The ApproachIn order to address The Problem, the majority of church congregations have embraced one of two approaches. I have named these two approaches Shotgun and Snake Charmer. Because I disagree with both of these methods as an approach to dealing with the challenge that Hip-Hop brings, I advocate for “a more excellent way”. My approach is what I like to call Ambassador. Here’s a brief summary of each.
The Shotgun ApproachThis is the most commonly used method of dealing with ideas, persons, or movements that are not distinctively Christian. Under this model, Christian pastors circle the wagons and gather their flocks to secure positions. Once everyone is in place, the church staff takes their positions either at the pulpit, a press conference, radio, or some DVD special and blast away at the non-Christian influences affecting their youth. All this is done in the name of truth and defending young minds from filth.
The main weakness in this approach is that in all the bullets flying against the evil concepts, some hit the persons entrapped by the lie being promoted. And so, at times, the baby is thrown out with the proverbial bath water. A secondary issue is the tone with which these defenses are made. Defeating the argument should not overshadow the importance of winning the person over.
Snake Charmer ApproachA smaller but growing number of churches have chosen to take this path. They don’t confront the negative influencers in an adversarial manner. Instead, they find ways to celebrate certain aspects of an artist even if that artist's message contradicts the gospel message. Reasoning that you attract more flies with honey than you do vinegar, their hope is to lure the un-churched and non-Christian into the fold where they will change “by and by”. This is done mostly in an effort to show loving acceptance to the person.
The downside to this method is demonstrated when the snake charmer’s tune switches and the snake is no longer amused. Needless to say, some snakebites are fatal. A second problem is closely related to the first one. Namely, the pastor or Christian group using this tactic may become a prisoner of it. In other words, the desire to “keep the peace” may overtake the responsibility of addressing truths. All too often, the Christian is too afraid to "offend" the non-Christian with certain hard truths found in the Bible. But these truths- no matter how unpleasant- are equally important as displaying acceptance and personal warmth.
The Ambassdor ApproachThe most distinguishing feature of this technique is the intense and intimate level of interaction between sides that don’t agree. As implied in the name, people taking this approach will find themselves in foreign, and maybe even hostile territory. Changing the tune of the message or blasting away at those of an opposite position has no place here. The idea is to be familiar enough with the opposing view that you encourage your opposition to re-examine the faulty assumptions in their own viewpoint. So in this way, the role of the Church or the individual Christian is not only to poke holes in the non-Christian viewpoint. It must go beyond pointing out the negative to demonstrating why the Christian perspective is better.
Isn’t that the job of every ambassador? Diplomats for the Kingdom of God carry a message that they must be faithful to present consistently and in harmony with the Holy Bible. Although they carry “good news” in places where it is not always welcome, the ambassador is bound by love for God duty to their fellow human being to make Jesus known as the only Person who has made peace between mankind and God. Since the ambassador is himself/herself a recipient of God’s undeserved favor, they need to perform their task with humility and respect without compromising truth. This attractive method makes true the saying, “Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.”
There is no weakness in this approach itself. The weakness can only be found in the Christian who is not familiar with the territory he or she is in. In the same way that diplomats must learn the language and customs of the country they are assigned to, the Christian with a keen awareness of the unbiblical thinking patterns around them will excel in this approach.
My Take on the Ambassador ApproachAlthough many in full-time ministry say with their words that Christians ought to be involved in “redeeming the culture” there is a whole other reality in action. Very often the Christian who actually puts feet to the idea of cultural engagement finds him/herself criticized or abandoned by the larger Christian community. That Christian will be mistaken for a “carnal” or worldly Christian. Some will even doubt if that person is a Christian at all. This happens because most of those criticizing are at fault in at least one of the two following ways:
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