categories:, church, communication, global church, leadership, priorities, spiritual development
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May 13th, 2009

by Craig Groeschel

65 comments (+ Add)

Cool is No Longer Cool

The American Church is not lacking for “cool” pastors. Like a single guy who is trying just-a-bit-too-hard to impress a girl, some churches are simply trying too hard to be cool.

I’m very encouraged to see a shifting in direction. For years, many of us seemed focused on:

  • Designing relevant church experiences.
  • Producing entertaining videos.
  • Creating inviting environments.
  • Crafting sermon series to draw a crowd.
  • Writing sermons with shock value and plenty of humor or stories.

While all of the above can be effective tools, many of my friends are intentionally moving in a stronger direction. So many great Christian leaders are seeing far better results with:

  • Bathing a sermon in prayer.
  • Fasting regularly.
  • Practicing personal confession and repentance.
  • Preaching from the overflow of time alone in God’s word.
  • Caring deeply for others in biblical community.

I’m thrilled so many leaders are placing less emphasis on being cool and more emphasis on being like Christ.

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  1. 1Manu Reyes
    May 13, 2009 at 6:33 am

    Amen Pastor Craig!

    For a new pastor like myself, in these days, i believe that it’s important to see the pastors ahead of me to be careful with what they may project as “high importance”. If we aren’t careful, new pastors like myself will “think” that all these external things are what makes a good preacher/teacher… when the latter list is what really prepares one for the pulpit.

    true… it’s more important to get lost in the time we spend in the presence of God as we prepare rather than being so preoccupied with the externals of my preaching… after all, at the end of it all, when i stand before a congregation, i better KNOW and be sure that i HAVE a message from the Lord… and i only get that when i spend time listening to Him.

  2. May 13, 2009 at 6:54 am

    Yay! What a breath of fresh air! I love the single guy analogy. LOL! In Nashville on Music Row when someone is trying WAY too hard to break in the music business, the term given is “germ”.I Never want to be “GERMY” and ANYTHING “Germy” is super easy to spot!

    God’s word and “cool” just dont mesh because God’s word is HOT and on Fire even in a “germy” society! :)

  3. May 13, 2009 at 6:59 am

    Hmmmm that new list sounds a whole lot like the church in the book of Acts. I can go for that!

  4. May 13, 2009 at 7:21 am

    Thank you for the very convicting thoughts so far this week.

    This is where I’m at: Learning to spend more time with Him (half hour in the Word and prayer yield far far more than hours of planning and thinking), following God’s lead first and foremost - not the latest trend, not embracing what works today as tomorrows tradition, God is creative so following his lead will result in some awesome stuff happening at my church and serving my community with no strings attached (God does something crazy in every area of your church when you serve and love your community with no expectations of the people you are serving - I can’t explain it, but I have witnessed it).

  5. May 13, 2009 at 7:44 am

    Good words, Craig. Sometimes I think we forget that God’s Word has the power in itself to capture and transform hearts. Being an effective communicator is essential to insure we connect with our audience. But sometimes we can become so focused on the presentation that we forget it’s the Word that does not return void, not our cool presentation. I’m discovering in my communication that people seem to respond best when my teaching has depth of content, rather than a gimmicky presentation. And I’ve discovered that deeper teaching, as you state, usually comes from the overflow of time alone with God.

  6. 6Cliff P
    May 13, 2009 at 7:51 am

    We have made some of these changes in our ministry in the last year and the depth of growth in the saints has been much greater than when we had a “come and see” model of church. We work with college students and found they can smell “cool” a mile away and tend to stay away from it. Relationships are now more authentic and our invitations to new comers are more authentic because we are offering them community and good teaching, not a cool thing to come and see.

  7. May 13, 2009 at 7:53 am

    You rock Craig. Timely and timeless.

  8. May 13, 2009 at 8:01 am

    I guess the Fonz will never be a pastor.

  9. May 13, 2009 at 8:07 am

    Thanks Craig for that reminder. I have to shut down today for some serious self-inspection after hearing that. wow. In my heart of hearts, I just want to be like Jesus, gotta check and see if my actions are matching my intentions.

  10. 10Roy
    May 13, 2009 at 8:12 am

    I always find it interesting when we go down the path of speaking about the cool churches or the cool pastors. We have with out question been in a time of shock value and being cool and relevant is part of that shock. The part that we are missing is transparency and transparency can at time show that we are cool, but it often reveals that we are kind, that we care or even that we are posers. The true “cool” is transparency and vulnerability if we stay real and true to who we are, we can make huge impact for the Kingdom

  11. 11Matt
    May 13, 2009 at 8:15 am

    Craig, I’d love to hear of congregations you believe are doing this effectively - i.e. preaching and teaching the Bible with regularity, and giving little thought to what is “cool” or “relevant.”

    Also, what are the costs when a congregation shifts from, as you put it, entertaining videos, etc. to a greater focus on biblical community, teaching, and personal spiritual discipline?

    Finally, in your own experience with this intentional shift, what are the costs? Have you seen people leave because of this, or do they embrace the change?

  12. May 13, 2009 at 8:20 am

    The first list is important, we are missionaries to an ever changing culture, but it is a list of the thing that WE can do. The second list is all about what HE can do. We need to take list two and apply it to list one. Less self reliance and more dependence on God. It is awesome to create great environments and catchy message series, especially if your God given gift is creativity, but we can never take our dependence on a supernatural God out of the equation. If we put the HE list First and the WE list Second we would probably see better results.

  13. May 13, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Well, we all grow up and are no longer cool. :) Then we have to figure out what really lasts and is important. I think the reality of ministry at this pace is also hitting pastors square between the eyes. We can’t be “all that” all the time. It’s honestly exhausting. We can be who God created us to be, telling the story of His redemption in our life, and ministering out of being with Him. That deeper work is harder on some levels. It’s like image management. The outside is easier to control and manage than the inside.

  14. 14Josh Carter
    May 13, 2009 at 8:37 am

    Craig- As a youth pastor being “cool” is something that seems to be a must. After being a YP for a little over 2 yrs. now I’m beginning to see that the students really want someone who is passionate for Christ and for them. I think they could really care less whether you’re “cool” or not! Good word my man… THANKS!

  15. May 13, 2009 at 8:40 am

    You’ve touched on one of the real learnings in youth ministry over the last several years. Youth Pastors eventually grow up and become “uncool”. We then realize that we need to refocus ourselves in the Word. Guess what? Our youth respond better and grow deeper when we focus on the real Giver of Lift! They were just waiting for an opportunity to have a deeper relationship with God and with us….

  16. May 13, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Wow! Thanks for this. Why is this so easy to forget and overlook? Thank you for the reminder.

  17. May 13, 2009 at 8:57 am

    So encouraged to not only read this post, but to know that it confirms the shift that we have been seeing throughout our church. “Cool” can sometimes draw a crowd, but without an environment that provides spiritual growth and depth of relationship, it is much like inflating a balloon… as it grows larger, the thing that is holding it together becomes weaker and more vulnerable to destruction. While entertaining videos and cool environments can serve a purpose in getting the attention of those we want to reach, it takes so much more to grow a new christian into a solid, productive, follower of Christ.

  18. 18jim
    May 13, 2009 at 8:59 am

    Thanks for the reminder and encouragement that comes from this post. I pray that I would not be cool but caring and compassionate.

  19. May 13, 2009 at 9:18 am

    Your series this week has been so powerful. We really don’t need anything more than the Word of God. All of the other “stuff” is just that, “stuff.” You have been given a platform where many others listen and learn from you. Thanks for being faithful to our King with the platform He has given you.

  20. May 13, 2009 at 9:30 am

    This is refreshing news, because I am not very cool in the first place. All of us are different and possess different gifts. The important issue is, are we being faithful to who God created us to be? If we are, He will give us creativity within our giftedness that will be a blessing to others and grow His Kingdom. My God-given creativity might be in delivering a message while others’ creativity might be in a video, teaching series or graphic design, etc. When we are who God created us to be and walking in the Spirit, we are at our best and do not need to compare ourselves with others, even though it can be tempting.

  21. May 13, 2009 at 9:46 am

    I love this!! I share your excitement in seeing this shift that seems to be taking place in our churches. It’s always astonished me to see how far we’ve drifted from Biblical authentic communities to simply creating communities of like-mindedness. Meaning, church isn’t about getting a group of people centered around a common idea that we all agree upon. But church is about building communities around One central theme…Christ.

  22. May 13, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Awesome post. Great thoughts.
    It’s a funny thing how when I just cover our church in prayer, instead of covering the church in worry, so much more gets done and God does his thing in a mighty way!

  23. May 13, 2009 at 10:09 am

    This was an encouragement today! Thanks a bunch. I find myself in my ministry trying to reach the “coolness” and “relevant” bar, instead of reaching the Jesus bar.

  24. May 13, 2009 at 10:23 am


    You Pin the Tell on the Donkey. I’ve experience this in my leadership develop with the Holy Spirit. God is wanting true worshipers to worship Him in Spirit and Truth. We need to check our idea and opinion at the church door.(Flesh) God is moving in his people and we need to be ready for Spiritual Warfare. Many of our Brother and Sister have not be discipled because we’re to busy playing Church. True knowledge of God is Jesus who is our righteousness(Romans 10:2-4)and their is nothing we can do to make ourselves right. It D.O.(Divine Order)Time for Leaders to step in their anointing and be about the Father’s Business. Winning Souls, Feeding God’s Sheep and standing in Jesus Christ Rightousness. Game Over!!!!

    Thanks for being bold in you accessment of the what is going on in some of our churches. But let this be a warning to the new church. That God is a Holy God and He can not bless his childern if they choices to live in disobeient that produces Sin.

    The question is why gain the world and loss your soul to be Cool. Family please check yourself before you wreack yourself and all those who depend on you to be all that God what you to Be.

  25. 25Frank Bacus
    May 13, 2009 at 11:36 am

    I feel that the first list wil work, has worked and will continue to work as long as Christian leadership will adhere to the second list. The first list works amazingly well at Lifechurch.TV because; into the design of every experience, into every frame of every entertaining video, into the creation of every service, into the development of every sermon series and into every sermon, there is woven this underlying comittment to lead people to become fully devoted followers of Christ. Christian leaders will be blessed and will be a blessing to one or onehundred thousand if they first: Practice personal confession and repentance, fast regularly, care deeply for others in biblical community, bathe each sermon in prayer and preach boldly from the overflow of time alone in God’s word. I will close with this truth by John Piper: The gospel is the good news and the everlasting and ever-increasing joy of the never-boring, ever-satisfying Christ is ours freely and eternally by faith in the sin-forgiving death and hope-giving resurrection of Jesus Christ.
    Amen to you Manu Reyes, I will be praying for your ministry.

  26. May 13, 2009 at 11:43 am


    I’m interested, with the “Bible Trumps Creativity” blog and ow this one, did any particular occurrence bring you to writing these or are they simply a result of trends you’ve seen? Thanks for what you do man. Our leaders were charged up by you at Catalyst West

  27. May 13, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Is your church cool?…

    I saw this post today at  And I have to tell you, it stirred in me a great deal of excitement.  I’ve been struggling internally for some time now seeing the transition that has happened in our churches over the last 15 yea…..

  28. May 13, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    I really like this, just so long as we don’t use “preaching from the overflow” as an excuse to be lazy. I think we need to be careful that we don’t become so “spiritual” that we get the attitude that we don’t need to prepare anything and then just expect God to hand it to us on Sunday. I say plan, prepare, and then step back and let God take over. People often say that the devil is in the details…if he is then that’s the problem. We need to invite God into the details. Thanks for the post Craig, you got me thinking today.

  29. May 13, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Hopefully this is not simply a trend, one more strategy for success as opposed to genuine leadership and an expression of real values.

  30. May 13, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    Just a question - why is this either or? A well done video can be the result of a concept that came from prayer, or inspirations for hospitality can come from fasting.
    Why can’t we be wholistic? Bathed in prayer and engaging?

  31. 31Joe Ayala
    May 13, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    I believe they are also seeing results in church discipline. 9 Marks Ministry has got it down.
    Here are the Nine Marks of a Healthy Church:

    1. Expositional Preaching
    2. Biblical Theology
    3. Biblical Understanding of the Good News
    4. Biblical Understanding of Conversion
    5. Biblical Understanding of Evangelism
    6. Biblical Understanding of Membership
    7. Biblical Church Discipline
    8. Promotion of Christian Discipleship and Growth
    9. Biblical Understanding of Leadership

    “In identifying and promoting these nine marks, we are not intending to lay down an exhaustive or authoritative list. There are other significant marks of healthy churches, like prayer and fellowship. We want to pursue those ourselves as well, and we want you to pursue them with us. But these nine are the ones we think are most neglected in most local churches today, with the most damaging ramifications.”

  32. May 13, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Its refreshing to hear another pastor speak of a Jesus like lifestyle.We should all consider a Mathew 4,5,& 6 way of life. after all, it is the greatest teaching since the beginning of time. I am honored to be part of a church that lives and breathes by the word, and truth of God. Lack of repentance and poor immorality is why our country is in the situation that it is in now. i guess our leaders will just wait for God to release his wrath to decide to do something about it. Guess what, it will be too late then. Jesus is coming back soon. are you ready? (Global Revolution Church, Orlando.)

  33. May 13, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Great thoughts on a subject many have reflected on. I have a sense that this is true for young adult minisry as well. I really beleive the basics are elements of a ministry that young adults are looking for. I “hear” a lot of “Just want a simple Bible Study.” Thanks Craig

  34. May 13, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    very refreshing post :-)

  35. 35Benson
    May 13, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    As I said in a recent response here, I think it’s important to be relevant while being faithful to the Lord Christ. And I think both are possible. We have to remember that the NT is not prescriptive about tools and methods but only descriptive (of course there are the basics of prayer and fasting and…and..and…). As much as people say they want to get back to the “NT church” I hope they are not referring to the NT methods of ministry but rather the NT annointing of God. If we want to get back to the NT methods, there would be a LOT of things that would change…and while it would be really funny to watch someone try to do that, I doubt any of us really want to go there. It’s been a long time since I have been down to the local synagogue to try to reason with them. Why? Because methods have changed. Going to the synagogue was relevant to the culture in the first century. It worked. I very much doubt it would work in my home town. But again, if you ever come to Moncton and are going to go and do it…let me know…cause I want to come and see that! I know some pretty “cool” and “hyper-advanced” and “provocative” churches who are very faithful to seeking God’s face, bathing everything in prayer, meeting in small groups, and bringing God’s Kingdom to earth.

    I believe there are lots of God-loving church leaders out there…who pray, seek, preach… etc. etc. etc. who will be held accountable for speaking “Irrelevant” to a culture who speaks “Relevant.” It would be like me speaking English to a man who only speaks Chinese… I may have very pure intentions and love Jesus well enough, but unless I have the gift of tongues, he isn’t understanding me.

    Let’s keep our heads here.


  36. 36Zo
    May 13, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    I’ve been guilty, of one or more of the top 5 in the list, and I’m thankful for “accident forgiveness” as there is no trade off to deep prayer.

  37. 37Manu Reyes
    May 13, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    I love swerve! This is such a blessing! Ü this is a perfect example of relevant ministry… And them some creativity… Then God blessed it with coolness!!! God bless you pastor craig!

    Thanks Frank Bacus! Ü

  38. May 14, 2009 at 5:26 am

    Although all of the posts here are very helpful, I must say that the last couple of months the depth of the posts have been thought provoking and incredible. Thanks for disturbing me. It’s 12:30AM in Hawaii, and now i can’t sleep! Thanks, Craig!

  39. May 14, 2009 at 6:26 am

    Amen. Great point. I have found this to be true in my own journey, walk with the Lord over the last year. I rather be intimate with Jesus than a “cool” pastor.

  40. May 14, 2009 at 8:15 am

    [...] blog post by Craig Groeschel of is a great encouragement for all Christians, since we are all [...]

  41. May 14, 2009 at 10:01 am

    WOW - this post made my day. Thanks for having the courage to talk about making right priorities in our ministry lives.

  42. 42elena
    May 14, 2009 at 11:27 am

    I agree with andy about a wholistic approach. God has gifted leaders in different ways. Some of us are gifted in communicating through the pulpit, some through music and some of through these alternative approaches such as video, graphics, web etc. I will say the first list without the second will be fruitless. It comes back to the heart and reasoning behind what we do. Thanks for the thoughts, as always.

  43. May 14, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Awesome post. We really need to do an inspection of our lives and check our motives. It’s time to start asking ourselves, Why do we do what we do?

  44. May 14, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    The Gospel of the Kingdom is not subject to culture, the culture should be subject to the Kingdom. We have an “Americanized” form of the Gospel that has embraced ideas and principles that did not originate with the Kingdom of God as much as they have been born out of the independent, self-made-man, individualism of our American culture.

    Technology is a tool, and that is it. It should never be the reason. When people come to church because of anything other than a true hunger for God and His Spirit they will very quickly leave when confronted with the Word and have to change.

    The job of a minister is not to attract a crowd or hold on to them. His job is to preach the Word in season and in out. It is the Truth that sets men free, not the latest fad.

    Innovation and creativity are important and technology must be taken advantage of for the use of the Kingdom, but none of these things should take precedence over the mission. In all the things we do, are we being obedient to the Holy Spirit and following God’s will and purpose? That is what is important and what will, ultimately produce results, fruit that remains.

  45. May 14, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    [...] Cool is No Longer Cool [...]

  46. May 14, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    I do not mean to sound accusatory. I have the utmost respect for the work, leadership and role has been playing in the Kingdom.

    However, as the church that was first known for its presence on 2nd Life Virtual Worlds, internet campus, techno-savvy edge and production arts…would you say your conviction as pastor has changed on this topic over the past few years? If so, what was the catalyst or change agent of information? If no, how do you bridge the statement and public persona?

  47. May 15, 2009 at 4:05 am

    [...] 0 Comments No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. Leave a comment Click here to cancel reply. Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <pre> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> [...]

  48. May 15, 2009 at 8:01 am

    [...] Cool Is No Longer Cool - If it ever was! [...]

  49. May 15, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    [...] Craig Groeschel has been killing it over at the Swerve blog, but one post about Cool is No Longer Cool really got me thinking about church in the [...]

  50. May 17, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Everything old is new again!

  51. May 20, 2009 at 8:55 am

    [...] Craig Groeschel says cool is not longer cool. [...]

  52. 52Heather
    May 20, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    That is why I have found such genuine beauty in the Orthodox Christian Church, just as it is and has been for the last 1700 years of walking in Christ’s footsteps. Nobody tries to impress me or cater to me… in fact, sometimes the services are downright uncomfortable! We get up early, we fast through Lent, we stand for long services, we attend vigils through the night, we fall prostrate, we weep, we lay our sins bare before a spiritual father, we take Holy Communion only after spiritual and bodily preparation, we study the lives of the saints and martyrs, we strive to pray ceaselessly, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”

    But my body and mind are slowly learning that they are to be obedient to God at all times, through inconvenience, discomfort, tiredness, cravings, boredom, and restlessness. Glory to God alone! +

  53. May 21, 2009 at 8:39 am

    [...] Post from: [...]

  54. 54Marija Thornton
    May 21, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Way to go Craig. You are on the right track, in tune with God’s heart. Abundant blessings from Australia.

  55. 55Richard
    May 22, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    From an Aussie I can’t agree more with the fact that we just need to get REAL.
    I was somewhat amazed at one comment heigher up that endorsed this posting by Craig only to launch into a list of what makes us succesful.
    Nowhere did in that list did it mention a relationship with Jesus, our Lord, our deliverere, comfort, friend - our MATE.
    I would put that at the only criteria for living. He is our best friend and nothing can take that away.
    Surely the rest will follow.

  56. May 23, 2009 at 2:38 am

    glad to know cool is out, since i was never very good at being cool.

  57. May 26, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    [...] Jump to Comments This is so encouraging to read – especially from a church with the size and influence of Life Church: The American Church is [...]

  58. 58Dan
    May 30, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    why not both? And i also would like to add maybee a silent retreat to cleanse your mind.

  59. Jun 5, 2009 at 11:11 am

  60. Jun 9, 2009 at 10:19 am

    I think that there is an implied assumption in the the comments of Craig Groeschel. The assumption is that the two lists he provides are mutually exclusive of one another and that those who focused on the former list neglected the latter. I agree, that focusing on the items detailed in the first list, while neglecting the second, will most assuredly result in failure - either now or when our ministries are ‘weighed’ before God. However, it seems to me that the ideal goal should be for the first list to be a byproduct of the second. Then, we will be anointed and effective communicators of Christ.

  61. Jun 9, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    These are very much words that I need to hear. I so often find myself doing things out of my own ability and not out of the overflow of my time with God. Thanks for the kick to put extra energy into the things that REALLY matter.

  62. Jun 10, 2009 at 7:21 am

    I think this is a good thing. Our purpose is to make Christ known and not make the pastor a superstar. Thank God for the shift!

  63. Jun 26, 2009 at 5:09 am

    Outstanding Craig!

    I appreciate you’re not advocating “either or” but both. The emphasis always need to be that we speak out of our overflow and have our lives and messages bathed in prayer.

    Jesus has always been the Master of Cool! He embodies the very essences of cool. Thanks again.

    Tom Rawls

  64. Aug 27, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    [...] “How cool do we have to be?” This is an issue one of the coolest pastors on the planet addressed in his blog a few months [...]

  65. Feb 10, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    [...] one of my favorite Christian leaders. I respect him greatly. But I had many questions as I read his blog post this morning. He writes… The American Church is not lacking for “cool” pastors. Like a [...]