Is Bono our Billy Graham? Thoughts on Today's Evangelist – Part 2

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”.

Is Bono our Billy Graham? Thoughts on Today's Evangelists Part 1

Last week, a few friends and i got together and among many things, we got to talking about Billy Graham and Bono.  I made the argument that to many,  Bono is our generation’s Billy Graham.  If you are a U2 basher, just hold on (or go listen to Lady Gaga or something) but hear me out.  Admittedly there are significant character differences, certainly Bono is cooler, and certainly Billy Graham was more influential to the Protestant Church but a case could easily be made for Bono inspiring more people outside the church.  Is that not huge part of the job description of an evangelist?

It started after reading this article from this month’s Christianity Today cover story how about bands like Jars of Clay have become so involved in mission work.  The article stated that using music in mission work  was not new by mentioning “In 1883, gospel singer Ira Sankey joined evangelist Dwight L. Moody in Edinburgh to raise £10,000 (equivalent to $373,000 today) to build a permanent home for Carrubbers Close Mission—which still offers the homeless a free breakfast on Sundays.”   While this is a great story something tells me that we are not comparing apples to apples here.

I could be wrong but during their touring, I am fairly sure that the crowd was coming to hear Moody.  I mean really, which name do you recognize between the two?  The article went on to say that musician-led activism has greatly increased and  soared in 2002 with Bono’s work.  This got me thinking.  More than 100 years ago it was the musician who accompanied the evangelist, today it seems the musician is the evangelist.

Overstated right?  Can you tell me the name of a real evangelist right now?  Oh I know, we do evangelism differently these days, we have broadcast evangelists.  Which one is your favorite?  Bono is mine.  Continued tomorrow.

Revelation Generation – What I Liked – Post 1

The story of “Revelation Generation” begins quite awkwardly for me.  I had just begun my  second pastorate here and had decided to take the students to this new music festival  with a  name that I wasn’t crazy about.  Long story short – Rev Gen got rained out and  headed to  Philly.  The following year, we attended and the kids loved the Philly Stage and  stayed for  Newsboys.  Last year was exactly the same, kids loved Philly Stage, and the  Newsboys did  the exact same set list, down to Peter telling the same stories. We left    during Breakfast in  Hell to beat the traffic.  After that, I was fairly certain that we would not return (We have a saying in Texas, “That says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again”). How could we return for a fourth year?  Well, we’re glad we did and here’s why.

What I liked about Rev Gen:

1. The excellent line-up.  The Philly stage attracts a number of our students.  The NY Stage has gotten alot better.  One year they had Brian Latrell (I believe he was a Backstreet Boy and I refuse to Google that for any type of confirmation).  Opening bands like the Fold and Seabird were steps in the right direction.  Then headlining bands like Relient K and Switchfoot tell people like me that they are really trying to make this a great event.  There were more tents like the Urban Stage, the Come and Listen Stage (which is a label that gives away free music), and the Nashville Stage which had Bethany Dillon, Jon Foreman, and Derek Webb.  (I really, really liked that they invited Derek and didn’t censor him.  He’s an important prophetic voice in the Church and along with many of my friends, we were grateful he was there).

2. We didn’t do the Friday concert last year but this year, they had Jars of Clay, Matt West, Delirious, and Mercy Me.  For most of us, wanting to hear  Jars do new songs off “The Long Fall Back to Earth” was the reason we came Friday.  The unfortunate thing was we underestimated a couple of things.  Some of our students had just returned to school and so by the time we left, we missed most of the bands.  Two, Jars wasn’t headlining.  Three, Mercy Me was.  And Four, it wasn’t really Jars’ best show.  Not a big crowd yet, not very energetic either.  Then Jars said they lost track of time and were told they had just played their last song.  Frankly, I think the concert organizers should have let them play their last song, it was clearly an accident and they are an established band.  I don’t know the business of putting on concerts but I’m pretty sure Jars has earned enough respect to play one more.  So in the most anti-climatic way, Dan took the blame, apologized for not paying attention to the clock and said something like, “We want to be invited back so we’ll say good-bye here.”  I thought it was pretty classy to submit to the stage manager and end their show the worst way possible.  I know I’m not being complimentary but it was an awkward moment that Jars handled really well and it spoke to me a bit.

3. Unless you go into the merchandise tent, you don’t feel that you are at one of those cheesy Christian concert events.  The production is fantastic from the signs a few miles away directing you how to get this to obscure farm to the numerous workers and volunteers that create a presence of “we know what we are doing so don’t get any ideas.”  They have great signage, very professional looking stages, and enough porta-potites to “facilitate the pending needs” of their own feeding of 5000.

4. Cheap Water.  Bottled water was only a dollar.  I still think water bottles should be allowed in because there are no water fountains but $1 water is a fair deal.  Speaking of concessions, food tickets do help eliminate lines at the actual food booths – nice job.

5. I appreciated the leader tent, (even though they seemed a little more stingy with the water this year).

6. All the workers, volunteers, security measures, demonstrate their professionalism and communicate that they are serious about keeping control of this event.  This is important to me because too many Christian events are put on by well-intentioned churches with not enough expertise or volunteers and people, students especially, find the weak spots and exploit them.  For instance, there is only one way to actually get in.  The perimeter is fenced in very well and monitored.  As a youth pastor, I like this level of safety and security and aside from a few check-ins, our students roam as they please and check in with me every so often so I can make sure they are hydrated and more importantly not hanging out with home-schooled kids from the hyper-fundamentalist church ;-)

7.  Loved going with Tim Nye, Josie, and my youth group. Also loved seeing my friends, Evan Curry, Eric Couch, Charlie Lyons Pardue, KJ Marks, and appreciating seeing Rob Schwinge.

Stay tuned for what I didn’t like.