I have been working as a full-time campus missionary for almost six years now… and what I used to think about Christianity and the Church back when I was not a Christian yet, has still been the same thing young people we are trying to reach for Christ are thinking… Christianity is BORING. And yet, more and more young people are adept to the doctrine of MTV, YouTube, and the Popular Culture. In a conversation with University Students recently, it is notable that they can easily quote Katy Perry’s Songs more than basic Bible verses like John 3:16. They know more about Lady Gaga than Moses, David or Jesus; and they ponder more about issues and controversies these artist are into more than their life’s purposes and values.
Interestingly, last summer of 2012, Lady Gaga had her “Born This Way” Concert in Manila, which shook the religious silence of the nation; with all of the controversies from followers and hater at the same time. Stefani Germanotta (Lady Gaga) was named Forbes’ Most Powerful Woman in the World in 2011 and was included in Time’s annual “The 2010 Time 100″ list of the most influential people in the world. With over 2.2 billion combined views of all her videos online, Lady Gaga is one of the biggest living people on Facebook with over 47 million ‘likes’ and is #1 on Twitter with nearly 19 million followers. This makes her much more popular than anyone, and her songs and performances celebrated by millions of followers, majority of which are young people.
These may not be big a concern for some of those who are not familiar with the kind of art and moral she’s espousing. Yet, millions are very much disturbed with the messages of her song, the values she’s teaching the young people and her almost-nude performances.
Confession will I make, I tried listening to her songs, and studied some of it. Surprisingly, I think, Lady Gaga has that “thing” young people are looking for – the inner desire to satisfy one’s curiosity and challenge the norms, culture and religion. Her ability to communicate to the soul of people is something that ministers (I believe) should adapt. Not that I want to espouse such unbiblical morals, nor compromise on some “standards” and “convictions” a Believer has, but seeing her propagate and dominate and maintain her fame is something worth considering. This led me to asking: How can Lady Gaga capture the hearts of young people, and why can’t the church do the same? If we have all the power from on high, all the anointing, all the best teachings, and all the answers to life’s important questions, why can’t we make an appeal to this generation’s young people?
In a book titled “Pop Goes to Church” by Tim Stevens, he said, “It has taken the church two thousand years to make Jesus – the most compelling and attractive person who ever lived – boring! Yet thousand of churches have made ‘boring’ an art form, and they impose their perfecting of such on people every Sunday morning.”
I believe this is not because we, Christians, lack creativity or ideas. The God of all creation made us in His own image, having all the creativity and wisdom God wants to bless us with. The problem lies with us not being open to the “world”, thinking, Oh, I might compromise… Oh, my pastor told me not to listen to “secular” songs… Oh, it might contaminate my “holy” culture… and many more reasons rooted on the desire to just “preserve” our Churchy image and neglect the dying world.
I remember back in college, a classmate of mine told me how his pastor would prohibit her not to watch any movie, because we should not be yoked with the world. Being a literature major, a lot of our requirements would deal with movie adaptations of literary pieces, listening to music, and other things that she can be caught up “compromising” with if she engage in any of such.
Drums are not allowed in church because it’s the “instrument of the demon.” Hymns and solemn songs are the only acceptable “Godly” music. As if God cannot communicate with any song with drums or electric guitar. Now before you think I’m condemning any traditional way of worship, I want to say I value them, like how God values them. I love listening to old hymns and classic worship songs. In fact, i have those for my personal devotions. I feel like I can connect more with God when I’m listening to “Power of Your Love”, “Touching Heaven, Changing Earth”, “Through it All”, “Eagle’s Wings” and many more. Yet we should understand that our way of worship is not always the “standard” way of worship. The reason many young people are not attracted to church is because we are simply not as attractive and new as the young people would delight to be part of. That’s is why I’m an advocate of using Popular Culture as a tool that we can leverage to bring more people to Church. This is not to say that It’s the only way, but face it, people between 16-29 years old think Christians are hypocritical, too focused on getting converts, homophobic, sheltered, too political, and judgmental, very traditional, boring and exclusive. “Christianity is out of tune with the real-world choices, challenges, and lifestyles they face.” (Stevens, 2008: Pop Goes to Church)
We embrace pop culture because we believe it offers a refreshing, alternative route to a Jesus who for many has been domesticated, declawed, and kept under wraps. Jesus Himself leveraged pop culture during His time by using parables. Before you think it was too old during his time, it was the in-thing. It was like quoting Katy Perry’s or Miley Cyrus’ songs at that time. Jesus was bold enough to engage the culture He is in; did not isolate himself in an “exclusive” manner. (I wish to write more on this)
This Stefani Germanotta opened my eyes to where our young people are in. I listen to her, I watch her (sometimes, especially if she’s got a proper clothes to wear on), I followed her interviews and tweets. She’s got something in her that’s why she has more followers than the church today. So before we detach ourselves from the “world”, let’s try to see why young people are where they are. They might be getting something there that we fail, as a church, to have. I am fully convinced that our God has given us the creativity to attract more people to His kingdom.