Christians Who Make Art, Not Christian Artists

I admit, I grew up in the heyday of Christian Contemporary Music (CCM). Jars of Clay had gotten play on MTV, dc Talk was still together, and even my non Christian friends would ask to borrow my P.O.D. CDs. But as I entered my teenage years, a lot of my favorite Christian bands stared to get more play time on the secular radio. Switchfoot’s Meant to Live was played on the top hits radio station, Skillet started gaining traction within mainstream audiences and all the while I kept hearing the phrase, “I don’t want to be known as a Christian band. I want to be known as a band who is made up of Christians.” Being the incredibly mature and thoughtful homeschooler I was, I was convinced my favorite bands were selling out and were becoming just like the world. Yet as I’ve grown and started wrestling through these issues myself, I’ve started to realize how right a lot of those people were.

Enter Lecrae. I was introduced to Lecrae by my youth pastor during my senior year of high school (06-07) and he quickly became my favorite rapper. Up until that point I was frustrated with Christian’s lack of innovation within music, especially within rap. His songs “Send Me” “Aliens” and “Represent” quickly became my go to pump up songs before any basketball games. I finally had a Christian rapper I wasn’t embarrassed to show to my friends! Over the past couple years, Lecrae has now broken into the mainstream rap scene, with number 1 selling albums on iTunes, number 1 selling album on Billboard and appearances on BET. Yet through all this success Lecrae hasn’t backed away from his Christian convictions. In fact, he’s continued to take a strong stand for his beliefs, and many other people are starting to take notice. The Huffington Post just wrote a piece today titled ‘This Is What Happens When Hip-Hop Lets the Saints In.’ It’s a very telling piece that gets to the heart of why Lecrae does what he does. It’s worth reading the whole piece, but some very good excerpts:

“What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects — with their Christianity latent,” Lewis wrote.

C.S. Lewis was a man so far ahead of his time. This shows exactly what so many of the bands I liked were trying to do: be faithful in their calling and then use that calling as a way to make Jesus’ name great (John 3:30).

“The hard-lined wing of evangelicalism that would criticize someone like Lecrae for ‘selling out’ is a very small piece of the evangelical world these days. If anything, American evangelicalism prizes recognition and engagement in mainstream culture these days,” said D. Michael Lindsay, author of Faith in the Halls of Power, and now the president of Gordon College.

This is a very true statement, but a very important one. Conservative Evangelicals who attack someone like Lecrae seem to be the loudest group out there. Yet often those Christians who are attacking Lecrae fail to see the pride in their own eyes. I’m encouraged by the general trend of Evangelicalism to neither hide from the culture, but also not become exactly like the culture. We need more Christians like Lecrae or Tim Tebow who are able to do incredibly well at their jobs and use it as a way to proclaim Christ.

Lecrae believes that the best way to change popular culture, and ultimately to make a difference in people’s lives, isn’t to attack others, but to build trust through personal relationships. In 2007 he moved to Atlanta, the center of the Southern rap world. It was a professional decision, giving him the opportunity to network and build his career. But it has also given him a chance to speak about his faith to influential members of the hip-hop community.

This is something I’ve been saying for years now. The confrontational model of evangelism was most effective 10-20 years ago (if it was even effective at all!). Today we need to be building inroads to unbelievers, or the “nones” as they’ve been called, over a long period of time and through many conversations. It’s not enough to simply say you’re a believer, leave a tract and think you’ve done your duty. It’s going to take a long time of someone seeing the way you live and seeing that you’re different before they’ll be willing to trust and believe you.

“The most stressful part is coming from the Christian side. Because everybody has a standard and a conviction that they believe you need to be living by,” he (Lecrae) said.

This is the part the hurts me the most. The group of people who should be encouraging Lecrae and lifting him up in prayer are the very ones who are blasting him. I hope and pray we continue to have more people like Lecrae who are gifted in areas and can begin to actively engage with the culture in ways they’ll listen. Lecrae is reaching people I could never dream of reaching, and God is continuing to bless Lecrae’s faithfulness. I hope that we can continue lifting him and the others on his label up in prayer that they will stand strong against the temptations of the world.

I also hope that Lecrae is setting the stage to make it easier for people to follow in his footsteps. As we continually engage culture my hope is that we can start becoming the trend setters. I get tired of hearing cheap knock-offs of secular songs, but genuinely enjoy when I hear something innovative coming from a believer. We are called to do everything we do to the best of our abilities at to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). What do you need to do to become a better and more faithful example of Christ to the world today?

You’ve Got A Friend In Me

One of the most difficult transitions to adult life is friendships. When you’re in college friends come easily, either by starting a new semester with new classes, or by just walking around campus and sitting at a different table. But then college ends, and real life begins, and how do you continue to make friends that are more meaningful then, “hey, want to go to a movie?” Relevant Magazine posted an article today titled ‘Why Is It So Hard to Make Friends After College?‘ And part of it is true, there’s just something about college that makes finding friends easy: you’re all the same age, going through similar things and really wanting friends. It’s almost like the beginning of Toy Story, you’ve got a friend in me.

I was really blessed after college with an incredibly close group of friends (shoutout to Ryan, Joseph and David!) who were able to pour into me, and I pray I was able to pour into. One of them even went to college with me, but we decided we hated each other back then…

So how do you make friends after college? I’m going to address 3 things I’ve done that have been incredibly helpful in making friendships that are meaningful and go deeper than a surface friendship.

1. Find an interest.

All of us have things we’re passionate about and enjoy doing. Whether that’s playing video games, reading books, hiking, climbing, playing basketball, running, watching movies, taking pictures, drinking coffee or playing music (if you enjoy all those things, please call me! Let’s hang out!) everyone has something they enjoy doing and are decently good at, or could get good at. So pick a hobby and start doing it. Find places nearby that you can do your passion with others, and before you know it, you’ve got a friend! And even if it’s something you haven’t really enjoyed before, there’s always room to try something new. When I moved to Wyoming I started playing no-stakes poker with some guys from church. Turns out I somewhat enjoy playing poker!

“Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”” – C.S. Lewis

2. Get involved in a church.

This is the other area that guys especially can have a tendency to neglect. The way I met those friends right after college was through a church small group. Church also allows you to become friends with people you wouldn’t necessarily gravitate toward. I have a group of men from church that I get together with 2 times a month. 2 of them are retired, 1 is in his 60s, and the other is a decade older than me. It’s awesome! While we don’t have everything in common, we are all trying to become more like Christ in our everyday lives. You’d be surprised how much believers can have in common despite having no shared areas of passion or interest. Church allows you to become friends with those who are older, younger and the same age as you. And that’s what the church is supposed to be: a family. Proverbs tells us “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Ultimately that friend is Jesus, but we can have that in the church as well.

“Most often, growth happens through deep relationships and in communities where the implications of the gospel are worked out cognitively and worked in practically — in ways no other setting or venue can afford.” – Tim Keller

3. Be a friend.

This is one of the most difficult but necessary things you can do. This takes time, work and a TON of energy. Is there someone in your life that you can stick closer than a brother to? Is there someone you can serve, as Christ has commanded us to? This is the one area I didn’t see addressed in the article on Relevant. People are sinful which makes relationships with each other very difficult. There are going to be ways people rub you wrong and ways you are sinned, but that doesn’t mean you should withdraw. In fact, we should be like Jesus who was betrayed to death. I’m guessing most of us have never had our friends betray us to death, but we so often get offended like they have. So pray about this and find someone that you can be a friend to.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”  – C.S. Lewis

Obviously this isn’t an all inclusive list of ways to make friends after college, but I think it’s a good start. We are created to be a friend and have friends, we are not created to be lone ranger Christians. We need people around us to help us, encourage us and point out our blind spots of continual sin. May we truly be a community that represents Christ to the world so they see what it means to sacrificially lay down our lives for each other.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

-C.S. Lewis “The Four Loves”

What One Thing Do You Have?

Kevin DeYoung wrote a blog today titled ‘If All You Have Is A Hammer.’ He finishes the thought by saying, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” So many times and of so many people in the church this is true of them. They insist that they are the hammer and they view everything through a specific lens. To whom is Kevin referring with this? He says,

What do I have in mind? No one in particular but lots of things in general. The Christian who blames everything on fundamentalism and relates every story to their upbringing where they had to wear long skirts and watch Lawrence Welk. The feminist who sees the oppression of woman in every tweet. The conservative who can only sound the alarm of cultural declension. The Presbyterian who relates everything to the regulative principle. The church critic who sees every weakness as an expression of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. The gospel-loving saint who smells legalism in every exhortation against vice and in every celebration of virtue. The philosopher who has concluded that every problem boils down to epistemology or the one and the many or whatever. The academic who thinks everything that ails the church finds its roots in whatever he wrote for his dissertation. The revisionist who is confident that the church is all out of sorts because of Greek thinking, Constantine, or Old Princeton. The wounded soul who can’t see past his own hurts or makes it her life mission to rage against the machine. The liberal who can’t stop talking about tolerance and dialogue. The Sunday school teacher who finds a reason in every class to beat on Charles Finney. The peacemaker who sees every conflict as a third way waiting to happen.

I know many people who have their one issue that they view the world through instead of through the whole of Scripture. From the people who think we can only sing one genre in church, to the people who still think dancing is a sin, to the people who view everything as an end times prophecy. This is one of the many reasons we need to read through the whole of the Bible regularly. We don’t get to pick and choose the things we make important, God does. Now this doesn’t mean that the things Kevin listed aren’t important, they are! BUT if that’s the only thing you have to talk about and you refuse to look at the other things God is doing through other people you are living life incorrectly. I’ve been reflecting on Philippians the past couple weeks, and think we all could take an example from Christ

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

Philippians 2:4-7