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Wasting the Perfect Platform

July 18, 2010

I recently heard a story on MPR (yes, that means I’m a news and culture snob) about a group of Minnesota musicians/singers performing a mix of Christian hymns and traditional Indonesian Gemelan music (a very melodic, southeast Asian musical style, involving a lot of chimes and gongs).  After performing in a handful of twin cities churches they traveled to Indonesia to share their musical experiment on a tour around the country.  The music is really cool – check it out here – and they’re getting a ton of attention for it.  They are being followed by national media and are in high demand.  Bruce Kramer says, “We’re all over the newspapers, and the media has been covering us every place we go.”  Joko Sutrismo, director of the Sumunar Gamelan Esnemble, put an immense amount of work into arranging the music to American hymns, going to great lengths to integrate to two cultures.

Now, it’s no secret that Indonesia is a dangerous place for Christians, so the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the phrase “Christian hymns in Indonesia” is, “Oh man, they’re in trouble.”  But the media is going nuts over them.  Not only are they not being persecuted or, worse yet, killed for proclaiming Christian truth, but they are being treated like celebrities!  What an incredible opportunity to share the Gospel in an otherwise closed country!  I listened eagerly to hear what Bruce had to say about the evangelistic opportunities, the acceptance of the fantastic truth contained in those hymns by the people of Java.  But it never came.  Jesus was never mentioned.  Even when asked “What’s the point to creating this type of music?” Bruce responded “It’s really a cross-cultural experience.”

As a Christian artist, I’m very concerned by this story, not because I don’t value the joining of cultures, but because they have been given the perfect platform, and they’re wasting it.  This group has unprecedented access to the Indonesian people.   They have discovered a way to declare the message and hope of Christ publicly in a country known for its violence and persecution of Christians, and they’re being praised for it!  This is the stuff that makes the people at VOM and Wycliffe drool.  Yet nothing is being done.  No one’s preaching the Gospel.  No one is speaking to the people.  No one is sharing the most incredible news imaginable.

Christian artists – this is a call to arms.  It is a call to begin creating cutting edge art, art that doesn’t just have the possibility of being used to spread the Gospel, but will actually do it!  Why are non-Christians coming up with these incredible ways of sharing such truth?  Why aren’t we the ones exploring the art forms that might present an opportunity like the one in Indonesia?  Musicians, visual artists and poets alike must stop being afraid to use their platform for Christ.  We must stop bowing to the fear of judgment or lack of success.

It comes down to this: What is more important, our art or our God?

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