Bono, the lead singer of U2, just received an honorary knighthood from the Queen of England. (Story here in the BBC) This is interesting for many reasons. First, he is a rockstar. Second, he is not a British national and is in fact Irish. Third, he is a rockstar, although we know that he is one who is making a difference in Africa and impacting the way people think globally. The music is great. But, we are seeing more than music.
Why is it that the Evangelical Church in America seems to have a hard time embracing the power of modern music (as well as art, etc.) and how it can influence culture? We have tackled education, politics and even creation science. I think, except for politics, that we have brought discourse that has been beneficial to our society. But, it seems we are losing our edge.
Today, we see a change. The Evangelicals are now divided. We have seminars on the environment. World hunger and AIDS have made us cross paths with the likes of Bono. Yet still we have a group of us that wants to run back to Fundamentalism (defined as the group in the 20th century who were committed to "fundamentals" of the faith and being separate). This means for some still living in fear and speaking against the culture. (Ironically, Evangelicals broke from the Fundamentalists for this very reason).
Never in recent history, in my opinion, has there been a window that the Evangelical Church can make sweeping, lasting and meaningful improvement to our culture in America. We see it in the film industry with a renewed interest in making films like "The Passion of the Christ" or "The Chronicles of Narnia" and we see it in the growth of Christians in the mainstream of entertainment. However, these "missionaries" are not seen as such. Real-life believers had to be in places in Hollywood to make Narnia happen. And, even though improving the culture is a good cause, the primary mission of the Church requires us to speak the language of today.
I applaud the work Bono and others are doing to help people who are in deep need in Africa and other places in the world. How can we learn from all of this?
Here is a list of things I believe we (evangelicals) must consider.
- The arts need to be seen as a mission field in reaching "The West" which is now more godless and churchless than some of the places we send our missionaries. How can your church and mine send our artist-missionaries? Do you have systems setup to support and send out your talent to Hollywood or other entertainment centers?
- We need to separate politics from the mission of our church, while still being very active as citizens. Pastors need to be pastors, in other words. Policy makers need to be policy makers. Keep blue and red from the church sanctuary and reach ALL of your community, not just those who think like you and look like you How are we reaching out to liberally-minded people in our city? (For instance).
- Lets stop being "against" the culture and instead be salt and light in the culture. Our culture is no more evil or good than many others, given historical comparisons. So, we have no excuse to live in a ghetto or bunker. Our actions really do matter if we want our words to be heard. Does the community know what we even do for them in service? (Not to brag, but to display who we really are).
- We MUST learn the language of our culture, or we will basically lose. We will lose the ability to present the gospel of Jesus. We will lose the opportunity to have an audience. We will lose our kids, too. Be more concerned about we we are not reaching than who we are reaching in our churches–the "market share" of people unreached is amazingly huge.
Of course, we can’t solve the worlds problems right here. But, like Bono, we can leverage who we are as Christians to sure give it a shot. Why not?