Just go ahead and place me in the “Pre-Teen Girl” bracket of market segmentation. You see, I have a confession to make—I recently downloaded the brand new Backstreet Boys single. I heart boy bands. In fact, I have a general affinity toward the whole genre of manufactured, shallow pop. Why? I have no idea really. I just know that “I Want It That Way.”
My retort is this: Why the backlash against these kinds of bands? The answer, of course, is that they are not a band. They don’t write their own songs. Most of the time, you have to wonder if they even sing their own songs. Groups such as N’Sync, 98 Degrees and the like survive on the backs of junior high students with nothing else to do but call local radio and MTV with requests and spend mom’s money. To anyone else, these artists are not artistic at all. Instead, they are fake, plastic and nothing but a perpetuation of our image-driven society.
The same argument can be, and has been, made against our current Christian culture. The cry of a generation has been against the fake, plastic, image-driven nature of our Christian subculture. The world mocks a religion that looks no different than anyone else, and movies such as Saved can successfully portray the ridiculous ways in which the Church has gone about the Great Commission.
Our problem lies in the fact that our values are no different than the world’s. We look the same. In fact, we even strive to look the same. If the world has a type or mold of something—whether it is fashion, music or literature—suddenly the Church is scrambling within its subculture to mimic the product. Our hope is that our cleaner version of what is out there will be enough to get noticed.
But we were never meant to copy the world and make it better. We were never meant to take something that exists and make it moral. Our cleaner versions, moral products or less-offensive music will never save the world. To the world, we just seem fake and trying way too hard to convince the world to live life our way.
The only thing that can save the world is Jesus Christ. And the way that Jesus taught His followers to live was counter-culturally. To bring the kingdom of God to earth is to value things that the world does not value. It means that image doesn’t matter. It means that being relevant to culture falls at the altar of love and sacrifice. It means that we go about things like reconciliation, marriage, handling money and relationships differently than the rest of the population.
Ultimately, this means that a lot of us have to stop looking at everyone else and trying to be who they are. This means that a lot of churches need to stop looking to the world to decide on what to teach. This means that we all need to take a close look in the mirror and an even closer look at our Bibles and be willing to mimic the only person who embodied the Gospel. Only then will the world take us seriously … because we will have taken Him seriously.[Matt Conner is the pastor of The Mercy House in the Indianapolis area and is a freelance writer and editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.]