Friday, February 2, 2007

Followers of Christ…Superstars?

As I scrolled through the news a few days ago, I ran across an article on American Idol. One of the contestants in the Birmingham auditions was Chris Sligh. I noticed he looked familiar, so I began to look into it. Come to find out, I went to North Greenville University with him! NGU producing an American Idol… I was pretty excited. I couldn't wait to cast a vote for a fellow believer and NGU Mountie (I know the mascot has changed, but I'll always be a Mountie!)

Since then, I’ve given some thought to the question, “Can Christians be rock stars?” Let me begin this discussion by saying that I do not take an ‘Independent, Fundamental’ position on rock & roll. I love classic rock. CCR and The Band are two of my top favorites. The Rolling Stones have a long history of great music. And I would choose that music over Michael W. Smith any day! Having said that, I do have reservations about Christians assuming the role of ‘rock star.’ I’ll explain.

On Chris Sligh’s blog, he writes, “I’m first and foremost a Christ-follower.” That's great. I'm really glad to see a Christian involved with American Idol. He continues, “I am also a rock star. I don't feel the two are diametrically opposed. If you do...I feel bad for you." At risk of having Mr. Sligh feel bad for me, I have to wonder if Christianity and stardom are diametrically opposed. I had my initial opinions and I'm sure you do as well, but let's try to set those aside and examine this biblically.
In Matthew 10:22, Jesus says, "You will be hated by all for my name's sake." 2 Timothy 3:12 says, "All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." The running theme throughout the New Testament is that the world is not going to applaud us. This persecution is stronger in some areas than it is in others. But the truth is the same: The world will not like us. Why? Because we are called to tell them that the things they love so dearly (sin) are the things God hates! We are called to tell them that God is willing to pardon them through His Son Jesus. But the world hates this message because it demands that they leave their sin and begin loving Jesus.
Now, how does this apply to being a rock star? If your life's message is Christ and Him crucified (which is should be for all Christians), how will this sell albums? Yeah, Christians might buy them, but we're talking about America at large. The world will not buy music that confronts them in their sin and exalts Christ as Savior! Some may cite the success of artists like P.O.D. and Switchfoot, but can you show me one song in which these bands give a clear presentation of the Gospel? In most I've heard, you have to be a Christian to read between the lines of their lyrics and realize, "Oh, they might be referencing Jesus." If a Christian rock star wants to sell his music, he has to make sure it's watered down enough for the world to like it. And there's the problem. The goal for the rock star is to be liked and well-received among the culture. Is that an appropriate goal for a Christian?

I'm sure many people think, "This is a great way for a Christian to share Christ with the culture." But has God called us to sing the Gospel? No. Has God called us to entertain with the Gospel? Certainly not. He has called us to the hard task of preaching the Gospel. In 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 & 4 Paul writes, "I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified... and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." He's saying that the goal of his message wasn't to impress them or to entertain them. His goal was to preach in such a way that they would trust only in Christ and not in a man. My point here is that the goal of our preaching is to point sinners to Christ and not to ourselves. The very nature of being a rock star is to point people to you, isn't it? How else will you sell records? Why else do we have American Idol? As Christians, we can't have it both ways. "My glory I will not share with another (Is. 48:11)."

I hope Chris Sligh does well. He seems to be a great guy, and he's very talented. But after thinking through it biblically, I can't vote for him because Christianity and stardom do seem "diametrically opposed."
PS- Happy Birthday (tomorrow) to my excellent wife! And Happy Groundhog Day to everyone else.


Jarod said...

Josh, I can see where you are coming from but do not necessarily agree with everything you said. As Christians we are to proclaim Jesus name till He comes and to glorify Him in everything we do. Saying Chrisitian can not be rock stars is like saying Christians can not be the leaders in any career. Music is a career for some and rock stars are some of its leaders. I think the music industry could use many more Christians who are not afraid to proclaim Christ. Of course some people are not going to like us and even hate us does not mean we have to stop singing. Music is unique in that people will listen to it, if it is good, even if they do not agree with what it says. I think it is an excellent opportunity to use music to glorify Christ. Singing is no different than preaching if the words are the same.

Josh Culbertson said...

Jarod, thanks for the comment. Interesting point about rock stars being the leaders in their profession. I hadn't looked at it that way. But I really disagree with your last comment. Preaching is different from singing. Preaching is the method that God has given us to proclaim His message. It is not our place to tell God other ways to carry His message. Preachers (by that I also mean believers speaking the Gospel) do not/should not share their own thoughts. Preachers declare God's Word. Musicians share their own creative thoughts. Preaching is absolutely different, and if the church is to survive, we must affirm that.

Jarod said...

Josh, I do not know of any preacher who only uses words found in the Bible. The Bible must be the basis for what we say and do and we should not change what it says. However, how we say it can change whether that is in music or in our everyday conversations with people. The Gospel should never be changed but how it is heralded is inherently going to change because there are many different people doing the hearalding. The key is that it is heralded not the how. I hope that clarifies a little bit of what I said earlier.

Tonya Moore said...

"Preachers declare God's Word. Musicians share their own creative thoughts."

I understand and agree with your logic behind this statement. However, my thoughts are that there are plenty of musicians who are certainly able to declare God's Word through song. There are many Christian contemporary artists who do so, and quite eloquently. There are even artists in this realm who would be considered "rock" artists because of the style of music they perform, but their lyrics still speak truth. Who knows - if Chris goes on to win American Idol, he may very well choose to record Christian music. A good example of this is Carrie Underwood's "Jesus, take the Wheel." Granted, not all of her music follows that same example, but it could if she chose for it to. Should music take the place of preaching? Absolutely not. And you are right about it being a method that God has given us to proclaim His message, but I don't believe it's the ONLY method.

Of course, this comes from a church musician of 20+ years, so I had to put in my 2 cents worth.

By the way - congrats on being a father!

Tonya Moore said...

"My point here is that the goal of our preaching is to point sinners to Christ and not to ourselves. The very nature of being a rock star is to point people to you, isn't it? How else will you sell records? Why else do we have American Idol? As Christians, we can't have it both ways. "My glory I will not share with another (Is. 48:11).""

Let me just add - I TOTALLY agree with this. The Christian artists to whom I'm refering are NOT in it for themselves, but for the purpose of pointing to Christ. You are right - the purpose of American Idol is for self glory - "Hey everybody, look how great I am!" A true Christian musician will never view themselves this way.

Jarod said...

I finally read some of Chris's blog entries and one concerned me. He said talking about the Christian rock band Downhere's new album, "The album was great, though the lyrics were a little too evangelistic for what I normally listen to." Though being a Christ follower and a rock star do not have to be two seperate things, if you take the message out of the music then all you have left is a bunch of feel good notes. The more I think about it, it is extremely hard to be a rock star and a Christ follower though not impossible. I am reminded through out the book of Acts the ones who seemed most opposed to what Paul and the other apostles had to say were the religious people. I am also reminded of how when the people were calling Paul and Barnabas gods, Paul was quick to remind them that they "should turn from these vain things to a living God..."(Acts 14:15). I think if you are going to be a rock star and glorify Christ you must do as Paul and remind the people that they "should turn from these vain things to a living God".

Josh Culbertson said...

I am so thankful that the folks who read my blog are thinking Christians. That's really the goal here...think about real issues biblically. Jarod, your last comment is a perfect example of that. Tonya (my favorite cousin-in-law), great points. I'll have to post a blog on my view of preaching at some point.