Brett McCracken has written a book about Hipster Christianity. While I haven’t read the book, I read an interesting interview here. When I was a Youth Minister, I was very aware that more than 70% of youth group attenders never go to church after they graduate. It’s a disheartening phenomenon. He contends that “hipster churches” (which he considers the antithesis to the idea of a counter-cultural church), celebrate culture and art in order to attract this group of people who have dropped out of church. They try to be cool with technology and shocking slogans or sermons.

He contends this is harmful because it will actually drive people away from church in the long-term. He thinks the flash and sizzle method almost always lacks content, and real life-change. As such, the attenders are just as likely to walk out as walk in. In other words, these “hipster churches” are places lots of people have been, but don’t keep going to regularly. It turns out – he says that twenty-somethings don’t want something hip, they want something real. These “hipster churches” are the new sort of televangelists with the fake-looking hair.

But I have a problem with his analysis. I’ll admit it. I go to a church which is probably the most “hipster” church in my area. To be fair, there aren’t many that try in my area. Yet, at the same time there are many ways that New River Fellowship isn’t quite a “hipster church”. While cool graphics, and technology are a part of our church – it isn’t that important. A recent sermon series ended with an iPad giveaway. Yet, it also concluded with a very REAL call to accept Christ as Lord and get involved in a small group Bible Study in order to grow in your faith. New River is also made up of people who have kids. Many, like me, are in their 30s and don’t drive a VW or have a mac. New River encourages real life growth through small group bible studies. If you want to join the church, you have to join a small group of some sort. You have to attend a class about the church’s beliefs. So, there is an emphasis on acting out spiritual knowledge – something which McCracken’s “hipster churches” don’t tend to emphasize.

McCracken’s website lists several types of “hipster christians”. These are interesting caricatures, which one would do well to avoid. Yet, probably most 20-30 something Christians have something in common with his stereotypes. I am similar to the “bookish intellectual”, yet hopefully not too similar.

As with any fresh critique of a movement, he tends to criticize the stereotypical (and fictional) “hipster church”, of which surely none really exist. While it seems likely that many churches exhibit some of the weaknesses he points out. He likely doesn’t have the life-experience or wisdom to really level much of the critique that he offers. There are more experienced and educated consultants out there (many hired by denominations to guard against this sort of problem).

5 comments on “Hipster Christianity – Good or Bad?

  • That’s a very funny quiz on the hipster Christianity site.

    Your Christian Hipster Quotient:
    74 / 120
    High CHQ. You are a pretty progressive, stylish, hipster-leaning Christian, even while you could easily feel at home in a decidedly un-hip non-denominational church. You are conservative on some issues and liberal on others, and sometimes you grow weary of trendy “alt-Christianity.” But make no mistake: You are a Christian hipster to at least some degree.

    • I was like 60 something of 120. I was thinking just now that a good number of the Ph.D. Religion students at Baylor that I met when I interviewed there fit into the “hipster Christian” category. Maybe that’s why it didn’t work out for any of us OT guys that year.

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  • Your Christian Hipster Quotient:
    51 / 120

    Low CHQ. You probably belong to the purpose-driven, seeker-sensitive, Hawaiian shirt-wearing Christian establishment, even though you are open to some of the “rethinking Christianity” stuff. You seem to like edginess in some measure but become uneasy when your idea of Christian orthodoxy is challenged by some renegade young visionary who claims the virgin birth isn’t necessary

    There were some funny answers on this quiz. I do not wear Hawaiian shirts but this comment makes me think I am right on the verge of being viewed as lame altogether by ‘hipster Christians’. As far as ‘rethinking Christianity’ I think it has always been what it is and has always been there for our interpretation and application, but I have only made adjustments and realigned with Christianity core values as it applies to me personally after discovering misinterpretations I have made in former years. I think there is always insight to be gained on Christianity and God by going back through the bible time and again but ‘rethinking Christianity’ sounds dangerous to me. It makes me think of that verse that states something to the effect of ‘to those who take away from this book the gift of eternal life I shall take from them, and to those who add to this book I shall add the plagues to them described herein’

    • I was really surprised, and humored, at the hawaiian shirt comment too. I did own one, from when we went to Hawaii. But, I never wore it to church. Rachel and I talked about this book a little more. I really think the guy just hasn’t been around enough to really evaluate what he’s trying to evaluate. I think what he is “on” to is a brand of shallow Christianity that cares about appearances. I think that brand takes many forms, such as “hipster Christianity”, but also takes the form of the positive only kind of preaching, or even teaching that the gospel is about social change, and not so much personal morals. Any of these, and many more, ideas which try and emphasize something other than real life change and growth seem to be lacking.

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