"Hipster Christians": An Analysis

I am a rebel! What can I say? There I sat in the dimly lit coffee shop throwing caution to the wind. Despite all warnings that reading in poor lighting will ruin your eyes I was studying the Gospel of Mark under a small table lamp. I know, it’s just scandalous. The coffee shop wasn’t very crowded so it was easy for me to spot two other young men, on opposite sides of the room who were also reading their Bibles. It was an interesting sight to behold, and it got me thinking: young 20 something Christians like coffee and the Bible. To me that’s kind of cool, and cool and Christianity are a topic that is as hot as a fresh pot of Joe these days.

I recently read and reviewed Brett McCracken’s book Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide. My conclusion was that McCracken did a poor job of analyzing these so called “hipsters.” I am anxiously waiting for a thorough analysis and investigation of what these young Christians and their churches mean for the future of evangelicalism. As I wait, however, I thought I might as well try and attempt a simple look at some of the common trends among my Christian peers and offer up my own predictions. I am, myself, a young “20 something” pastor, and so I spend a great deal of time thinking about this relationship and what it means for the future, for the church, and for the gospel. My particular role at our church is in the discipleship ministry and I believe that the present and the future of discipleship among young adults is very excited.

You can call them “Hipsters” if you’d like, though the term is actually a derogatory term (Brett McCracken acknowledges this in his book, but suggests he can think of no other term befitting). You can call them Emergents or Neo-Calvinists, or some other name yet to be invented. Realistically I think it’s hard to categorize them into some group beyond young adults, but that is not to say, however, that there aren’t some common trends among young adult Christians that are worthy of an investigation. The hope is that as we study these trends together we see a way to encourage them and utilize their energies and passions for the good of the Kingdom of God. Of course in discipleship this should be done with all peoples, regardless of ages and interests. But since the topic of “Hipster” Christians is particularly popular at the moment it is worth a good discussion.

My goal in a forthcoming series of posts will be to analyze four trends among young adult Christians and what they mean for the future of evangelicalism, as best I can predict. First, Missions. Second, Social Justice. Third, Art. Lastly, Christian Liberty. What do you think are some common trends among young adult Christians today, and what do you think, if anything, these trends mean?

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  • The trend I see is that there doesn’t seem to be a dominant trend across the board. Just like youth culture has splintered more and more into affinity groups, it seems like the 20-something church has done the same. Many of the traits that people point to as ‘hipster Christianity’ are things that I, living in my semi-rural small town in South Carolina, have yet to witness. I think we have to be careful in proclaiming a global or otherwise widespread Church trend based on how a relatively small subset of the Church behaves.

  • I agree with Joseph.

    I’m actually looking forward to your analysis, and I think something in-depth from a perspective different from McCracken’s will be valuable. But be careful that you don’t make a similar mistake.

    There is most certainly more to say about those McCracken points to, and those you seem to be pointing to, than that they are “20-something Christians.” For example, I don’t see a lot of black baptist 20-somethings sipping a latte at the Starbucks I go to. Nor do I see many working class 20-somethings popping in to the local microbrewery. Don’t assume that the 20-somethings you see in your daily life are representative of most evangelicals in the age group.

    And I don’t think of the term “hipster” as a pejorative. Don’t be so tweeked by your resemblance to McCracken’s description that you forget that you simply fall in to a group of believers who share some characteristics, which could be called “hipsters”. I fall into a group of believers who would be called “geeks”. We’re all part of some group, and it’s ok.

    And with the differences in extremes (“Emergents” and “Neo-Calvinists”), remember that there are liberal modernists, and conservative modernists, but they’re all modernists nonetheless.