One of my favorite street artists is the infamous and yet somehow anonymous Banksy from the UK. What intrigues me is his creative way of asking powerful questions that make you stop and think again about things that we often just accept as normal.
Back in 2010 my band started playing a few shows in the busy hardcore scene of Guarulhos, São Paulo (Brazil). One time a few of the members of another band came over and said, “I like your message, we want to share this message in our band too!”
Following and sharing Jesus in the art and music scene often presents dilemmas - how should we live in this world today? What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus in the scene I’m part of? What can and can’t we do? What is sinful and what is just cultural? It seems that as the church we often fall in one of two extremes: either in our search for holiness we become isolated and alienated, not relating to the culture around us; or we sell out to the culture and forget our values and identity as a follower of Jesus. So how do we get this right?
Some years ago we toured Eastern Turkey. It was one of the hardest tours I’ve ever been on. In the van on the way the organiser told us about radical Islamists in the area beating women for wearing the wrong clothes. I wondered how our show might go down there. We arrived in one town to play an outdoor concert and found a hole in the ground in the place where the stage was supposed to be.
Any band or artist concerned with souls will be carrying a spiritual burden. Any band or artist sharing Jesus and praying for conversion and transformation will be entering a spiritual battle. The fight is real. If you’re in this more for your art or “making it” as a band, then you don’t need to worry about that. You might get naturally tired, but it’s nothing like the spiritual burden and battle you enter when you step into enemy territory to proclaim the good news.
Unhappy, unloved and out of control read the front cover of the Time Magazine that year in the UK. It certainly seemed a good description for a lot of the young people we had come in contact with through our efforts to reach young people in the southern borough of London that we lived in.
Speaking truth into the music and art scene today can be intimidating. The gospel is so countercultural. Also, the sense is that everyone’s already heard and are not interested. Possibly one of the more intimidating obstacles is the concept that faith should be a private matter and not to be spoken of in public. Based on this assumption people will say that we shouldn’t “use” the platform of art and music to preach. Or that art with a message is propaganda.
Paul was a radical follower of Jesus. After meeting Jesus, he spent his life traveling the world, kind of like going on tour with a band, preaching Jesus and planting churches. He regularly suffered because of this.