Out of Context: Donald Miller

"The church has bought into this idea that if we make Jesus look cool, we win. But we're really trying to make ourselves look cool, not Jesus. We certainly need to repent of that."

-Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz and speaker at the 2006 Catalyst Conference

Taken from "Not Here to Make Jesus Cool" in the Summer 2006 issue of Leadership Journal. To see the quote IN context, you'll need to see the print version of Leadership. To subscribe, click on the cover of Leadership on this page.

September 28, 2006

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roger ferrell

September 28, 2006  9:39am

Interesting... So here's the problem with trying to make Jesus "cool": Cool in this context is defined by Dictionary.com as Slang. a. great; fine; excellent b. characterized by great facility; highly skilled or clever c. socially adept as in "It's not cool to arrive at a party too early." The first two are certainly descriptive of Jesus. He is excellent and is great and proved in his time on earth that he was more clever than the smartest religious leaders of his day. I would also say that his ability to create all things every made would mean he would qualify as highly skilled. The problem comes in the third definition of this slang word: socially adept. This in turn means that Jesus is either adapting to people's idea of what is socially worthy of promotion or imitation or that he is establishing new patterns of behavior which are embraced by others. Most of what we see in emerging churches today (Miller's audience) would lead us to believe that Jesus is adapting to current culture. What we need is churches who establish new ways of living for others to imitate. I guess theologians would say this is the difference between incarnational and transformational. And I acknowledge we need some of both - we are to be in the world, but not of it. But we are certainly not to imitate it but to lead them to imitate us Christ-followers. As Paul said, "be imitators of me as I am of Christ. And sometimes we do that. As a guitar player I think it is pretty neat that the cut or short capo (used to change the tuning of an acoustic guitar) was invented by Christian worship leaders and is now in demand all over the world by musicians of every creed (or none). And Christian music is the second-best selling music genre in the country. The church used to have the best architecture, music, art, education and ideas. And perhaps we are coming back to that. But being cool should not be our priority. Here is Philippians 4:8 in the New Living Translation - And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. If we do this, not only will we please the heart of God but we will be winsome to the world as well. Now that's cool.

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