universe congregational DNA and we’d never live up to our potential if we were trying to live into someone else’s.
So around 2011 or so, I repented of my own foolishness, got armed with a marvelous mission statement of inviting all people into a living relationship with Jesus Christ, and our church recovered who we really were. And are. Which trends more towards bold than cool, more to emphatic than clever.
What are the benefits of such a shift? Here are five:
- More people get saved. Sound too Baptist? Good. More Methodists should sound more Baptist when it comes to an urgent concern for the salvation of people’s souls. We realized that relatively few people are “clevered” into the Kingdom; instead, they are invited. Which we do, repeatedly. Even on Easter Sunday.
- Creativity gets loaded into the sermon. We used to believe we had to have a creative element (drama, video or radio-friendly secular song) to augment the sermon. But once we stopped having those “how can this series be cool?” meetings, we stopped forcing elements where they didn’t belong. And, serendipitously, we create more of it organically, as a part of the sermon itself, and people respond accordingly.
- We capitalize on our unique strengths. Praying in tongues and praying for healing smack more of old fashioned Pentecostalism than they do of modern megachurches. Yet we have plenty of people who do both at Good Shepherd. And so we now highlight our desire to be “awake to the Holy Spirit” as a core part of our identity.
- We’re not as vulnerable to current trends and fads. When you know who you are — we’re the full-color church who is inviting all people into a living relationship with Jesus Christ — then you’re much less likely to buy the next product, hire the newest speaker or enter into the hottest church network. With identity comes consistency.
- I do less self-editing and more Scripture proclamation. Like I said in the “It Is Finished” sermon from the “Finished Business” series, I’d love to offend folks right into the arms of the King and the gates of the Kingdom.
Talbot Davis is pastor of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina and the author of Crash Test Dummies, Solve, Head Scratchers: When the Words of Jesus Don't Make Sense, The Storm Before the Calm and The Shadow of a Doubt, all from Abingdon Press.