“Hence, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach” (Hebrews 13:13).
Ministers considered “cool” by the world should be wary.
It’s a trap.
Let those outside the faith–i.e., friends and admirers with no appreciation for Scripture, no knowledge of the call of God, no gratitude for the blood of Jesus, or no concept of the direness of their own situation–compliment the preacher on his coolness, and it can be a form of quicksand.
“I’m not much of a church-goer, pastor, but I love watching you preach.” “You’re not like all those other preachers–fat and bald and loud. You’re handsome and slim and cool.”
Woe to the minister who eats up such a compliment.
The moment a pastor begins to take that to heart, he sets about ordering his life by the coolness factor. If he preaches a certain doctrine, his friends will not appreciate it, so he conveniently finds other topics, perhaps without even realizing what he is doing. If he speaks up for a particular value taught in the Word, they will find him suddenly uncool, so he mutes his radicalness. He wears his hair and arranges his clothing and selects his speech in accordance with what will make him appear cool.
It’s a seduction. An addiction of the worst kind. A trap.
Such is the way of the insecure preacher, one who prefers the approval of the world to that of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
He would deny it, of course.
He may even try to dress it up, call it identifying with the masses, becoming “all things to all men that by all means he might win some,” as Paul put it in I Corinthians 9:22 (thereby providing a convenient proof text to generations of compromisers ever since.). Whether he is actually winning any by this tactic remains to be seen.
Scripture calls surrendering to the standards of outsiders loving the world and warns us away from it (I John 2:15ff).
I will not go so far as to say one cannot follow Jesus and be cool (i.e., trendy, fashionable, accepted by the world) at the same time. But it’s highly unlikely if you do it right.
If you do it right.
Don’t miss that.
Someone asked an old-time preacher, “If I follow Jesus, do I have to give up the world?” He answered, “Ha! Get soundly converted and you won’t have to worry about that. The world will give you up so fast it’ll make your head swim!”
One of the first tasks of any prophet was to make himself shameful. –N. D. Wilson, Christianity Today, June 2014
John the Baptist wore camel hair and ate insects.
Cool? Anything but.
John the Baptist received the admiration and respect of a King Herod, but knew exactly how little that was worth. In the end, Herod abandoned whatever good sense he had left and sacrificed John to his own insecurities and fears.
N. D. Wilson says, “Isaiah had to walk around naked for years. Ezekiel had to cook his food over dung. Elijah ate only food carried by ravens–nasty carrion birds. The first thing God told Hosea to do was to marry a whore.”
He concludes, “Prophets must be fearless, immune to the pressures of kings and crowds, aligned only with the breath of God.”
The inspired writer of Hebrews left us a vivid illustration of this….
“The bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin are burned outside the camp. Therefore, Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Hence, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach” (Hebrews 13:11-13).
The writer takes a lesson from the Old Testament sacrificial system–how the carcasses of animals were burned outside town, away from the population–and draws a parallel with the Lord Jesus dying outside the city gate. Then, the application for us: “In the same way, we Christians should go to Him outside the camp–that is, away from the crowd and the flow of the culture–and thus bear His reproach.”
It’s an ideal metaphor, one that speaks to our situation perfectly.
–Woe to the man or woman of God who longs to be accepted by the world, as well as the one who feels a failure because the world does not recognize his name and honor him.
–Woe to the minister who gets off on compliments from unbelievers, saves complimentary notes from outsiders, and feels affirmed by public acclaim.
–Woe to the preacher who orders his sermons and selects his topics by what will impress his carnal friends.
–Woe to the pastor who shies away from certain subjects clearly taught in the Word because people would not like it. Someone might think he is a fundamentalist.
–Woe to the one calling himself/herself a disciple of Jesus but who discounts any scriptural teaching incompatible with today’s accepted values.
–Woe to the cowards who want God but fear rejection from the world.
–Woe to those who fear rejection from the world more than the “well-done” of the Lord.
Final note: Anyone thinking we are insinuating that many disciples of Jesus Christ refuse to take a stand against subjects like abortion, same sex marriage, the gay lifestyle, sexual freedom, and do-as-you-please morality out of a fear of criticism from the unbelieving world is exactly right. That is precisely what we are saying.
Many a minister who may have been truly saved and wants to love and honor Christ has caved in to the world because they want the approval of the cool crowd. They shy away from bearing the shame of the Lord Jesus which would come from associating with His less trendy followers.
God help us.
We cannot have it both ways.
There is no “cool” at the foot of the cross, my friend. Choose this day whom you will serve.