1. Thanks so much for posting this, Pastor John. I know a couple young men who might really enjoy his music.

    I poked around a bit on the website of the church he is a member at (epiphanyfellowship.org), and I am intrigued by their approach. It is something that you got me thinking about at community groups a few weeks ago–how to we reach the people around us, once we realize that they are largely unfamiliar with basic biblical words and concepts. You said we have to study their literature, art, music, and heroes. I have been praying and pondering that a lot, and this church’s website struck a cord along that same line.

    They say, “Postmodernism and hip-hop have developed a strategic partnership as a means of cultural expression and identity, for those without identity and meaning . . . Seeing the culture take the Hip Hop culture and use it as its missionary has been a matter deep within our thoughts. We have witnessed the humble urban form of expression become one of the greatest capitalistic commodities to date. Hip hop is everywhere and not many ministries have taken the time to study it and use it to the glory of God to identify with today’s emerging American. It rules commercials, sports, media, sitcoms, business marketing strategies, and the hearts and minds of the world’s young adults and youth. One of the most staggering realities is that Hip hop has made a formidable impression on every continent except Antarctica . . . the pop culture empire has used the Hip Hop Culture to capitalistically reach every continent. Therefore, we plan to use certain elements of the genre as common ground for the gospel without propagating its negative elements.”

    After our community group discussion, I couldn’t figure out who the average unsaved young person idolizes as their hero, but I’m wondering if it isn’t our famous people. And, if this church is right in their analysis, the famous people in our culture (and perhaps the world?) are deeply impacted by the hip-hop culture. Of the likely unsaved young people I know fairly well, hip hop culture does seem to be at least an influence, if not a driving force in their life.

    I would be interested in your thoughts, since you are much wiser biblically and about 10 years closer to these young people than I am!

  2. Well . . . look at the picture that comes up with my name! Don’t know how that happened, but I’m fine with it. Micah is much better looking than I am!

  3. Yeah, but would he mind being called Teri? ;-)

    I think I appreciate what Epiphany is doing for a couple of reasons. First, notice that they say, “we plan to use certain elements of the genre as common ground.” I take their phrase “certain elements” to mean they understand that some parts of hip-hop culture that are not helpful and that they would not embrace those. More than that, they see this as a means of establishing common ground with sinners and not placing their hopes for long-term discipleship in this musical form only. I think that reflects a maturity in their “missional” approach that is absent in some other churches.

    In terms of heroes, I do think that entertainers are certainly high on the list. But I also think it’s a regional question. Youth in Philly make look to hip-hop performers, where as other cities would likely have sports players as their heroes. I think that in terms of outreach, it is very important to make use of solid Christians in those areas to share their testimony and be a voice for the gospel.

    For growing Christian young people, though, I think it might be good to “transition” their heroes to people like missionaries. We’ve even thought about doing something like that with the boys’ room. Taking down the superheroes and painting “heroic” scenes of missionary courage. Just a thought, anyway; I’ll have to think more about it. ;-)

    Either way, I think we should not be afraid of something that we aren’t familiar with, and make it a point to become familiar with it, especially if we are parenting or working with young people who are influenced by it. It’s far too easy to push off our tastes on the next generation. Instead, if my son is interested in hip-hop (or bull-riding, for that matter), I should make an effort at learning about it and its associated culture, helping him think through what is good, bad, and ugly with it. This, I think, is better than the “stay away” approach which all but encourages older kids to be drawn to, and experiment with, what is forbidden. It’s far better to help them, even at a young age, to learn the skill of discernment and thinking through God’s “tastes” through the revelation of biblical teaching.

    I’ll think some more, and maybe we can pick up this conversation on Sunday night?

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