POP CULTURE AND THE CHURCH... WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?
Several years ago, on the advice of a deacon at my church, I watched the series Breaking Bad. I know, I know… how can a pastor even think about watching a show that glorifies the underbelly of our world? I would confess and repent, but the real confession is that it is one of the better series I’ve ever seen. Now don’t take me wrong, I wouldn’t recommend this show for everyone, but if you’re looking for a series that delves into the spiral that some people go through when they do the “wrong thing” for the “right reasons”, then maybe this is a show for you.
This post isn’t a review of Breaking Bad, however. What I want to consider in this post is whether or not Christians should engage in today’s pop culture such as movies and music. I have many friends that grew up in a conservative local church and were banned from watching anything or listening to any music that wasn’t approved by the pastor. I have heard stories of getting approval from a parent to go to a friends house only to sneak out and see Jaws or Star Wars. But this post isn’t about passing any sort of judgement on those restrictions either.
I really want to ponder the question of what Christians should do with secular movies, music, and other areas of pop culture. On a fully transparent and personal level, I watch a lot of movies. I love movies. I always have. I love movies so much that my dream was to be a filmmaker. That is before God changed my heart and called me into the ministry.
I also love music. My tastes in music range from Hillsong to Elevation Worship to Garth Brooks to Metallica. There isn’t a genre of music that I can’t find at least something that I enjoy listening to. I have played the drums since I was young and enjoy jamming out to some old school Bon Jovi just as much as I do playing hymns in the worship band at church.
On the flip side of all of this is that I also believe that the church should be different than world. Our desires and our wants should be for Jesus and not for the next up and coming boy band or hip hop star. So we are caught in this dilemma… should the church engage in pop culture?
I’m not sure that there is a hard and fast rule to go by other than this… we should never consume things such as secular media if it is going to influence us in a way that doesn’t glorify the Lord. For example, while I thoroughly enjoyed Breaking Bad there was no chance that it was going to influence me to become a meth cook. But let’s pretend that I wasn’t grounded in my faith. Seeing someone make bank the way the Walter White did would certainly make you wonder if you chose the right profession.
So there is the rub. There really isn’t an answer for every person when it comes to engaging pop culture as a Christian. It really comes down to what influences you. If you’re easily consumed with pornography, then Game of Thrones should probably not be on your must watch list. (Caveat… I’ve never seen GoT but I’ve heard some stories).
The principle that I go by is this. My goal in life is to make disciples. My first priority in that is my children. As such, I screen what my kids watch and what games my son plays. I don’t want to put things into their minds that can manifest itself in negative ways. I know that they will be exposed to many of those things at school… after all my 8 year old came home from school one day in the first grade declaring that he had learned the F word!! But just because they are exposed to it at school doesn’t mean that I need to pile it on. My job is to train them up as followers of Christ and demonstrate to them how to go about living a life of faith.
But I also have an obligation to make disciple of others. I spent nearly 20 years in youth ministry, first as a volunteer and the last 10 years as student pastor. It would have been very difficult to gain common ground with teenagers if I was totally unaware of the current culture. Paul even talks about this principle in 1 Corinthians chapter 9 when he said this; “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.”
Our goal as Christians is to glorify Christ and our purpose is to make disciples. Making disciples requires relationships and relationships require common ground. One easy way to gain common ground is to understand pop culture. Really, what it comes down to is that we are not of the world, but we are sent into the world to make disciples. We do need to keep our guard up, however. We have to maintain our relationship with the Lord and the influences of pop culture can be detrimental to that.
So with all that said, what is the bottom line. Well, I don’t know that I have a definitive answer. What I lean to is this though. There is nothing inherently wrong with watching modern movies and tv shows or listening to modern music. It actually can be of some benefit when we go to make disciples. At the same time, we should guard our minds and our hearts from the things that create sinful desires in us. If you find yourself wanting to live an ungodly lifestyle because it looks fun on tv, if you find yourself using language that dishonors the Lord, or anything similar… then maybe you have some blind spots that you need to tend to before you consume anything in pop culture.
The one thing that we as Christians need to make sure of is that we are grounded in our faith. It’s easy to be influenced by culture when we have little knowledge of Scripture. In order for us to be able to withstand the influences of this world we must be grounded in the Word of God. When are subjected to influences that aren’t godly, how can we possibly know truth when we aren’t grounded in Scripture for comparison. So here is my caution… feel free to enjoy pop culture but only if you’re grounded enough in your faith to not be shaken by immoral examples.
Again, this is really just my thoughts on the matter. I would love to hear yours. Feel free to shoot me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org to further this discussion. And make sure you tune into the Maybe You’re Interested… But Probably Not! podcast this Thursday as we tackle this very topic.