It was a beautiful Friday night. The weatherman was calling for a clear evening with lows in the high 60’s, a ready change from humidity and heat we had been experiencing days before. The pavilion stretched out before us crowded with eager attendees waiting for the first guitar to be strummed, and note to be sung. As I scanned the crowd surrounding us a thought started brewing in my head, a thought that had stirred before. I was at a Christian concert, and seeing that I do not often attend such events as much anymore, I felt as though I was an outsider looking in. I became very aware of all the Christian paraphernalia and cultural items and elements that have recently (and when I say recently, I mean in the last ten years) began to emerge and define Christianity as more of a culture within America than an actual movement.
Today, in much of the world, the organized presentation of the gospel message is no longer confined to be expressed in church services and youth group meetings. We have available to us: concerts, huge multi-venue events (Cornerstone, Boonaducious, Urbana…), “rallies” (Acquire the Fire, Dawson McCalister…), easily-accessible short-term mission trips, and the list goes on an on. On top of this we have our own music industry, which is the fastest growing music industry in America today. We have clothing, dating books, candy, (ahem) web communities, etc. And I would argue that all of these things are beneficial, but also bear an underlying danger that becomes an issue of our heart. Christian culture today carries the potential of counterfeiting a real experience with God with a man-made representation.
Probably most of us can vividly remember the feeling of anticipation and excitement leading to either a summer youth camp, Christian concert, summer mission trip, or youth rally. I can remember jamming 17 people into a 15 passenger van, and probably about 4 of us had brought our guitars so it was as though we had at least 19 people! I can easily remember countless team building games that we played to develop our unity and interaction as a youth group. I remember staying up late on a Friday night with buddies of mine listening to the “new” Plankeye CD discussing Christian music’s maturing sound compared to what we had previously listen to. All of it fun, but…I would argue, not what Christianity is meant to be. Good things, but not the truest thing.
You see, so many of us (myself included) get caught up in the day-to-day doing of the Christian culture that we miss out on the meat that God has for us. We replace intimate worship with Christian Concerts (I realize some concerts are worship settings). We neglect going into a private place to get on our hands and knees before our God for high energy youth gatherings. We put aside meaningful accountability for easy and fun fellowship time. And the list, again, could go on and on.
We are a people that naturally gravitate towards what makes us comfortable and feel good. Let’s face it, concerts, events, CDs, books, music, and trips, all easily tweak our interest and spark our attention to pursue it further. This, generally, is a positive thing for our faith. Anything that causes us to genuinely seek God further is something that I would definitely advocate. But the true danger lies in the condition of coming to a place where these things begin to represent our relationship with God and become enough to satisfy us. God has so much more for us than the next summer camp, CD release, or mission trip.
These may seem very basic but I want to encourage you to return to the foundations of our faith in order to fully pursue our God that has so much in store for us:
- Find a quiet place and pray: Get away from all distraction for even a short while to focus completely on God. At first, doing this may be difficult and tedious, but as God begins to change your heart in this time it will become a necessary part of your day.
- Diligently study the scripture: Do not be satisfied with what someone else tells you is in the Bible. Seek it out yourself. There are many tools to help you learn how to study (e-mail us and we’ll give you a list of free resources). King David asked, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By studying and mediating on God’s word daily.”
- Become part of our start true biblical accountability: Just hanging out with other Christians is most certainly not enough. Encourage and hold one another to God’s truths.
Let me reaffirm that the elements that have begun to define our Christian culture are generally not at all bad. In fact I gave my heart to the Lord at such an event and have had my life strongly and positively influenced by it. They provide an alternative culture for us to fellowship in and grow in together. But, do not be deceived into the idea that this is all that God is and has for us. God’s love is so vast and so wide that in cannot be contained in a CD, youth rally, or any other single experience. Seek Him out by pursuing Him on your hands and knees, and in His Word, and you will find him there if you seek Him with all of you heart (Jeremiah 29:12-13).