I am attempting to make the case that today, the musician (or artist) is today’s evangelist. Now I can hear one of my friends mentally thinking right now, “Well, it depends what you mean by evangelist”. Indeed it does. For years I have not been convinced that the motivation of every convert at a Billy Graham crusade was forgiveness of their sin and joining God’s narrative of redemption of all of creation. It seems clear to me that each person comes to Jesus from a different context and a different part of the gospel appeals to them more. Those that are in need of healing (physical, emotional) look to Jesus the Healer. Those guilt-ridden from a list of sins that have haunted them for years seek Jesus the Forgiver. The meaning-seeker sees Jesus as the mediator between her and God. Some even identify with Jesus the lover of people and while they acknowledge their sin, they are even more moved by the inspiration of Jesus. And then there are some who don’t care about Jesus at all but know they prefer heaven over hell. That’s probably a very, very, very small percentage but let’s call them “Jesus the free ticket to heaven because I sure don’t wanna go to hell” believer.
Now it is not the purpose of this post to determine which motivations for conversion and discipleship are authentic (although our sarcastic spirits can probably figure some of that out), I do want to equal the playing field here when we question the motives of those like Bono or Jars of Clay or some other musician. But when these musicians’ activism brings clean water to a group of people, is that not true mission work? To some, mission work only happens if there is a “true gospel” presentation and while I certainly believe that we are to share about the crucifixion, resurrection and the way of Jesus, etc., I think too many evangelicals have largely missed the importance of things like clean water initiatives in places like Africa and addressing the needs here in our own communities.
I imagine a conversation with a missionary saying to a thirsty African: “You need Jesus, the Living Water! See, it’s spiritual”.
Thirsty African: “I have no idea what you are talking about. How is a name I never heard of going to give me spiritual water.”
Missionary: “You’re misunderstanding – Jesus has the water”.
Thirsty African: “Oh that’s great! Where’s Jesus, because my family and I really thirsty”.
Missionary: “Well he’s not here he’s …
Thirsty African: “Oh. I got it the first time. Well I wish Jesus would have come with your fancy spiritual water. Listen, some guy from Ireland is providing water and digging wells. Frankly, he looks a bit odd but I’m headed over there.”
Sometimes I feel as an evangelical missions movement saying, “It’s too much trouble to help feed and clothe you, so you will probably die before we can do this efficiently. But die with Jesus. We love him, so should you. He has done so much for us and if you believe in this name that you have never heard of, you will thank us on the other side of eternity.” This is what I am interpreting some saying.
I think that’s a very poor approach to missions, the gospel and the call to the Christian life and I hate to say it (I really do) but I think some of our artists are doing more for the Kingdom than some of our “missionaries”.