I wrote the book Unfashionable to make the point that Christians make a difference in this world by being different from this world; they don't make a difference by being the same.
My deep concern (which prompted me to write the book) is that many Christians, specifically in America, seem just as fascinated with success, popularity, power, and prestige as the world around them. Materialism, consumerism, individualism, and narcissism—cultural ideals that are antithetical to the self-sacrificial nature of the gospel—are just as prevalent inside the church as they are outside. The sad fact is that we in the American church are better known for producing self-exalting superstars than we are self-sacrificial servants.
If professing Christians took an honest inventory of our own pursuits and the desires that motivate them, we would discover that we're really no different from the world around us. Therefore, we have no right to point the finger at those outside the church for the way things are in this world. Many studies show that Christians are almost indistinguishable from non-Christians in their pursuit of fame and fortune, clout and cachet. Christians want to "fit in" just like everyone else. So we, just like everyone else, spend our time, our money, and our intellectual energy chasing after what everyone else is chasing after, whatever that might be.
Here's the bottom line: I want to be a big Christian, and I want you to be a big Christian. I want the church to be filled with people like Polycarp. Polycarp was a God-drenched man; I want to be a God-drenched man. Every part of Polycarp's being was devoted to God and his unfashionable ways. Nothing else could explain his God-centered perspective during the most trying time of his life. He refused to give in and go along. To him, following God was no joke and no popularity contest. He was a God-intoxicated man who lived his life coram Deo (before the face of God) and who was therefore unafraid of anything this world could do to him.
I don't know about you, but I don't want to play around with my life. I want to "leave it all out on the field" for Christ's sake. I don't want to be a mile wide and an inch deep, spiritually. I want to possess the backbone to dig in and be unfashionable. I'm ashamed of those moments when I'm afraid to be a fool for Christ because the world might think I'm strange. I want to have a God-given, uncommon valor to follow God's lead and do God's will, regardless of how I might be perceived. I want to live my life, as the Puritans used to say, before "an audience of One."
Christians who try to convince the world around them that they're really no different at all, hoping they'll be accepted on the world's terms and on the world's turf, should be embarrassed. It's time for Christians to embrace the fact that we're peculiar people. Because true followers of Jesus have been given a new heart and mind, we're to operate according to a different standard, with different goals and motivations. Everything about us—our perspective on possessions, lifestyle, and relationships—will be foundationally different from the world around us: "We worship what we cannot see, love what we cannot hold, and live for what we cannot own." To the world around us, this will seem out of place, uncool, and odd; it's high time followers of Jesus learn to embrace that fact.