High school was challenging for me. I attended a large public high school in Green Bay, Wisconsin, with a graduating class of 460 students. Socially it was a nightmare. I had come from a very small, private middle school and as a result was clueless to what was and was not “cool.” Early in my freshman year, I discovered my denim backpack was so not cool. The pressure to fit in was suffocating. ​

Does the pressure to fit in ever go away? When adults think back to their high school years, most may agree the pressure to fit in was high compared to what it is now; but I’m not so sure about that. Might it be, even in our 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, we still feel pressure to fit in, but we are more skilled at disguising it? Might it be, that what we called “fitting in” in high school is what we call “relevant” as adults? 

Being “cool” or “fitting in” in high school is just another way of saying we gained the approval of a certain circle of students. I’m becoming more and more convinced our pursuit of being “relevant” is the same thing. In church contexts, “relevant” can be our desire to communicate biblical truth to the culture in ways they understand. But increasingly, being “relevant” is expanding beyond the borders of cultural intelligibility. Our desire to be “relevant” is really a sign we’re increasingly becoming approval junkies.

We Christians know there is some stuff we believe that is going to be perceived as uncool. We believe marriage is one man, one woman, for life. We believe sex should be thoroughly enjoyed only within the context of a marriage. We believe a man was tortured and killed, but came back to life and will one day return riding on the clouds. Christians believe some strange stuff. We’re aware of that, so we try to compensate by demonstrating to the culture around us we aren’t loony. We do this by staying on top of the latest trends in technology, fashion, and social media all as a way to say, “Hey everybody, even though I’m a Christian, I’m still cool!”

I’ve got news for you, Christian, even though you own the newest iPhone, wear the latest Banana Republic styles, and are the first to use the hot, new social media app, you’re still going to be weird. Get over it! Don’t be ashamed of it. In God’s eyes, weird is the new cool.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Galatians 1:10

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