Jan 3, 2011

let me entertain you? 7 tips on making the most of what we watch

A good friend recently told me the story of how a mother could get her children to swallow anything by rolling bitter pills in butter and coating the butter in sugar. It tasted good to the kids and they swallowed whatever they were given.

Such deceitful behaviour doesn’t stop with medicene! Take entertainment for example. What we consume through TV. film and music is like a pill in sugar.  We end up swallowing allsorts of things unintentionally. What we might well spit out if served to us ‘Straight-up’ we swallow without a thought because it tastes so good.

ALL media contains a message, even entertainment, and like sugar-coating a pill the ideas that are absorbed have consequences on our thinking and living.

So Christian do you seek to be only entertained by what you watch or listen to or do you seek to engage with what you watch?

A recent blog post by Mark Drscoll of Mars Hill Church (who incidently is speaking in Birmingham at a 2020birminghamacts 29 conference 5/6 May) is a must-read for Christians.

A Missionary in culture

Driscoll regards himself not as a consumer of culture but a missionary in culture. What’s the difference?

As a missionary, I do not view culture passively, merely as entertainment. Rather, I engage it actively as a sermon that is preaching a worldview.

I teach my children to do the same. We watch shows with our children. Those shows are recorded on a TiVo so that we can stop and have discussions during them, helping our kids understand the ideology that is being presented and how to think about it critically. We want our kids to be innocent but not naïve. Naïve Christians are the most vulnerable to engaging culture ignorantly and unpreparedly. If a Christian kid does not know how to walk as a Christian in culture, it’s no surprise that once he or she leaves their parents’ home after graduation, they are statistically likely to fail continue walking with Jesus.

Church life

Driscoll as a pastor sees it as his responsibility to teach the church how to think critically about media.

Like our children, our goal is not to create a safe Christian subculture as much as to train missionaries to live in culture like Jesus.

As a missionary, you will need to watch television shows and movies, listen to music, read books, peruse magazines, attend events, join organizations, surf websites, and befriend people that you might not like to better understand people whom Jesus loves. For example, I often read magazines intended for teenage girls, not because I need to take tests to discover if I am compatible with my boyfriend or because I need leg-waxing tips, but because I want to see young women meet Jesus, so I want to understand them and their culture better.

7 tips for getting more engaged

1. Try listening to a different radio station for an hour a day each day for a week.

2. Watch, if only once, programmes that are most talked about at your work or amongst your friends that you’ve never watched. Think through why they are popular, what message they convey and how the gospel interacts with those ideas.

3. Use the web to read journalism from different perspectives. A short cut approach can be found by visiting the New Stateman which links to 10 different but interesting articles from the papers each day.

4. Watch a film with some Christian friends or better still watch with a mix of friends and chat about it afterwards (tell everyone this is what you plan to do BEFORE you watch the film). Do your research in advance. Try Damaris for some good resources.

5. Follow Christian blogs that engage culture. Tony Watkins and Krish Kandiah are great places to start.

6. Ask your pastor to preach on culture and engagement or ask for some church-based workshops on film, tv, etc.

7. Above all else remember that cultural engagement is essential for Christians.  It protects us from swallowing those bitter pills of untruth that undermine our faith or the faith of those around us. Understanding the world around us including it’s thought-forms and ideas enables us to build bridges with those around us.  The more engaged we are the more opportunities are provided to open up a conversation that leads us to a gospel conversation.

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