Jack Black Evangelism

I think the emerging church should disappear and then emerge again – as something entirely different.  I think it should do that every five years, in that emerging church spirit of always wanting something new and hip.  I think it should emerge with great fanfare, set to music, preferably with people dancing and looking deeply spiritual and yet somehow extremely sexual at the same time.  And of course it should do all of this in the name of authenticity and keeping it real.

And naturally each new emerging should be recorded and broadcast to “non-emergent” churches everywhere to help the rest of us emerge.  There should be instructions for exactly how to emerge — words to say, words to avoid, directions on taking over other “less successful” churches in the area to start “satellite” churches, marketing, the whole spiel.  Asking price should be no less than $80.00 per packet.

This would be good.  After all, the biggest problem in the church, surely, is that we are not hip enough, right?  My senior year of high school each of us seniors got to leave a parting quote, or life plan, for the underclassmen, and those words were bound in a book and distributed.  Mine says something about “joining a band and teaching this world what Jesus rock and roll is all about.”  Great.  Jack Black evangelism.  “Come to Jesus, man, and see how he will rock you and totally melt your face off.”

I never did join that band and show the world what Jesus rock and roll is all about.  (They still don’t get it, and I’m not sure why they should.)  The truth is, I grew up.  I quit thinking that what God really needs is someone to make the message cooler.  This is not to disparage artists who are trying to do quality art and who cannot authentically do that without mentioning God. I’m referring to that mindset I used to have, that what we really need to do is get more people to think this whole God-thing is cool. Sometimes I wonder if the emerging church is full of people who want, more than anything, to show the world how cool Christians can be.  But Christianity, dressed up in cool clothes, is no longer Christianity but something completely different.  Is the emerging church led by X-gens and Bridgers who never grew up?  By people who want to be pastors and teachers and leaders, but not at the expense of being considered the cool kid?

I’m not questioning anyone’s sincerity or commitment.  I’m just saying that when we watch Jack Black in movies, we laugh at his desperate, twitchy, lunging and cavorting around, his over-the-top descriptions of rock and roll, and his bombastic showmanship.  We laugh for one simple reason: it’s funny.

I don’t think it’s funny at all in the church, but I certainly don’t think it should be taken seriously either.  “Come to our church.  You’ll love it.  We have a rock band, we wear jeans, we show videos, we even have a dance team.  In fact, when you come to our church you won’t even know you’re in church!!”

As for me, I set aside those ridiculous plans to rock the world for Jesus and melt the faces of the faithful.  I set them aside because at some point it dawned on me that Jesus already did it.  The world has done been rocked, and the world (at least the Western world) still bears his imprint today.  Somehow we who are trying to still hear his message have to hear it with fresh ears and then convey it in fresh ways — not in ways that rock, but in ways that will show how much that message rocks, and will rock, anyone who takes it seriously.  Somewhere between the fundy “accept Jesus as your personal Savior and you’ll go to heaven and avoid hell” message and the cozy middle-American “Come and take what you like and discard the rest” is a message that is sure to go totally beyond our simple theological formulas and institutional pictures of Jesus, and to threaten all who are bent on coolness and comfort.

I said “somewhere.”  I’m not positive exactly where, but somewhere.  After 2000 years the world still doesn’t know what to do with Jesus, so I’ll stake my claim somewhere in that territory — still figuring out what to do with him.  But I’ve at least grown up enough to know I don’t need to try to make him look cool.  The desperate attempts being made to do that in the emerging church say a lot more about us than they do about God.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. A request for me to defend some of my comments does not obligate me to do so.

  • Matt

    Interestingly, this only applies to perhaps half of the emerging church movement: the new adopters of the language. The peopl who want to make the church cool are simply evolved, hyper-WillowCreekers. Once they transformed their churches into places attractive to the middle class, they realized they left out a few demographics and have expanded their reach and labeled it emergent.

    The emergent people I’ve grown fond of are those who started out ten, fifteen years ago saying exactly what you write, “But Christianity, dressed up in cool clothes, is no longer Christianity but something completely different.” They’ve always rejected the quasi-sexual look, the goatees, the overly gelled quaf.

    In fact, many of these folks have turned the other way, looking back over 2,000 years of Christian tradition, embracing forms of worship that have been part of the church’s life for centuries. (And not necessarily limited to what you find in Acts, but within the wider Christian experience.)

    Great post. I am a little curious how this applies to Wildwind. Our experience there several years ago, and the reason we didn’t stay, was exactly what you’re writing about. “Hey we’re so cool, Christians can even get tattoos here!” “Look, you can drink coffee in the gym during worship. Jesus is cool with Starbucks!” Has the church changed in some way?

    • Neither getting tattoos, nor drinking coffee (in a gym or any other location) — in my mind — has anything to do with anything. I had always wanted a tattoo and so had a few others, so we got together and went out and got them. It had nothing to do with relevance or lack of relevance, with attracting or not attracting people, or any other kind of self-consciousness. To me it was exactly the opposite of what you write. You perceived it as us doing it because it had some kind of subtext, some kind of message, or that it was some kind of method, or that somehow it said something that mattered. To me it didn’t, and simply doesn’t.

      When Wildwind started we were excited about our new-found freedom to worship in ways that connected with us, and to be free of restrictions that we always felt were simply unimportant. We occasionally celebrated that, but I have spoken from the front again and again that this whole venture, for us, has never been about those things. Whatever we do — whatever any church does — people will make of it whatever they will. Which of course is exactly what I’m doing in my Jack Black post. Thus I cannot disagree with your perceptions as they cannot be considered right or wrong. I can only say, and it is sufficient to say, that that is not where we have come from. Scratch that. I can only speak for myself. That’s not where I have come from.

      Thanks for reading and for your thoughtful contribution to my post.

      • Matt

        Tattoos themselves are quite irrelevant. So is coffee in church. But I’ve found that many churches over the past decade have not tossed aside the rulebook; they’ve just written new rules. For example our former church was so into “making everyone comfortable” that older couples who came wearing suits and dresses felt out of place. Unable to feel comfortable in jeans themselves, they simply didn’t return.

        I only mentioned the tattoo thing was because it was used as some sort of evangelistic gimmick. It was at one of your church fairs that my sister got her “tramp stamp” (as her bar friends so lovingly call it).

    • I left off something in my last response that is important. Yes, Wildwind has changed. Deeply so.
      A post like Jack Black Evangelism could have only been possible in light of that reality.

      From a sermon I did two weeks ago…

      I’ve been around 15 years – I know the religious gimmicks and games that will build mega-churches. I know how to do slick marketing and I know all the lingo that is used by pastors who are trying to sound cutting edge. But never have I ever cared about Wildwind being cutting edge, and if there’s any one gigantic misperception about us, that is it. We were not started to be a church that is hip, or cool, or relevant, or emergent, or any of that junk. Wildwind started because God is alive in you and in me, and in this world, and moving in all people and all places, and there are people who don’t know it and there are people who will come here and let us tell them who might not go anyplace else, not because we’re cool or hip or modern or contemporary or relevant or any of that business, but because we have always taken seriously the call to love people – messed up, broken, imperfect, suffering, hurting people, people who have bad habits, people who swear and drink and sometimes don’t stay out of beds they shouldn’t be in – people who struggle with pornography, people who are convinced God only loves them when they measure up (and who of course feel they almost never measure up), people who don’t know if they’re gay or straight, people who know they’re gay, people who are not gay but are so broken sexually that they wouldn’t know love if it sat on their lap – people who simply don’t realize that God, who IS love, has not only sat on their lap but knows them in their deepest selves, warts and all, flaws and all, mistakes and all, and loves them anyway, without condition, without merit, without confession of some creed, without playing by my religious rules, or Super Dan’s religious rules – people who simply do not realize that God’s love for them surpasses our reasoning, our understanding, and way before it has surpassed our understanding, it has gotten out of our comfort zone. People who have so bought into their own personal mythologies that they don’t even know who they are anymore. People who simply do not know this one simple truth:

      2 Corinthians 5:20 (MSG)
      20 …Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.

      What Wildwind has always done, and what we do better than any other church I’ve ever known, is assure people that God is already their friend – they may not know God, but God knows them. They may not love God, but God loves them. They may think their guilt is God, but it’s not . They may think their harshness with themselves is God, but it’s not. They may think their perfectionism is God, but it’s not. They may think their strength is God, but it’s not. They may think their obsessive need to root every single sin and vice out of their lives is God, but it’s not. They may think their independence – their not needing anybody – their going it alone – is God, but it’s not.
      This is what Wildwind is about. We’re about saying, “God is closer to you than you know – closer than your own breath, and your own heartbeat.”

      • Matt

        I really appreciate your reply, by the way. I realize my post could be read with a critical tone. I didn’t mean it that way. Just trying to be straight forward, and too impatient to soften it all up.

        This really helps me see where the church is.

        • I thought you were straightforward without being mean-spirited. Your question made me think for a while.

  • Jesus will melt your face off…good one…I have to tell you…you have made a difference in many lives with what Jesus is doing through you at our church…you play a pretty mean guitar too…that aside, your teaching and guidance on how to live with, for and like Jesus and how to seek face and follow the truth is uncomparable to anything I’ve been taught during my whole “christian” life…I enjoy how I can totally apply every message to my life..making changes in me and having a more God shaped heart…I have gone to church for over 34 years and have grown more in my 2.5 years at Wildwind than anywhere else….you teach the truth…it’s not fancy…it’s not hellfire and brimstone…it’s the love of God and it is so COOL!!

    • Thank you, Holly. I appreciate your encouragement.

  • scott christensen

    Does everything we do these days have to be cool? Can’t some things just be? Do we not loose important details in the stage lights, get distracted from the glitz of fanfare, pomp and circumstance? What will happen to us, when we are bored of all that we do just to garner our attention to an event that needs not more than just a simple frame to outline the bigger picture? Will we lose the message altogether, because we didn’t notice it. Because there was no light show to show us the way? We apparently need an increasing amount of stimulus to hold our attention instead of having our attention focused on the value of the event.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Scott. Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire under Constantine in the fourth century. Soon a group of people began to grow disillusioned with how “pop” and watered down the church was becoming under the protection of Rome, and they fled into the desert to pursue holiness. They became known as “the desert fathers” (there were also desert mothers, btw) and they gave us some of Christianity’s greatest teachings about the soul. One thing they taught is that the continual need for new things is a reflection of a distracted and fragmented soul. Most of life is mundane, so unless we can learn to be content with the mundane, we will never be content. Instead we will spend our lives running around seeking new events, new relationships, and new experiences (which is precisely what most people in fact do). Rather than living from a place of deep spiritual peace and contentment, we will live off adrenaline and will spend our lives seeking whatever will bring us that rush.

      When the church slips into constant “look at us!” tactics, and seeks to titillate and entertain, we actually do great violence to the souls of those who come to us seeking help.

      Thanks for your great comments.

  • Dave I love this post so much. Melting faces for Jesus has got to be the funniest blog statement ever!

    I like how you are capable of recognizing many of the deepest problems within the Church today.