Many people today are repackaging the gospel into an acceptable product for the culture around us. This often happens through slick ministries led by slick ministers who are dedicated to their methods of helping the gospel overcome the perceived sin of old age. The very word “gospel” has become a marketing phrase rather than a descriptive word meaning good news to fallen sinners.
Staff meetings among pastors, in some ways, have become like corporate board meetings where multi-campus ministries seek to streamline their approach to church much like a corporation rolls out franchises in different cities. Church services have become more like productions instead of worship assemblies for brothers and sisters in Christ to meet corporately with the living God. The authenticity of worship has been lost in our attempt to be cool, hip, and acceptable. Pastors dress more like rock stars rather than ministers of the gospel. Ministry branding and hip dress attire are mandatory as a new church culture seeks to repackage the gospel for a modern society. Everything from mainstream rock concerts on Sunday to small group Bible study over beer on Monday has crept into the church. After all, the gospel needs a makeover – right?
The Gospel is Foolishness to the World
At some point, we must face the sobering truth that the gospel will never be cool (1 Cor. 1:18). We can dress up the gospel in modern clothes and repackage it to an urbane culture, but at the end of the day – it’s still the gospel. It doesn’t matter if ministers grow long beards, dress in hipster attire, drink beer in study groups, and have a cigar lounge on their church campus – the gospel will never be cool and hip to a lost world.
Paul labored to make this point known to the church at Corinth. The church at Corinth was a church that seemed to have all of the potential in the world, for whatever that’s worth. In their sophisticated city filled with potential they discovered the deep holes of depravity, division, and perverted worship. One of the great problems that fueled the heart of Corinth’s problems was a single road that led approximately 65 miles into the city of Athens. In Athens, the wisdom of the world was transcendent. Philosophies ruled the day. It has been said that there were as many philosophies as philosophers.
Historical records reveal that there were at least 50 dominant philosophies that were operating in the ancient Roman empire – all devoted to a multiplicity of different false gods. Athens was the home of the Areopagus which served as the zenith of Greek wisdom and ideas, the pinnacle of Greek philosophical debate, and the think tank of the Greek culture. These philosophic views made their way down the trade route straight into the city of Corinth.
It was within that particular context that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to the church in this wicked and dark city. He encouraged them to cling to the message of the cross – no matter how foolish it may have seemed. Paul didn’t encourage the church to become trendy, hip, or cool in order to make the gospel acceptable. Paul said the following:
For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,  but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,  but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Cor. 1:22-25).
Notice that Paul didn’t encourage the church at Corinth to appeal to the Greeks by making the gospel seem wise. Likewise, Paul didn’t encourage the church at Corinth to reach the Jews by removing the offense of the gospel. Instead he solidified the mission of the church at Corinth as a gospel ministry with gospel ministers who preach the good news that seemed like utter foolishness. If Paul never sought to make the gospel cool, why are so many people today fixated on this ministry venture?
Gospel People are Fools
Jesus promised us that we would be hated and despised as fools for following Him (Matt. 10:22). What person in their right mind would follow after a man who was hated and crucified on a Roman cross for claiming to be one with God? Only a fool would do something like that – right? That’s why after Peter and John were beaten and threatened by the religious establishment, they replied, “for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard (Acts 4:20).”
As we explore the early church in the book of Acts, we don’t see them majoring on set designs, hipster clothing, and church branding to get the gospel to the ends of the world. The early Christians were very much under submission to Christ’s rule and their lives exemplified holiness – not rebellion. We don’t see the need for the early church to use antinomianism to carry the torchlight of the gospel onward. Instead, we see people who were faithful to the gospel – even to the point of death – in order to get the gospel to the ends of the world.
It’s offensive to God when we sit and try to think up ways to make the gospel cool. God’s gospel will never be cool. The moment that we finally think the gospel is cool will be the moment we’ve replaced the gospel of God with another gospel. The bloody gospel will never be acceptable to a sophisticated culture of sin loving people. We can dress up in certain clothes, learn to talk with a certain swagger, install tattoo parlors and cigar lounges on our church campuses – but God haters will never be impressed with our gospel. They may compliment our tattoos and smoke our cigars, but they will never like our gospel. If you’re known for what you smoke and what you drink rather than the gospel you embrace, that’s a problem.
People who love the esteem of man will never embrace the ridicule of Jesus’ cross. If our ministries teach people to love the praise and respect of man, our churches will become a Sunday production rather than an assembly of blood washed sinners who are willing to live out Luke 9:23. The gospel will always be a scandal to a lost world, and those of us who follow Christ will be scandalous people. Success in ministry is not achieved by the cool factor of appearance or production. Success in ministry is based on a firm commitment to the gospel of Christ and a willingness to become a fool for Jesus. Please stop trying to give Jesus a makeover.