At the Psalm 119 Conference in Boston, Todd Friel showed video of churches doing astonishing things in public worship: a pastor dressed up as a Transformer, complete with digitally-altered "robot" monotone voice; a pastor mounting a white horse (an actual horse) riding into the worship center like one of the Knights of the Round Table, only wearing a suit.
Then Todd asked us speakers what, if anything, we found troublesome or problematic about this approach to ministry.
Here are my two cents:
All of these antics are rooted in pragmatism, pure and simple. If it works to achieve our ends, then it's right. The logic goes like this: We want more people to hear the gospel. People will only come to hear the gospel if you dress up like a Transformer or ride a white horse. Therefore, dressing up like Bumblebee or becoming Will Rogers is a perfectly legitimate way of doing church.
Now this logic is problematic on many levels, not least the implicit denial of the power of the gospel alone to save those who believe (Rom 1:16). But I would also argue that it fails on the grounds of the very pragmatism that drives it. Bottom line: non-Christians do not think it's cool! They think it's hokey, silly, and inauthentic.
I have talked with my friends who aren't yet Christians about churches that do things like this, and to a man they've said that it's ridiculous. And my instincts tell me that they aren't alone. People who are really cool can tell when people who aren't cool are trying to be cool and it totally turns them off. We need to get over ourselves. If you're a Christian, you gave up being cool as soon as you said, "I love you" to Jesus Christ.
Put simply, the pragmatists are unpragmatic. Their practice is philosophically self-defeating. The moment they try to be cool to attract cool people is the moment every cool person leaves their church.
I should add that I feel qualified to speak this way about pragmatism because I, too, am a pragmatist. If God is our creator, he knows the perfect strategy for marketing the gospel to his creation: preaching Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor 2:2). No bells, no whistles. The unadulterated gospel, pure and simple. So wouldn't it be the most pragmatic, common sense thing to do to adopt his strategy? He has a great success rate. Every single person who has ever been saved was captured hook, line, and sinker by it. Why not give it a whirl and see what happens? It could be the most pragmatic thing you've ever done.