The Cool Church meets in Tucson, Arizona. Really. Although their official name is Tucson Community Church, their approach to ministry inspired people to give it the new moniker—and Teaching Pastor David McAllister loves it.
McAllister’s welcome video gives the viewer a better idea of the “cool” mindset of the church. In the video, McAllister explains why they’re cool:
- He says, “We really believe that God is cool…and that people’s lives are changed when they apply his principles.”
- They’re one of the fastest growing churches in the country.
- They never pass an offering plate.
- They only sing music that they have written.
- Weekly worship services last only one hour.
To watch the video—and I recommend that you do—click here.
Strangely enough, the senior pastor talks about applying God’s principles three times in the welcome video, yet only mentions “Jesus” in passing once.
Is God cool? Do he need our help to make him more palatable to skeptics?
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INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Job 34:1-36:33. Elihu’s point is that since God is just (34:10), any criticism by Job of what God does or fails to do is unjust. His address is a little harsh considering Job’s suffering, but his point is well taken. God can only do what is just (34:10-12), even in the face of pain. For this reason, Elihu says, Job’s demand for vindication is sin because it puts God in the wrong (34:37). Elihu strikes me as one of those people who is usually right, but their lack of compassion and arrogance (36:3!) make it hard to receive what they are saying. To Elihu, suffering is God’s discipline. When we stop sinning, then God will stop punishing us. Like Job’s friends, he fails to give God room to act beyond our understanding.
Psalm 44:1-8. Many scholars believe this psalm was composed for a national day of prayer.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
All too often I believe the lie that God needs my help. He needs me to help him look cool. Instead of focusing on Jesus, I focus on biblical principles of success, vague generalities concerning God, or applying Jesus’ moral teachings to our lives. But in the process I offer a palatable gospel that fails to insist that it is Jesus—and not his teachings—that saves us.
One of the most well-known pastors in America says that talking about Jesus “isn’t our ministry.” Instead, he feels called to teach people how to apply the teachings of the Bible so they can live a better life.
How would the apostle Paul respond to this? I think he would say, “HELL NO!”
Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 2 Corinthians 4:2
Here’s the Klassen paraphrase of Paul’s words: God doesn’t need our help to make him look good. We don’t need to ignore or alter truth in order to convince people to accept the gospel. All we need to do is present the truth plainly. “Setting forth the truth plainly” can also be translated “an open declaration of the truth.”
And what is the truth that should be set forth plainly?
But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:23–24
Did you catch that? Paul understood that the true gospel—which focuses on Christ crucified—might also be a stumbling block for people or perceived as foolishness.
How cool is that? Not very.
Preaching “Christ crucified” means stressing the importance that Jesus isn’t a principle to be applied. Jesus died on the cross for our sins because we can do nothing to save us. We can’t be good enough nor can we give enough to win his love and acceptance. We already have it—but we must accept his free gift in order to be saved. Reducing God to a principle demeans the gift that, although free, isn’t cheap.
By all means we should avoid sharing the gospel like Elihu, who addressed Job and beat him up in the process.
But the gospel is brimming with life. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
This gospel isn’t the caricature a cool God who offers us principles of success. That’s called deism. The gospel is the story of a loving God who sent his only son Jesus into the world to save us from ourselves and who gives us the Holy Spirit in order to help us live for him. Best of all, they invite us into a relationship with them.
Now that’s beyond cool. That’s the gospel!
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- Watch The Cool Church’s welcome video. What were your impressions? What do you think Paul would say about the video? What do you think Jesus would say?
- Describe the God of Elihu in comparison to Job and his friends.
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.