God Doesn’t Need You To “Hipsterfy” His Gospel

One of my super-cool Christian friends recently offered me some ministry advice: “I think you need to be a little more edgy in the way you communicate. I mean you want to reach our generation, don’t you? Your current writing style is not going to get you very far. I kind of stopped reading your stuff a while back because . . . well it’s boring, Matt. It’s just Bible, Bible, Bible. What if you just loosened it up a bit by throwing in a cuss word here and there?”

I wasn’t shocked. He wasn’t the first person to encourage me to be a bit more spunky in the way I write about the gospel, and he likely won’t be the last. I’ve been told my writing ministry would be so much more effective if I would loosen up a bit and inject more of my personality into my articles. Maybe I’m just in denial (like really, I might be) but I don’t think my writing style is all that stiff. Is my tone often serious? Sure. My conscience won’t let me write flippantly about the weightiest realities in the Universe! But that doesn’t mean I totally check my personality at the door. I may not crack a joke in every paragraph or slip in curse words between Bible verses, but I try to tastefully incorporate my humor into my writing when it’s fitting.

Why is it, though, that so many Christians (especially those on the younger side) feel like our presentation of the gospel should be saturated with personality and spunk? Why must our communication of biblical truth always be jam-packed with witty humor? Why do they moan and complain about a plain and clear delivery of the gospel, calling it boring and ineffective?

I don’t want to preside as judge over these folks, because I can’t know for certain what’s going on in their hearts. But I do think, based on what sometimes goes on in my heart, that part of the issue could be that their spiritual taste buds have grown dull. They may find biblical truth flavorless and feel like they have to season it up with fleshly spice to maintain their own interest and to attract the interest of others.

The majority of my friends who call me to a higher level of “cool communication” have been saturated in church culture their entire lives. They have been exposed to biblical truth on a daily basis since their birth into the Bible Belt. And though there are enormous blessings in being in such close proximity to the gospel for so long, there are also dangers—like allowing ourselves to become “too familiar” with it. Most of my super-hip Christian friends don’t read the Bible regularly. Why? They say they’ve already got it down. “I know what the Bible teaches, Matt. I’ve been in church my whole life,” they tell me—and I get what they’re saying. I’ve read the Bible cover to cover many times. I know what it teaches. However, it has been my personal experience that when I fail to intentionally set my mind with the awesome realities communicated in the Scriptures, my heart quickly becomes dull to their awesomeness.

When I don’t regularly open the Bible and gaze into the reality it illustrates, my ability to see and be moved by the beauty of God weakens. My heart is no longer stirred by great, eternal truths. I no longer find myself in awe of the gospel, and when I hear it communicated plainly and clearly—well, it bores me. If this is what happens to me after just a week or two of not zeroing my mind in on the Word, how much worse must be the condition of those who have gone years without regularly doing so? What might happen if these believers realized they needed to be reminded daily of the things they already know to be true? What might happen if they regularly meditated on the Word again and allowed the Holy Spirit to refresh their vision of Jesus?

They would see the beauty of God in the gospel and no longer feel a constant need to supplement it with fleshly “coolness”—that’s what would happen.

I’m not at all trying to say that being funny and being innovative are bad things that should have no place in our presentation of the biblical truth. Some people are naturally “cool”—as currently defined by our culture—and I don’t think those people need to shut down their personality in order to effectively minister the gospel! All I’m saying is that no one will be saved or built up in the faith by seeing the glory of our big personalities. They need to see the glory of Jesus in the gospel. And it’s our job to clearly present the gospel to them over and over again until God “shines in their hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 4:6.

  • William Okc

    Amen! – and great picture by the way 🙂

  • beckyblanton

    WE’RE not the ones who speak to the hearts of the unsaved – the Holy Spirit is. You’re right. God doesn’t need us to spice up His words. When you have a hole in your heart that you can’t fill, you know it. You don’t need persuading, and if you do, that’s the Holy Spirit’s job, not ours. Great post and don’t sweat the criticism of those who think God can’t do it without us. They’re wrong. We can’t do anything without God. I swear, but I’m trying to stop. I’m not perfect, but I’m a work in progress. I only hope that people see how much I LOVE God, not that I’m not what they think I need to be. We’re forgiven, not perfect and those are the people God has always called upon to share the gospel – not the cool, the hip or the trendy.

  • Sally

    Wonderful post. Joshua 1:8 came to mind: This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

    I have gone long stretches neglecting the word and it’s like starving the relationship. You fall away from your first love. You grow cold and weak. It’s horrible.

  • Paul Moore

    Great post. 1St. We are called to die to our flesh, so if u feel the need to add any kind of flesh tones when talking bout jesus, well your in the flesh and not being led by the spirit, 2 nd, the bible says to study to show yourself approved, this reqires you to read your mind, 3rd how you gonna transform yourself to the likeness of christ and renew your mind without reading your bible ?, matt your blog is awesome, and effective, and def !!! Ministering to many people, dont listen to your friends, thier not responsible for your salvation – you are, God bless u my brother

  • Andrea

    Very timely post! The Word is the most relevant book in the world today…it needs no help! Thank you again for a great article!

  • Lyle Nelson

    In 1 Corinthians 9:22, Paul talks about being all things to all people in order to save some (paraphrase). That means to try to appeal to as many people as possible, without stepping over the lines of godly speech or behavior in doing so or distorting the integrity of the Gospel message. How do we save people without a clear, accurate and compelling emphasis on the Gospel, again and again, but without getting sidetracked onto irreverent or frivolous topics that are not glorifying to God? We are not to focus on just one audience, simply because everyone needs to hear the life-giving Gospel message, and certainly use of the Internet gives you the opportunity to reach out to anyone who will listen (or click!). The object is NOT to simply tickle people’s ears with something that will entertain them, even though it doesn’t impart God’s truth. That kind of message is not going to save them. Your writing style is such that it doesn’t offend anyone, possibly with the exception of people who need to be offended in order for them to do what’s necessary to obtain salvation. There’s enough humor to attract the younger crowd (if there’s any doubt about that, just look at the picture! LOL), yet not so much as to make your posts look like comedy sketches!

  • Alan Gingery

    There is nothing wrong with making the gospel relevant to our times–addressing real issues and using contemporary styles (like music) to make it attractive to both believers and unbelievers in the current generation. The big key is that we stay true to the truth in God’s word. It is timeless and it is still absolute. It is not relative and it does not change or evolve. If we don’t stay in God’s word continually, then the “voices” we listen to for our values will likely reflect the world’s values, not God’s values…

    I know too many “modern Christians” who have accepted “politically correct” views propagated by our culture and show little concern that that these views contradict the Bible. IS THE BIBLE GOD’S WORD OR NOT? Rejecting God’s Word is shaky ground to base your faith on.

    There is a choice to make and as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

  • Don’t you change one thing, little brother. Paul said that he didn’t come using enticing words of man’s wisdom but in power and demonstration of the Spirit. People are carnalizing their walk with Jesus right down to the level of having zero impact. Compromise is like someone holding the valve open on a tire and letting the air seep right out. Continue to walk in holiness before the Lord and you will reach exactly those you were meant to reach. BTW, I think your teachings ARE full of personality and spunk without having to get racy or naughty to garner acceptance. You are wonderful, hilarious at times, and always conscientious that you are not your own but bought with a price. Ignore anyone who tells you any different…being a powerless Christian is like saying it’s ok to drive on that flat tire.💜

  • Catie

    Don’t change! 🙂

  • Jon Evan

    It’s the season of the jocular preacher. Laugh, laugh with funny sermons is in vogue today. People want to be entertained: they get it at home on the televisions and so want it in church. There is a time to laugh and a time to refrain from laughter. I think sermons are a time to refrain from laughing! Keep up your good work :).

  • Marie

    I think you are right. I often feel the same way as you. I feel like you are always writing with a love that can only come from the Lord. Your words are full of truth and love. I agree–don’t change!

  • Jane O.

    Please continue to let the Holy Spirit do His amazing work through You just like you are doing! Don’t change! I do have a serious question that I wish someone could answer for me — why do Christians feel the need to ever say a cuss word? This question is not about what is “right” or “wrong” but why? No judging here, I just need to understand so I can better counsel others.

  • Alan

    “Most of my super-hip Christian friends don’t read the Bible regularly. Why? They say they’ve already got it down. “I know what the Bible teaches, Matt. I’ve been in church my whole life,”

    Being bored or uninterested in reading the Bible is a marker for me that my heart is not right with God, same thing with prayer. The word of God isn’t just the book, it is the Spirit speaking thru the words of the book, it’s what’s living and active that’s heard that works in our spirit. It’s the livingness of the word that’s always fresh and new and vital. Apart from what’s living being present, it will not matter how entertaining or cool we make it. Those efforts may appeal to the soul and grab your interest for a time, but are powerless to penetrate to the dividing of soul and spirit.

    I think everyone’s looking for the reality of God be it entering in prayer, or thru his word, or inhabitating our praises, or seen and heard in those who are authentic and true. I think questions of style and presentation follow and actually mean very little. Dressing up the truth usually obscures it. The reality of God being present answers all questions of relevance. For what it’s worth, the truth that comes thru what you write awakens and encourages and produces hope.

  • I only read this because it was tweeted by the Christian Post. Otherwise I have no idea who you are.

    You don’t need to be edgy. But a hint of originality wouldn’t hurt. It’s the same rehashed complaint that you’re not the problem. “They” are.

    You can only minister to those that listen to you. And what the people around you are telling you in the softest way possible is that they are tuning you out.

    Are you sure you’re wanting people to see “the glory of Jesus in the gospel”? Or are you wanting them to see the glory of Jesus in your style (or lack thereof)?

  • Paul Chastain

    The gospel is an offense to the world, as are the true christians. To hipsterize Jesus, the Word, the truth would be to deny the power thereof as well as the truth of the gospel.
    End of story.

  • Chris H. Borei

    While I think that the suggestion of “cussing” in a spiritual discussion is completely uncalled for, I think there is a Biblical example for tailoring our Gospel presentations some to our specific audiences……that Biblical example is Jesus himself. Look at how he spoke to the disciples versus how he spoke to the Pharasis and Sadduces, versus how he spoke to other individuals during his ministry. While his message never changed, his presentation of that message did change. I think you can also see the same thing in Paul’s writings and dealings with others. He tailors his presentation or his words to the specific audience he is speaking to.

    I do understand the dangers of watering down the Gospel or presenting things (like cussing) that go against the Word, but changing, updating or adjusting your style of Gospel presentation is a concept that, from what I have seen, is firmly rooted in God’s Word itself. Thank you for allowing me t voice my thoughts.