Cool is out. Warm is in. This is not a statement regarding weather patterns on the Great Lakes or temperatures in the sanctuary. This isn’t a new farmer’s almanac proclamation or a slogan from a HVAC seminar, instead this cool/warm discussion is regarding churches and reaching people for Jesus.
“Cool” churches in the not too distant past meant worship services filled with smoke, lights, a wood pallet background, skinny jean wearing worship leaders and a pastor with earrings and tattoos. These fad-based churches generally had a cool name that sounded more like a geological formation or a city park than a church. But like a Detroit Lions’ winning streak, cool churches don’t last. The fad fades.
I’ll take warm instead.
In a moment of full disclosure, as if there has ever been any doubt, I’ve never been cool. Back in the day, when I was able to fit into skinny jeans, skinny jeans weren’t cool. Bell Bottoms were in style way back then (think: the exact opposite of skinny jeans). In my high school senior picture (see photo) that handsome devil weighed 95 pounds, wore a handmade by my mom green suit and had an afro. You can’t be more uncool than a Q-tipped shaped leprechaun. But I digress, this isn’t about my uncoolness, it’s about churches and reaching people for Jesus.
Warm churches are warm not because of the temperature, like when someone recently flipped off our air conditioning in the sanctuary on a Sunday morning. “Warm” doesn’t mean stuffy and stifling. Warm churches are genuine, authentic and real. Warm churches love one another even if their parishioners (an uncool description of people who come to church) aren’t cool and don’t drive a Prius with a peace sign bumper sticker. Warm churches love Jesus and love their neighbors. Warm churches aren’t judgmental but still preach the truth. Even when the truth hurts, the folks gathered know that they are loved unconditionally and intentionally. When someone messes up in a warm church, they aren’t tossed to the side of the road like a worn-out sofa, but are loved even more. Who needs more love than someone who has recently failed, sinned or messed up? Warm churches do their best to eliminate labels and recognize that everyone can have a place around God’s table even the uncool, the unkempt, unhappy and unappreciated.
No church where I preach on a regular basis will ever have the baggage of being labelled “cool” (I have no earrings or tattoos, and trust me when I say no one wants to see me in skinny jeans). Still I hope the church that calls me “pastor” is warm and getting warmer. In a day when people are becoming more and more isolated, more and more lonely and more and more depressed, I am convinced that people are looking for warm not cool. Folks would rather know they are loved, than whether there’s a fog machine and a wood pallet stage design. Cool is out. Warm is in.