Thursday, December 22, 2016

Lecrae, A Ministry Worker, And A Preacher Walk Into A Theater...

Most young adults in the "Christian" diaspora know who Lecrae is. For those of you who don't, you probably should get out more. I think this article should educate you a little about him. But the article caused me to take a critical look at the content. I focus specifically on this quote: 

"Artists and musicians and pop stars often seem to exist in their own elevated sphere, totally separate from regular people. This is because they have a lot of power to influence others with their ideas; as Lecrae put it, ‘I need to be a great steward of what comes out of my mouth.’ But if you accept the premise of Christianity, the difference between famous rappers and their fans seems flatter—no matter what you do to make money, the way you live in the world is necessarily an expression of your beliefs. This is true for crunk rappers, Christian rockers, and call-center clerks alike: Regular life doesn't necessarily have to be an act of proselytization, whether for Chandon or Christ; it will always be an act of expression. As Lecrae put it, "In the same way that Jesus was a carpenter, I don’t know if he put his message into all the things he built with his hands—I think he wanted to make good quality craftsmanship."

Here is my take: Christians are criticized, dismissed, vilified, ignored, or ridiculed for proselytizing when our society and culture in fact constantly proselytizes to Christians (and others) to conform (read: regress) to the loosely tectonic foundation of societal mores and ethics. It’s ironic and hypocritical to render a Christian persona non grata if he/she decides to win someone to Christ because he believes this is a better life than the one society sells.

Even the term "proselytize" is a prima facie misnomer of sorts because everyone proselytizes. It doesn’t require a religious overtone or thrust. Marketing agencies proselytize using commercials advertising products designed for a better life; politicians proselytize using campaign speeches that make promises of a better life; and, yes, entertainers proselytize consciously and subliminally to sell the idea that life is better when people live like them…at least that is what they would have us think. And trying to obtain a lifestyle like them is usually not for better and in most cases for worse. Even the random individual often seeks to try to get someone "on their team" to support a personal cause. So why are Christians raked over the coals for doing what the masses consciously or subconsciously do every day?

It’s because of the “R” word: religion. And people who prefer to avoid accountability for their souls, or deny that they have souls, or refuse to believe the hype, or are satisfied with their own self-prescribed life philosophy (e.g., YOLO) would rather run from and discredit religion instead of open their minds to looking at it without impllicit bias. Changing up their lifestyle to sacrifice half of their weekend (at worst) for little to no carnal payoff is too much to give up. And to have to listen to someone preach to them is enough to drive most of them to take Monday off from work or school to make up for the time they lost in getting the "preaching" they really want to receive. 

The key here is being able to realize that the power of the Gospel is seen in a transformed life who returns to his/her community to live amongst his/her circles of influence in hopes of exposing some to the reality of the Kingdom...whether it be vocally or through curiosity sparked by influence (read: letting his/her light shine).

I believe there is a time to serve and a time to preach; a time to wait tables and a time to save souls; a time to be on the offensive (life-based ministry from the heart) and a time to be on the defensive (Logos-based ministry guarding the heart). It would be inconsistent with Scripture to say that preaching does not have its place in our contemporary world. The Kingdom will always require a herald (Matthew 3.1). But I also believe that we can no longer afford to be top-heavy with preaching when we are feather-light on eupraxis.

I opine this is what Lecrae is aspiring to do. I'm not calling him some new revelation for the "Christian" world since he is a hip hop artist...because, quite frankly, he isn't. All he is doing is what he believes God has called him to do, which is to reach people for Jesus without giving them the message first...and be unashamed while doing it. He is about doing him, expressing it through his creative musical process, and letting the chips of the "Gospel" fall where they may. 

But to focus on one aspect of Christianity (Matthew 5.16) is not to vilify the other (Mark 16.15). They are not mutually exclusive. The church still must proselytize (read: evangelize). Preaching is necessary (Romans 10.1ff). Salvation is real, faith is indispensable, and baptism is the undeniable portal to covenant relationship with God per Holy Writ. But you gotta get to the people first.

(Whispering behind the door): "Is he gone yet??

The megaphone is no longer a viable medium to reach them. Canvassing via door-knocking is marginally effective, especially in certain communities with houses protected by an iron-rod fence and either a Rottweiler or pit bull (or both...or several of each). So this requires a new-yet-old way of reaching untapped, unapproachable, neglected segments of our society without using a "church"-styled, "scorched earth" methodology.

Jesus in His pre-ministry life was a carpenter, but He left physical carpentry behind when the Spirit descended upon Him after His baptism to begin spiritual carpentry (Matt 16.18; 1Peter 2.5ff). While still a youth, Jesus followed in his earthly father's vocational footsteps yet still having favor with God and mankind. But around age 30, He decided to follow His heavenly Father's redemptive footsteps to bring mankind back in favor with God. So His message was not directly linked to His trade, even though His trade reflected the ethical, moral, and spiritual characteristics of His message and ministry.

In essence, it is not easy to divorce message from expression and evangelism. One is not more important than the other two. All must be actively engaged for the person not exposed to any of them to walk past the theater and make it into the sanctuary.

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