My friend Brett McCracken's book Hipster Christianity finally came out (in the interest of full disclosure, I blurbed the book). I know a colleague who is using it in his class this fall, and I was delighted to read it and see what a fine, serious, but not too self-conscious job Brett did of examining, dissecting, and evaluating a very specific trend in Christianity. (Along with others, I suspect the trend is hitting its end, but Brett's book also does a pretty good job of explaining why that won't actually dawn on folks for a while.)
Brett had a bit in the Wall Street Journal about the perils of "cool" churches and why folks like him (and me) are scared off or turned off by them:
'How can we stop the oil gusher?" may have been the question of the summer for most Americans. Yet for many evangelical pastors and leaders, the leaking well is nothing compared to the threat posed by an ongoing gusher of a different sort: Young people pouring out of their churches, never to return.
As a 27-year-old evangelical myself, I understand the concern. My peers, many of whom grew up in the church, are losing interest in the Christian establishment.
Recent statistics have shown an increasing exodus of young people from churches, especially after they leave home and live on their own. In a 2007 study, Lifeway Research determined that 70% of young Protestant adults between 18-22 stop attending church regularly.
Statistics like these have created something of a mania in recent years, as baby-boomer evangelical leaders frantically assess what they have done wrong (why didn't megachurches work to attract youth in the long term?) and scramble to figure out a plan to keep young members engaged in the life of the church.
Increasingly, the "plan" has taken the form of a total image overhaul, where efforts are made to rebrand Christianity as hip, countercultural, relevant. As a result, in the early 2000s, we got something called "the emerging church"—a sort of postmodern stab at an evangelical reform movement. Perhaps because it was too "let's rethink everything" radical, it fizzled quickly. But the impulse behind it—to rehabilitate Christianity's image and make it "cool"—remains.
I recommend the book to you!