If you keep up with the latest trends, you've probably heard of the term "hipster" by now. Josh and I like to throw the word around when referring to those who dress, what we believe appears to be, "hip" or "modern." Usually that involves some sort of skinny jeans and vintage-looking shoes. And you can't forget the beard, if you're a dude.
While we love to joke about this new style of dress, and at times even find ourselves drawn to some of the emerging fads, one of our biggest concerns is that the style has almost turned itself into a segregated group of people. Hipsters, as they are referred to, has become more than a type of dress. It is becoming a separate entity entirely. And I believe it is infecting the church.
Now, before you take this the wrong way. Let me explain.
The "Christian-hipster" movement that I am referring to is less about dress and more about attitude. It is the attitude of independence, emotional spirituality and anti-tradition. All things that can be good qualities in of themselves, but when combined can lead to a very dangerous, isolated type of Christianity. Where few are "accepted" and many are left behind.
As the wife of a student pastor, I get a first-hand glimpse at the effects of trends on our teenagers. Most of the time, teenagers are the trendsetters. I almost always first spotted a "fashion trend" on a student at our church, before I ever tried to pull it off myself at home. I said "no" to skinny jeans for a long time after first seeing them on a fourteen year old girl. I just knew there was no way my womanly curves would ever look flattering in a pair. Now, they are basically all I wear (and more for the comfort than fashion!)
But as quickly as trends come and go, I have never concerned myself with how a student chooses to dress. It's their choice and I love to see them embrace their individuality. As long as modesty is still a factor, I'm not worried.
What worries me about the "hipster" movement, specifically among Christians, is that the attitude comes with the style. In order to be a hipster, you must love coffee, Instagram, alternative/indie music (or basically anything NOT playing on the radio). And don't get me wrong, you can love these things and not be considered a hipster, but you can NOT be considered a hipster and not love these things. That's the difference.
The craving for individuality, has turned into anything but individual. And the desire to be against all things "traditional and irrelevant" to our culture, has turned into the new tradition.
I see it all over churches. Some churches have become so segregated in this movement that everyone in their congregation looks and dresses and acts the same.
That's scary, folks.
I think many a Christian-hipster will be surprised when they get to heaven and the sweet, old lady worshiping beside them doesn't raise her hands as much or as high, but her praises ring loud with harmony and jubilee. Literal, harmony. She knows all four parts.
You see, the problem is that the church was never made to look the same. We were all created uniquely by our heavenly Father, who desires for us to show no favoritism or prejudice to anyone. A healthy church is full of bald babies, bald adults and everyone in-between. The minute we begin to have a "stereotype" for our church, is the minute we should be concerned about what gospel we are actually preaching.
"My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?" - James 2:1-4
I'm not sure how many churches would admit to actually having told someone to "sit on the floor" when they come in to their services. But how many times do we go out of our way to include or invite someone to sit with us? Especially if that someone has nothing to offer us in return?
There are many ways we can show favoritism without being explicit about it. I know in my heart, I have done it.
I don't want this to come across as me bashing "hipsters" in general. If you label yourself as one, and feel that way, please understand that is not my purpose for this post. Instead, I want to challenge any sort of style or trend that creates an exclusive community of people that I believe goes directly against the word of God. It is favoritism and prejudice in a subtle manner. It is the enemy's way to divide the church, by creating barriers that are more nonverbal than verbal.
If a person walked into your church wearing a suit and tie, would they feel accepted? Especially if your whole congregation looked as though they just walked out of a rock concert? And I know it's a popular thing today for churches to target specific cultures and groups of people, but is it really biblical to tell someone that there is a church "for your type" down the road?
Sounds like a nice way of saying, "you can stand right over there" in my opinion.
There's a way to bridge this divide, and it takes going back to the gospel. And imitating Paul's decision to "find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some."
"In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences." - Ephesians 4:1-4 (The Message)
Let's be deliberate in our unity. Let's go out of our way to include others who may have different gifts, passions and even clothing tastes than we do. Because that's what the church is made of. And walking together to further the gospel of our Savior Jesus, whether in our Toms or tennis shoes, is the only trend that should really matter at all.