Using Pop Culture to Reach People
- Joy Allmond Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2011 5 May
Editor's Note: This article originally ran in May of 2011.
Mike Blackaby is tired of seeing people of his generation fall away from their faith. At 26 years old, he has watched many of the people from his past church youth group and mission trips drift from their beliefs, as many of them are being sucked in by popular culture.
“Seeing this broke my heart, and I wanted to figure out why it was happening,” said Blackaby. “It seems to me that much of this can be traced back to the influence of pop culture. There are a lot of spiritual collisions as a Christian because the world around you is so different. So, I wanted to explore how to be immersed in pop culture without compromising and giving in to the world’s values.”
This quest resulted in a book he co-authored with his younger brother, Daniel. The book, titled When Worlds Collide: Stepping Up and Stepping Out in an Anti-God Culture will release on June 1. These young men are no strangers to speaking boldly in the current culture. Their father and grandfather, Richard and Henry, respectively, have done the same thing through works such as Experiencing God and Spiritual Leadership.
Because pop culture does promote many ideas that counter Christian values, Blackaby says we must be “colliders,” people who do not hide from pop culture, rather engage the world through it as a believer in Christ. “You just have to decide how to engage it, because you are going to, one way or another.”
Most people, Christians included, seem to disengage their minds when they listen to music, watch movies or enjoy art in some other form, Blackaby has observed. Over time, this shapes the way they think.
“A lot of Christians fill their lives with pop culture and never think about it, and never filter it through a Christian worldview. Before long, their belief system reflects Hollywood and they have no idea how they got there,” he explains. “This is why their relationships look more like ‘The Bachelor’ and not the Bible.”
So, now that we understand just how pop culture plays a role in our thinking (and inevitably our actions), what are some practical ways we can use pop culture as a tool to engage the world in which we live?
Here are a few:
“Satan’s big tool these days is pop culture. I’m not saying that all of it is ‘bad,’ I’m simply saying that instead of turning our brains off when we’re being entertained, we need to challenge ourselves by asking how this counters or compliments a biblical worldview and talk about it with people,” said Blackaby. “Pop culture is not something in which you should passively participate. Actively put on your thinking cap and filter what you’re seeing and hearing through your Christian worldview.”
What does it look like to be engaging? Blackaby uses the example of the movie Inception, and explains how we as believers can think through it and discuss it. This film carries themes of the power of the mind and how it can influence our actions. Meaning, whatever actions we carry out first started in our thinking and in our hearts.
Let’s say you’re discussing movies with someone and this particular film comes up in the conversation. Because you have seen the movie (or at least read reviews and know the plot), you can then enter into dialogue about the power of the mind in our lives. That would be an open door to share how you, as a Christian, keep your mind renewed (through Bible study, prayer and other spiritual disciplines).
This is important, Blackaby says, because people are hesitant to talk about God, but they will discuss movies and music with almost anyone. The Inception example is an illustration of one way we can engage people in conversations and steer them toward the Gospel. Our greatest example—Jesus—did this when He used parables.
Blackaby does caution Christians to use discernment when interacting with what pop culture has to offer. “There are obviously certain things we should not watch, listen to, or entertain with our thoughts,” he said. “And, we all need to be mindful that this stuff can have intense power over our own minds (as discussed earlier in this article).”
In order for us to have a critical ear or eye while we’re taking in secular entertainment, we need to have biblical knowledge. Otherwise, we have no point of reference for the way we think about what we’re seeing or hearing.
Blackaby explains it is important for us to be aware of what we are putting into our own minds. “It’s impossible to watch television shows for hours upon hours all week, spend five minutes a day reading the Bible, and then expect to have a discerning heart about matters of pop culture,” he explains. “We can’t have godly relationships or be Christian leaders in our own homes if we fill our minds with the untruths of popular culture and not with the Word of God.”
Surviving the “Collisions”
While it seems as though we’re losing champions of the faith with each passing generation, Blackaby is still hopeful that this generation of young Christians will stand up in boldness.
“I believe this particular generation can make a huge difference in this world. I think both the secular world and the Christian world—alike—often times will put limitations on generations. They feed us MTV and other tools of pop culture that oppose our worldview, because they think that’s all we want.”
Along with challenging readers of his upcoming book release to have higher standards regarding their heart and mind input, he is excited about something else this message could bring about: God’s people can use one of Satan’s most powerful tools of destruction—pop culture—to infiltrate the world. Why not beat him at his own game?
“When we start to engage the world using pop culture as a tool (without being influenced by it), exciting things start to happen. And when those things start to happen, we can turn one of Satan’s weapons of destruction against him. It’s amazing when we recognize how little power he can wield over us when we engage in the appropriate ways.”
Mike Blackaby is among the third generation of Blackabys to speak about Christ to their peers. He is the grandson of Henry Blackaby, author of Experiencing God, and the son of Richard Blackaby, who co-authored Spiritual Leadership with Henry. Mike is the college and young adult pastor at First Baptist Church of Jonesboro, Georgia.
Joy Allmond is a writer for billygraham.org. She lives in Charlotte, NC with her husband, two step sons and two dogs. In her very little spare time, she can be found concocting her latest culinary masterpiece, watching college basketball or buried in a book. She is working on her Master's degree in Biblical Studies at Southern Evangelical Seminary.
Publication date: May 20, 2011