Hope in the message…or the medium?

Stage Lights

It’s a very simple question yet deserves a thoughtful answer: where is your hope? In the message? Or the medium?

We live in an age where there can be a lot of pressure upon churches to have the very latest technology, to do away with the hymn books and have projected words displayed on an animated graphic or to have some well-produced video montage instead of a sermon.

None of this in and of itself is wrong but sometimes I find myself wondering whether we have misplaced our hope and are building upon sand. I’m reminded of the words written by Paul,

‘You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did-Jesus crucified.’ – 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 (MSG)

Wow! Read that again. Now I hope I can draw out some parallels for us as Christians and artists in particular. I’ve been a youth worker (unofficially) for a few years now and have noticed something striking. Many of the youth conferences that I have been to have had incredibly loud music, a polished band with up to three drum kits (!) and impressive lighting and visual effects and video clips – pretty much everything you could want if you had a huge budget at your disposal! The last thing I want to do is pour cold water upon all the hard work that so many passionate Christians have done for Jesus, but I still feel uneasy. It seems to me that it is incredibly easy to get so caught up in all the hype and gadgets and loseWeight Exercise sight of Jesus in the midst of it. Let us be blunt. Why is it that someone comes to follow Christ? Is it not because the person of Jesus and his love in dying on the cross becomes irresistible and we desire to follow a God who became man and is with us in all our suffering and despair and offers hope for a messed up world?

I think sometimes we put way too much confidence in the method with which we communicate. Obviously, if we have a really ‘cool’ youth pastor and a smoke machine at our youth services, will not the young people come to church and love Jesus? But what happens when the world offers them better entertainment or simply the church can’t afford to have youth services that smack of relevancy?

I don’t want to sound cynical or dismissive, that is not my heart. But this is a plea to the church to get back down on our knees and cry out to Jesus. Put your faith in the message of Jesus and not the medium.

So what does this mean for us as artists? It means that we should continue to create the very best art we can that will declare to the world how much we cherish and value our Saviour! It means that we should strive to offer Him all of our talents and follow Him wherever He may lead. But it also means that the art should not become more important than the message we are trying to convey. It means that we should draw attention to the message and not allow our art to detract attention away from the message. It means than in the end we realise that our art will not save people – the gospel will! And perhaps most important of all we should realise that if we truly desire to communicate the message of Christ through our art then people will walk away and criticise it…

‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;

the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.’ – 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Love in Him,

– Joe