Welcome back.

Make it Sizzle: Fads, trends and other really important things you gotta know to make it.

What’s cool? What’s hot? What are the trends that matter?

I locked my car in the parking lot of Asuza Pacific University and hurried for the chapel where I was the scheduled speaker. Even though I was in a hurry, I had to stop and watch a really interesting thing: A young man in a nice suit and tie skateboarding to class.

Elegant yet youthful, I thought.

Last week I was in one of the two centers of the universe, Manhattan. It seemed that every eighteen year old male walking the street sported a baseball cap slighted tilted up and pointed to the side.

After about the hundredth male sporting this look walked by, cool began to look uniform and a bit ridiculous.

Today, producer and songwriter, Fau, stopped by our house. He got up to leave after a short visit.

“Well gotta go back to the hood,” he said.

“Interesting, isn’t it?” I said. “Today, the burbs are the new ghettos”.

“In the 80’s everybody was moving to Moreno valley. The ‘burbs’”. Gettin’ out of the city. It was nice. Quiet.” He said. “Now all you see is boys walkin’ ’round with pants dragging on the floor.”

The hood used to be here closer to the cities. Now it’s out there in the ‘burbs’. So what’s hot? What’s cool? Who’s moving where? Who’s doing what? And what are the trends that matter?

Tracking trends was, it seems, just a trend according to an LA Times piece, Fads are so yesterday – Los Angeles Times, and is so out of style.

Change happens so rapidly that fads don’t matter for long. Maybe Marketing, rather appealing to what we like, is designed more than ever to create our appetite for consumer goods. More interestingly, the article suggests that “culture” and “consumerism” are intimately dovetailed in our connected age. The moment we do simplify our lifes, or add an interest, someone out there is marketing products to help us in our new lifestyle choices and cash in.

Christ following leaders do well to stay on top of pop culture. We need to know our audience. But we do better when we stop only asking:

  • what are the trends?
  • What are people doing?

And start also asking…given our context and most importantly in light of the life of Jesus

  • what should be a trend?
  • What could people be doing?

Market that. Make it sizzle. Trendy or not, what we could be doing to live and walk in the way of Jesus will always be hot… or cool.

What do you think?

Into the Mystic…

Alex McManus


13 responses to “Fads are so yesterday”

  1. Sam Avatar

    Good thoughts, Alex. I think a whole load of churches have just focused on those first two questions and its a losing battle as I see it. It leaves churches endlessly playing catch up with the culture rather than transforming it.

    As you say, it’s ok to ask those first two questions, it’s just not enough to stop there. We have to move onto the second two questions and discover how we can be proactive rather than merely reactive.

  2. Peter Avatar

    right on. create culture rather than simply follow it. easier said than done but that’s what we need to do.

  3. Mike Avatar

    It’s easy to stop at that first set of questions (maybe because the answers change just about 3 days before we get to them). What can we do to avoid being distracted by the pursuit of what’s ‘cool’ and ask the second set of questions and really set the trend? I agree completely that we should be shaping the cultural climate instead of just reacting to the weather… how have you seen this played out in your settings?

  4. Carrie Avatar

    true Alex. I read the same article. I used to teach in Moreno Valley and it’s exactly like Fau said. I loved the high school though – the most diverse school I’ve ever seen.

  5. Peter Avatar

    I feel like being aware of “what’s cool” shouldn’t require any effort at all if we’re really living in the world and not isolating ourselves into closed off Christian communities. For example, business people know that Blackberries are the “in” things but tribepeople in some remote african village have no idea what Blackberries are. In the same way, if we’re living in the world, knowing “what’s cool” should be obvious.

    That saves us from the scenario where we’re living outside of culture and wasting so much effort in trying to figure out what’s cool. Instead, by living in the world, we can focus our efforts on creating culture.

  6. Greg from Winnipeg Avatar

    I’ve been perusing TrendWatching.com recently. I was struck by a few of thoughts.

    Firstly, what it might be like to have 7000+ “watchers” all over the globe spotting (or better yet DOING) and reporting in real time on innovations and ground-breaking approaches to advancing the kingdom. Perhaps a future iteration of iMosaic might look like this?

    Secondly, how impossibly overwhelming the trends are in terms of staying educated and informed – never mind actually follow them. The hyper-individualization of our culture and miniaturization of economy is so extreme you wonder if it will end up with one person acquiring an ultra-customized good or service from one other person online and that will be the totality of consumerism. What would that mean for the church?

    Related to that… will the new challenge of educators, trainers, pastors be to coach people in information management. I’m talking at a basic “life-skill” level just so they can keep their sanity and survive. Is being able to pick only a certain number of information “feeds” in your life, aggregating and summarizing them, while filtering out the rest, going to become a basic survival skill?

    I agree that Christ following leaders need to be aware, informed. I agree that it is zenith of Christ following leaders’ potential (and perhaps their birthright) to create rather than just mimic culture. But I wonder if our churches will flood with a new kind of refugee. One that’s fleeing information overload and digital oppression rather than war and injustice.

    What will the church offer them as solace? More of the same tech-driven info onslaught… just Christianized? Or will we offer peace? Peace on many levels. A mystical washing of their technology-ravaged soul? Will the church walk a dual path of ethos architect and cultural antithesis? In a reversal of current prevailing wisdom… will the church that offers quiet and serentity outpace the shock-and-awe Sunday morning services in terms of meeting the new needs of a desperately overwhelmed society? Will the draw be unplugging rather than plugging in?

    I’m just wondering if the pace, the trends, and the proliferation of technology will spin so dizzyingly that it will incur a cultural backlash. If so, what will that look like and how will the church respond?

    Random thoughts from a humble city.

    p.s. – Coming to LA Nov. 10th! I’m a little more leary after watching the recent film “Crash” – but still excited. Hope to raise a few threads during my stay.

  7. Amy Nicholson Avatar

    Ummm… so: What are Blackberries? I’m assuming that you’re not talking about blackberries. Wow! Oh, no. I haven’t looked at a TV in a month and I’m totally missing everything.

    As far as culture, I have it pretty easy right now. The people at this church are concerned with mold, water, bleach by the pallet full, tarps… Our fellowship hall is a food warehouse and our Sunday school rooms are either gutted out by the storm or being used as a hostile. We feed a thousand of our neighbors daily. Our biggest winners right now are hamburgers and home made fries and or jumbalaya.

    But, really. When we get on with “normal”, aka not survival mode, what kinds of things are you referring to? Can anyone give me an example to these God trends I’m hearing about? I’m all about new things. I think God is still creating and he uses us to bring them forth, but what are ya’ll thinking about? I’m curious to see how these great ideas get played out. I guess I’m just needing some inspiration.

  8. Thomas Middleton Avatar
    Thomas Middleton

    Greg from Winnipeg.
    I agree with your thoughts on technological backlash. At least for the next decade or so, I think a significant ministry of the church will be to help the world unplug from itself. I think keeping up is about to get real old. We are already starting to see an anitconsumer sentiment. As Alex suggests, the fads are just uniforms. When I returned to So. Cal. from living in Scotland as a missionary a year ago, I would often comment to my hip friends about the styles folks were wearing. They would comment about how I didn’t look very postmodern becasue I didn’t dress and talk like a postmodern. I retorted that it was just another uniform like country music singers, or when rap artists shake their hand down low to the camera on their templated music videos. Even postmoderns have a set of culture values that if violated will result in faux pa or excommunication. Christ gave us a culture to create in the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a culture of love, justice and peace. People follow those who are leading and offering what is needed at the deepest part of the soul. I went to Azusa Pacific University years ago. I watched professors try and be cool so as to relate to the students. The profs who best related to the hip college students were the ones who were relevant to student’s concerns and changed the way they thought for the good. The best profs, no matter how fashionable they were, were the ones who were Godly (knew and were changed by God), and God impacted the students’ lives through them.
    We’ve got leaders in many of our churches who are trying to change people through good pastoral skills or whiz bang ideas, instead of through what God is doing in their own lives and letting that impact their people. I learned first hand in Scotland that I had nothing to offer anyone, ministry wise, except what God was doing in my own life. If I wasn’t being impacted by God because I wasn’t spending time with God, I didn’t impact people, no matter my training or skills. I think the Church will have something to offer the world when the Church is going to God to change the Church first. What do you think?

  9. tommy Avatar

    Is anything “new under the sun”? When I think of relevance, I do not necessarily think of trendiness. I think of it as knowing and speaking the language of a culture. When the church attempts to be trendy it often looks very silly, but when a church speaks the language of the people they are reaching, it can be a beautiful thing. I do think people are looking for peace, but even more so looking for love and acceptance, wherein they will find peace. Jesus was teaching us to relate by telling us to love and serve. Perhaps the culture that the church needs to create or recreate is a culture where people experience love on a level that they never have before. In order to share that love it is necessary to speak the language of the people who desperately need it. Radical sounding, I know. Perhaps what is going on at Amy’s church is a picture of what the church is supposed to look like. What do you think?

  10. Larry Nelson Avatar

    Seems to me that “cultural relevance” is irrelevant. Chasing trends makes me laugh. I see people walking around with cell phones as if they’re trophies, or badges of belonging, and yet the conversations are as banal as the shows they avidly consume from their TVs.

    Jesus wasn’t very relevant to the Pharisees, but he still wrested the world away from them. Churches chase culture and leave the Holy Spirit behind. Doing what’s right will never go out of style. If you speak in the culture’s voice you end up being a copy of that culture. Nothing changes.

    What kind of price are you willing to pay for the desired revolution? Being a real revolutionariy isn’t cool, and tends to shorten one’s life.

  11. tommy Avatar

    I am curious Larry. Why does speaking the language of the culture mean becoming a copy of that culture? If I am in Mexico, I would need to speak Spanish to relate to the people. That would not mean that I am a Mexican, it would simply mean that I am making an effort to connect to the people through the language that they speak. How could we communicate otherwise?

  12. Amy Nicholson Avatar

    So what I’m getting from ya’ll is that looking on the outside, like fads for example, is out because it’s – well – worldy, passing, passe, whatever. But, if one were to focus on the true needs of our community and the heart issues that Christ is the ultimate solution for, then one’s ministry is truly relevent regardless if one has blueberries or Blackberries [I Googled it and now I’m in the know.]? I think this goes with being a relational revolution. After all the goal is not to build yet another subculture of yet another “cool”, but being a gathering where all cultures can co-exist as community.

  13. Tym De Santo Avatar

    It fascinates me that this conversation seems to be articulated, (mostly) by individuals whose personal bent does not skew toward the artistically creative. Understand that this is not a criticism but simply an observation. I have always seen artists as people who’s vision lies beyond the boundaries of the average man. These people were simply created in this unique way. As long as the average man, (of which there seem to be an abundance in american church leadership) find themselves compelled to play creative, when in fact their skills lie elsewhere…then we will be stuck with a church that is at it’s best, playing catch up. Do what only you can do and do it in excellence. Fads and trends exist because we desire talents and abilities that are not our own.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: