I’ve heard it many times, “a pastor shouldn’t try to be cool.” And I certainly agree, for there is nothing more “uncool” than a man attempting to be cool. But what about those who are naturally gifted in the realm of coolness? What if you are genetically conditioned to have great hair? What if you naturally exude style and cutting edge fashion? Should a man’s superhero jawline, name-brand sunglasses, and winning sense of humor be held against him? I’m asking for a friend. 🙂
Here is the reality – being cool is not the goal – approachability is.
I’m speaking to young men in ministry who often get the two confused and may need to focus on one rather than the other.
Being Approachable is Being Like Jesus
Luke 18:15 -16 And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me.
The difference between Jesus and the other religious leaders of the day is that Jesus didn’t set himself apart from the people but set himself as part of the people. While the typical fisherman, tax collector, prostitute, or centurion would have felt extremely uncomfortable around a Pharisee – they felt completely at ease in the presence of Jesus. Did Jesus try to be cool? NO! But Jesus did try to be approachable. He became a normal man who was raised in a normal home who had a normal job.
II Corinthians 8:9 For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.
A pastor should do whatever it takes to relate to the people with whom he is ministering. This is a philosophical choice – one the Pharisees rejected – one that Jesus embraced.
Being Approachable is Determined by Context
If 90% of your community loves NASCAR then you’d better know who Dale Earnhardt was. You might even want to put a #3 window decal on you F-150. In certain parts of the country it’ll make you “cool” or approachable. If 80% of your community goes hunting every season then you’d better hit the shooting range a few times per month. In a certain town or county getting a few guns and learning how to shoot might make the difference between a successful pastorate and a failed one. Paul knew this principle:
I Corinthians 9:20-23 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law… To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake.
This is why it is so foolish for a young minister to dress like Justin Bieber while pastoring a church in Montana or dress in overalls and a straw hat while attempting to reach the people of Miami. You should know the culture of your mission field and contextualize your dress, speech, hobbies, diet, sports teams, and even speaking style to help people understand the message of the Gospel.
A missionary truly does attempt to “fit in” as much as possible so that he/she can be accepted by the people as one of the tribe. From the position of tribal acceptance the missionary can then share the unchanging truths of the Gospel.
Being Approachable is Evangelistic
Mark 2:15-17 And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
I love this passage. Do you see how much the average person liked being around Jesus? The newly saved Matthew threw a party and invited Jesus to attend. The place was packed out with average Joes and everyday Janes. People flocked to Jesus everywhere he went because He was kind, gentle, and relatable. On the other end of the spectrum we see the Pharisees who were mean, arrogant, and judgmental. The Pharisees debated the finer points of the law, compared endless genealogies, and rubbed shoulders with political leaders. Jesus spoke to farmers about different types of soil, to shepherds about looking for lost sheep, and to fishermen about the catch of the day.
The Bible says that we are to be peculiar people (1 Peter 2:9). But this doesn’t mean we are to be strange, weird, or uncool. Do you know what is truly peculiar? A religious leader who can relate to the common man, this is truly an anomaly. A man of God who steps away from his dusty library and goes to a ballgame with his community, this is beautifully unique. A preacher who is as comfortable talking about comic-book movies as he is talking about eschatological timelines, this is wonderfully strange. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Pharisee that could relate to the average Israeli as well as the carpenter of Nazareth.
I get it. There’s nothing worse than watching someone strive desperately to be cool when coolness is often shallow, phony, and a moving target. So, instead of cool, let’s just shoot for real, genuine, accepting, relaxed, and relatable. For if people find that we are relatable they will also see us as approachable. And when they approach us to talk about football, star wars, children, pets, politics, hunting, or their favorite restaurant – we will be able to deftly pivot the conversation to the Kingdom of Christ and hope of the Gospel. And that will be pretty cool.
What are your thoughts? Where am I going wrong? Where do you agree? What have I missed? Please comment in the thread below and I will attempt to answer each.
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Josue OrtizJuly 19, 2017 at 10:32 pm
Thank you for this post! I understand what you are talking about. It’s great that you would approach this topic. I would’ve liked a little more definitions though. For instance, what do you mean by “What if you naturally exude style and cutting edge fashion?” It could mean that someone looks great when dressing like Steve Furtick every Sunday, or it could also mean that someone looks assume wearing the latest slim fit suit from Hugo Boss. I feel that it’s too broad to talk about fashion like that. Also, while it is certainly true that Jesus ate with “publicans and sinners,” I would be careful to say that his approachability was evangelistic in the sense you are trying to illustrate, since He did not change his hair style, dress fashion, or anything else for that matter to be able to “fit in.” If anything, that passage would show that pastors don’t need to “fit in” in their culture since the Gospel is what anyone, in any culture, at any place is the only thing they truly need. So, while Jesus was approachable, you also find Jesus utterly shattering the young man’s dreams to become his follower in Matt. 19. So, while he did eat with sinners and publicans, I believe that his seating with them speaks to His unquestioned obedience to the Father to fulfill His divine mission, rather than His evangelistic approach as a tool to fit in in that particular culture.
I know what you are talking about, I understand your point and I completely agree with you. However, at a moment when the Baptist Independent movement is going through such a definite transition, I think that clarity in Bible exposition will help young pastors a lot! As a missionary in Mexico City, I know that’s what we need. Thank you for your ministry.
Great to hear fresh posts! I’d love you talk to you personally sometime!
Josh TeisJuly 19, 2017 at 11:52 pm
To begin with, the comment about “exuding style” was simply a poor attempt at humor.
I’m n regards to jesus’ choice of clothing I would agree that jesus didn’t change his hairstyle & clothing choices based up wether he would be ministering in the Temple or going to a party at Matthews house. History tells us that men of his economical status would likely have only had one, or perhaps, two sets of clothing. However, I would say that Jesus did contextualize his dress to fit in. This is why he didn’t wear a sombrero, kilt, or 3-piece suit. Though Jesus is the God of all creation and over every time period, and he could have chosen clothing from any culture throughout human history, he decided to dress like a common carpenter from Galilee. This is the ultimate form of contextualization. He didn’t just put on clothes that would “fit in” he put on human flesh to “fit in” so that he could come a bring us the truth. It is the words of Christ that are counterculture, not his hairstyle or clothing. So that when the rich young ruler hears from jesus Tell him the opposite that any other religious ruler of the day would tell him, he is struck by the difference in His words rather than his wardrobe.
Hairstyles and clothing styles are subject to change based upon culture norms. And Christian pastors have always followed the example of Jesus by “fitting in” enough in the culture as to not diminish the message of the gospel by appearing so out of place. This is why a Christian pastor in Mexico may dress slightly different than a Christian pastor in India, the Philippines, or Washington DC. This, among other things, distinguish us from the legalistic, outward focused, Roman Catholic Church. Clothing issues are of far lesser importance to us for we are so focused on the beauty of the gospel.
Great thoughts Josue. Thanks for sharing. For those who aren’t familiar with the awesome ministry in Mexico City – check out what Josue and Rebekah are doing at http://www.bimi.org/missionaries/ortizJ.php
UkulelemikeJuly 20, 2017 at 10:11 pm
I suspect that we make some assumptions concerning Jesus’ economical status: He was a carpenter-a job that probably didn’t leave His family exactly poor, though certainly not rich. And we need to remember that the outfit Jesus wore, at least when He went to the cross, was very similar in design to what the High Priest wore: a garment made without seam, woven from the neck down-not a common outfit. Even the Roman guards recognized that fact, and gambled for it, rather than tearing it apart.
On the other hand, as you say, He surely fit into the culture to which He was called: the Jews; I have little doubt that what He wore was of very familiar style for the Jews, probably had even a fringe with a ribband of blue. So in this, I agree. And as a preacher who grew up in churches in San Diego and L.A. in suits and ties, I now minister in a very small agricultural community, where I now have a farm and raise goats and drive a 4×4 Suburban or a Jeep. Still wear a tie, though.
BrandonJuly 19, 2017 at 10:39 pm
Hey pastor good thoughts, but what about when paul talks about separation? Should we separate from sin? Or separate from trends? What are your thoughts? Another good thought i teach my kids is the thought about john the baptist… obviously he was not concerned about the fashion of his day, but i totally think u have a good view here!
Josh TeisJuly 19, 2017 at 11:30 pm
Separation from sin is a given. Separation from trends can get very tricky. Let’s talk about dress. Technically the modern suit and accompanying tie is a trend coming out of Europe in the early 19th century. Prior to this men would wear a long coat, petticoat, cravat, wig, and knee high breeches with pantyhose type stockings. Of course, prior to this many preachers would wear tunics and robes. So, to separate from clothing trends is literally impossible for all clothing has root in some trend.
It is true that John the Baptist cared little for the fashion of his day. But was he not the exception to the rule? The fact that his clothing choice was made much of in the Scripture leads us to beleive that he was unique in his clothing choices. This means the rest of the disciples kinda just fit in with their society. I agree that we should not be overly concerned with cool clothing, but we should neither be opposed to trends as if they were inherently evil. Great thought Brandon.
Josué OrtizJuly 20, 2017 at 12:55 am
Thank you Josh! So exciting to see what’s happening at Southern Hills!
Joshua HargisJuly 19, 2017 at 10:47 pm
JustinJuly 19, 2017 at 11:37 pm
Makes sense! Except…, Dale Earnhardt drove a chevy.. So no self respecting Earnhardt fan would be driving around an F-150 with a #3 sticker on it! 😉
Joshua HargisJuly 20, 2017 at 7:49 pm
Tommy ThompsonJuly 20, 2017 at 2:43 am
Excellent article on contextualization!!! Be real, authentic, approachable! These principles transcend any culture or style. Spot on Bro!!!
Josh TeisJuly 20, 2017 at 2:01 pm
Thanks Tommy! Looking forward to to seeing you at Idea Day South. Only 2 months away!
Tony LiuzzoJuly 20, 2017 at 4:06 am
Great points. It is easy to get caught up in the idea that we have to look like the cool pastor on TV to be effective. I do think that God has given some guys with the ability to be naturally “cool.” These guys are able to connect to a certain group that others could not. I appreciate your points on being real and approachable. I think our generation of pastors will appreciate and connect with this.
Josh TeisJuly 20, 2017 at 2:09 pm
Thanks Tony! That’s the interesting thing to me about this conversation. “COOL” is subjective based upon your context. Someone who would be considered relatable in manhattan might be considered out of place in Plano,TX. For example, I’m shocked that the people in Columbus even like you and your brother. But somehow they think you’re pretty cool. ?
Honey ReedJuly 20, 2017 at 7:36 am
Hmmm… trying to figure out what I think about this. For instance this week we have VBS at our church. Lots of non-christian parents are spending much time on our campus. I think differently, dress differently, talk differently, and have very different interests than most (all?) of them, but as I show genuine love and concern for them, they open up to me. My super friendly husband also sticks out like a soar thumb in this often non-friendly urban area. This makes people at lowes, Starbucks, Ralph’s, etc know him by name and they love him. We often feel like missionaries, yes… but we are different. Not purposely, but we are who we are. Being different has never hindered our ministry. My husband doesn’t like sports like most the other men in our church, but when they need sound spiritual advice they know whom to come to. Isn’t it enough to be who we are in Christ, and to love others sincerely? Often times, in my experience, those who are perceived as cool tend to be followers seeking the approval of men. But I understand what you mean that some are naturally perceived as cool. Overall, I’m thankful God prepares certain people for certain places.
Josh TeisJuly 20, 2017 at 2:26 pm
Hey honey. I agree that those who are merely attempting to seek the approval of men are “not cool” but merely followers of men rather than leaders of men. I also agree that there is something incredibly attractive about someone who isn’t afraid of being themselves and standing out from the crowd. You are absolutely right. We must be real, genuine, and comfortable with being who we are.
However, I’ve learned that we can give people onramps into deeper relationship with us if we are willing to go beyond our interests and learn a bit about their interests. For example, I have never enjoyed sports either. Our church is filled with sports fans (one of them being my very athletic 13-yr-old boy). In order to relate with them I’ve made it a practice to read through the sports section of the USA TODAY app every morning (which I hate) so that I can converse intelligently with others if the subject happens to come up. Again, not to be cool, but to be relatable.
Anyway, I agree that this whole thing can be taken way too far – that’s why I like Akeems comment that comes up next. Awesome to see what God is doing with you guys there in Torrance!
AkeemJuly 20, 2017 at 8:10 am
Josh! You’re such a great friend, Thanks for sticking your neck out to ask on my behalf! ?
Balanced contextualization. if we under contextualize it’s possible we come across as only challenging and we sacrifice being heard, and if we overcontextualize it’s possible we come across as only engaging and we fail to see authentic life change. If we do both I think we become more and more approachable. Seriously, thanks for the post!
Josh TeisJuly 20, 2017 at 2:28 pm
Yup! ☝? This
Chris BirkholzJuly 20, 2017 at 11:50 am
Josh, I have an 80/20 role with most of what you write… 80% is awesome and helpful and needs to be said. About 20% makes me nervous. ? Definitely agree that we should take an interest in the lives of the people we minister to. I am a missionary in Honduras and am learning to love the culture here! The thing that eats away at me, (besides the parasites in the water) is that we can sometimes have such a weak view of the power of the Gospel, that we try to assist it. The Gospel doesn’t need help as much as it needs to be preached. I think your message is that we don’t want to hinder the message by our lack of relatability. I agree whole heatedly. After traveling to hundreds of churches, I can tell you my experience is that the power of the Gospel does not need a Starbucks and an iPhone or a NRA sticker on your Ford pickup add much as we think it does. There is a balance here. The Gospel can stand on its own regardless of my “coolness” factor. I don’t need to dress it up, I need to proclaim it in love. I love the ministry. I love people. I never want my life or culture to distract anyone from Christ. My concern is that in our attempt to be relatable, we minimize the power of the Gospel. (Also I feel bullied into wearing skinny jeans, and I am lashing out!?)
Josh TeisJuly 20, 2017 at 1:59 pm
First of all, never wear skinny jeans. It’s just not worth it. ?
Secondly, I agree that the gospel is so powerful it doesn’t necessarily need our attempts at coolness to transform a life. It alone is the power of God unto salvation.
But I would say that the gospel has been entrusted to us, we are the only plan of God to get it to the nations. This is why we must do whatever is necessary to accomplish this goal. Wether that be learning a new language in order to communicate the gospel, or using metaphors in my preaching that are culturally significant, wearing cowboy boots rather than wingtip shoes because 95% of my community lives on a farm. This is wise contextualization. Nothing I do can HELP the gospel be more powerful. Many things I do can HINDER the gospel from being received.
I love your emphasis on love. I’ve seen this to be true as well. Love covers a multitude of sin. There are many folks in my community with whom I just can’t relate. But when they see that I love them – my lack of ability to relate to them becomes very insignificant. You make a great point here. Thanks man. “Missionaries are the real heroes.” These are the words I heard hundreds of times growing up. And the longer I live the more I see it to be true. God bless your ministry in hondorus.
Kenneth DeJesusJuly 20, 2017 at 7:00 pm
Asíde a few typos?(You asked?) I would like to see the pastor in overalls, straw hat preaching in Miami…Aside from that, I have pictures of you stylin back in the day. You have gradually moved from choked tied and suit preaching to being more casual…And your a kool dude just like Fred anyways….Love you bro?
Josh TeisJuly 22, 2017 at 12:01 am
Ha! Many more typos too com. Thits four shor.
Rodney LoveJuly 20, 2017 at 9:34 pm
This is a great truth. I appreciate the thoughts abiut our need of dapting to our mission field. I believe that is is one if the greatest needs today and one if the things that help our church see we love them. I believe these truths are great tools to teach balance and the proper approach to ministry. Thanks for sharing and being a blessing to preachers.
Josh TeisJuly 22, 2017 at 12:00 am
Thank you Rodney. Glad you’ve found the blog
Misty (Frausto) KaufmanJuly 21, 2017 at 4:06 pm
Josh, so great to see you all grown up from our days at West Branch! God bless you, your family and your ministry!
Josh TeisJuly 21, 2017 at 11:59 pm
Thanks misty. It’s been a long time
Nathan KangJuly 21, 2017 at 7:27 pm
Great post Pastor Josh. It’s sad that some Pastors are not approachable, including the supposedly “cool” Pastors. The Pastor should be the most approachable person in the church. If he is not approachable, highly doubt any of his congregation will be approachable. The shepherd always leads the sheep.
Josh TeisJuly 21, 2017 at 11:59 pm
LeonJuly 23, 2017 at 1:49 am
Great post Pastor!!! Right on the mark as usual….