February 4, 2014

Pull the Trigger (Christianity & Influence)

"Christian" musician.
"Christian" band.
A musician or band who happens to also be Christian.

You've heard the discussion before, right? "Those guys are Christians, aren't they?" You listen to artists like Lifehouse and The Fray and quickly realize that 1/2 their tracks aren't being sung to or about a girl. These are faith statements they're making. And you like the music you're hearing. You're cheering on the inside, believing maybe you've found someone who shares your beliefs, is willing to sing about them, and is gaining a voice with outsiders because their music is actually worth listening to. Been there? Sure you have.

Yesterday this ARTICLE was brought to my attention, bringing up the issue and subject of Christians artists (or artists, musicians, athletes who happen to be believers) and the responsibility they hold due to the influence they carry. (It sparked a pretty thoughtful conversation on my Facebook page). If a musician, based on his lyrics, affiliations, and/or public statements, claims to be a Christian, what responsibilities come along with that? Let me be really specific about some of the questions that I have heard arise, not just through this specific article, but over the last 2 decades:

Can a "Christian band" say they're a Christian band - be on a Christian label - sing "Christian" songs - yet never say the name of Jesus?

If an artist/musician has clearly represented that they are a follower of Jesus Christ, what responsibility do they have to give extra scrutiny to where they go, what they do, and who they do it with?

When an artist or athlete gains a platform, aren't they obligated to use that platform to share the Gospel with those following and listening?

We could go on and on, but you get the point. The list of questions, concerns, and arguments that arise is long because of the fact that 1) there are those in the secular marketplace who are attempting to make inroads with the Gospel, 2) there are others in the Christian marketplace who appear to be making no attempts to actually reach the lost, but more "rally the troops", and finally 3) there are those who just seem to be stuck in the middle of all of this and don't know what to do or how to respond. And then there is the mass majority, looking in from the outside, scrutinizing all of them. Who's right? Who's wrong? Is there a clear distinction and criteria? How do we discern our way through this?

First off, let me give you (what I believe to be) a great example of the dilemma. Enter Switchfoot. For several years now the Foreman brothers and their San Diego surf rock band have been one of my favorites. I've seen Switchfoot in concert 4 times. I own every album. Their songs inspire me, make me think, cause me to consider God - His ways, character, and goodness - from perspectives I failed to observe on my own. In concert, these guys expend more energy and passion than 2 teams in a NBA game. They go places and play in front of crowds that they know did NOT come to see them. And then you add on top of it that the music - that big, hairy, overdriven guitar-rich music they write - is so good, I don't need much else to draw me in. But all that said, every once in awhile, I just keep wondering the same thing, wanting to ask the same question: When are they going to "pull the trigger"?

What do you mean "pull the trigger"? 

This is where the scrutiny begins. I wonder and question and want to know: As this platform gets bigger and as more people are listening and watching - as you gain more and more followers and gain more and more influence - when are you finally going to pull the trigger, drop the hammer, and SAY, "Jesus! That's who I keep singing about!" Is Jesus expecting Jon Foreman to stand on stage every show, spell out the "plan of salvation" (as we like to call it), and "lead people to the Lord"? Or is Jesus calling Jon to seize every opportunity to speak into the personal lives of those who begin to know him for who he is? Does being a Christian artist or athlete by nature imply that you're actually a preacher who sings or hits a baseball? 

Do you understand how long this conversation could be?
Do we grasp how exhausting and neverending the scrutiny can become?
So what are we to do with this conflict of interests? How do we resolve it?

Let me answer that question as plainly as I know how: WE DON'T.

Sure, if I find out today that Jon Foreman is cheating on his wife, cheats on his taxes, or for that matter, cheats at Uno, I might rethink my relationship with Switchfoot. Integrity would be compromised. Messages would be mixed. But does knowing that Switchfoot played a show with the Foo Fighters so they could possibly get their foot in the door with a crowd they never would otherwise bother me? No. Should it? I don't know. (I would first have to deal with the fact that I've been to a Foo Fighters concert.) Where's the line? How and where do we find some clarity in all of this? In an attempt to find a place to land with some common ground, here are some things I think are important to consider:

What is MY responsibility with the platform and influence God has given ME?

Am I fully utilizing it for the sake of the Kingdom of God & to share the Gospel?

Do I keep building relationships with people, yet never "pull the trigger"?

Is my life reaching into the lives of those who are "walking in darkness? Yes, Jesus "ate with sinners", but he did it with the intent of rescuing them from hopelessness and sin. Jesus wasn't trying to gain a platform; He was reaching into the hearts of spiritually dead people and showing them the way to life. Am I doing that?

I don't really listen to Lecrae much. But every song I've listened to and read the lyrics to has in some way challenged or encouraged me in the Gospel. Is he utilizing the platform the Lord has given him? Is he harnessing his influence? I don't know. We haven't hung out. I'm praying that he is and that he does take every opportunity to speak words of truth into the lives of those who are listening. I pray that for Jon Foreman. I pray that for each of us, that we will take whatever influence the Lord has given us and every opportunity laid before us to speak the Gospel and give evidence through our lives that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life - still bringing people from death to life.

Romans 10:14-17

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