I recently went to Nashville to attend a large Christian event which was being held in Adelphia Stadium. It was a huge event, three of the biggest groups in music opened up the evening. They were followed by one of the most famous Christian evangelists of recent times. The stadium was packed with people.
I had arrived by myself and decided to take off a bit early; partly to beat the crowd, but also partly because I wanted to see a bit more of Nashville before I left for the evening. The stadium sits on a river across from downtown Nashville, and directly across from the club district. I crossed a bridge spanning the river and started down the street across from the stadium, walking beside the entrances to many clubs. I soon came to a stop at a place where there was a sort of park, a grassy slope the descends toward the river. I sat. I could hear the sounds of a band playing through the open windows of a nearby club on that warm summer evening. And I could hear the sound of people talking and laughing as they were gathered at the same club.
I tried to understand what I was sensing. On one side of me there was a stadium filled with a large percentage of Christians. On the other side was rows of buildings filled with normal people who didn’t know or didn’t care or maybe had no one to invite them to what was happening on the other side of the river. I tried to make sense of it all. Then it came to me. Isn’t this the epitome of the Christians community? We have our “christian” events and our “christian” books and our “christian” music, and our “christian” stores, etc. While God in his great mercy uses these many, many times to his glory and for his purposes, is it not true that these remain items primarily for “Christians”? (Or in other words, is it not true that most non-Christians won’t involve themselves with something labeled “christian” (unless it’s at the invitation of a friend). After all, why would they want something “christian” if they aren’t a Christian?)
On the other side, how many Christians are involved in the regular culture (outside of “christian” subculture)? What I am saying is this: we are willing to try to bring people into our “christian” culture, but we won’t go so far as to go into their culture to shine light into the dark places. So the Christians stay gathered, and the rest of the world goes on living in darkness.
After a while I began to walk again. I decided to take in a bit more of the park. As I went I noticed other people enjoying the beautiful night here by the river. Some were couples others were by themselves. I also noticed some people lying in the grass sleeping. As relaxing as the environment was, it took me a minute to realize that there was probably a good reason why these people were sleeping here, that reason being, they hadn’t any other better place to sleep! As I headed back toward my car I even saw one person sleeping by the side walk right outside the stadium, a spot that thousands of Christians had passed just a couple of hours before. Again, the sad truth was evident.
Why are things this way? Is it because it’s easier (especially for the marketing and business end of things)? Are we too blessed; do we have it too good, and are we too comfortable that we don’t want to risk that comfort? What can be done? I’m convicted that I need to do something, but I don’t have all the answers as to what and how. I know part of the answer for me is in my serving with a ministry that is trying to reach into the club district in my own city. I may also start helping out a local ministry to homeless teens. In the end, I must make every effort to see and hear God through all the distractions of this western world, and then to follow where he leads, whatever the consequences.
I have nothing against Christians gathering or making things (books, magazines, music) to strengthen and encourage the body of Christ. But I believe that many times we do get our priorities backwards, at least when it come to actually living them out.