I strongly recommend “Sniffing Glue” a heartbreaking and penetrating article by Meghan O’Gieblyn for Guernica Magazine. It’s the story of a girl who was a huge fan of CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) in the 80’s and 90’s until she came across MTV.
I couldn’t have told you what the word “irony” meant, but I knew I’d been cheated by Christian rock. This was crack, and I’d been wasting my time sniffing glue.
While the surface narrative is about the Christian music industry, the real thrust of the article is its penetrating critique of the vapid and desperate-for-cool culture of the American evangelical church at large. There are so many things in her article that ring true with my experience in the American church of the 80’s 90’s and 00’s.
Despite all the affected teenage rebellion, I continued to call myself a Christian into my early twenties. When I finally stopped, it wasn’t because being a believer made me uncool or outdated or freakish. It was because being a Christian no longer meant anything. It was a label to slap on my Facebook page, next to my music preferences. The gospel became just another product someone was trying to sell me, and a paltry one at that because the church isn’t Viacom: it doesn’t have a Department of Brand Strategy and Planning.
Staying relevant in late consumer capitalism requires highly sophisticated resources and the willingness to tailor your values to whatever your audience wants. In trying to compete in this market, the church has forfeited the one advantage it had in the game to attract disillusioned youth: authenticity. When it comes to intransigent values, the profit-driven world has zilch to offer. If Christian leaders weren’t so ashamed of those unvarnished values, they might have something more attractive than anything on today’s bleak moral market. In the meantime, they’ve lost one more kid to the competition.
One of the primary functions of marketing is to make something look better than it really is. Christ and His Kingdom do not need to be marketed. The world desperately needs the gospel preached in power and in truth. The less the church looks like the kingdom of this world and more like the kingdom of God, the more power it has. This principle has sadly been lost somewhere along the way.
Have you see a tendency to emphasize style over substance, marketing over gospel, and congruence to culture over conformity to Christ in our churches?
Let us pray for courage to preach the gospel, to preach Christ crucified, the passing away of the kingdom of this world and the coming of the kingdom of God.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” Matthew 5:13