I attended a conference this week – more on that in a few weeks. One of the speakers was Earl Creps, author and pastor. Creps led the conference in a liturgy of confession: “I am not cool. I don’t get it. I’m not relevant.”
Confession is good for the soul. I looked around the room and had to admit that it’s true. I didn’t see too many cool or relevant people. I’m certainly not one of them.
It’s tempting to want to fix this. I get a magazine for pastors – I won’t mention names but it’s probably not the one you’re thinking of – that is all about chasing what’s cool and relevant. We scour magazines and books and attend conferences in pursuit of the cool factor. It doesn’t work. People trying to be cool just aren’t cool.
There’s another group of people I find myself increasingly drawn towards. They don’t even try to be cool, and they’re not. The trends they follow are centuries old. They read old stuff by dead guys and talk about concepts from dusty theology books. The funny thing is that they end up being more relevant than the next new thing.
Henri Nouwen wrote:
Too often I looked at being relevant, popular, and powerful as ingredients of an effective ministry. The truth, however, is that these are not vocations but temptations. Jesus asks, “Do you love me?” Jesus sends us out to be shepherds, and Jesus promises a life in which we increasingly have to stretch out our hands and be led to places where we would rather not go. He asks us to move from a concern for relevance to a life of prayer, from worries about popularity to communal and mutual ministry, and from a leadership built on power to a leadership in which we critically discern where God is leading us and our people. (In the Name of Jesus)
It may be that I’m just getting crusty, but it’s time to stop chasing what’s coming next and to rediscover the relevance of what’s not seen as relevant. It’s time to make room for the uncool in our lives and ministries.