What does it mean to be a Christ-follower and engage the world around you? I grew up in an era where the church defined itself by who it voted for (collectively), what music it listened to, and what movies it saw…or, more accurately, who it DIDN’T vote for, what music it DIDN’T listen to, and what movies it DIDN’T see.
And I heard the message, often not very subtly, that being a "good christian" (a term I rarely use – more on that later) meant conforming to these same decisions… vote republican, listen to music made by "christian" record labels, and see only this or that movie.
Unfortunately, Jesus followers everywhere are today paying the price for that group-think era. As a rule, followers of Jesus are not seen as influencers of culture, revolutionary thinkers, or even all that dangerous for the convictions they live by. We are in large part ignored as being totally irrelevant to the cultural conversation that is happening all around us. Because we chose to withdraw from the cultural conversation, culture moved on, relegating us to irrelevance and obscurity.
How do we regain a position of cultural influence? We must abandon the group-think that had as it’s goal the removal of tension from our choices. (With a list of "bad" and "approved" media, for example, we no longer have to wrestle with inner tension when making choices). We have to again individually struggle with the tension – every day – of what it means to live as part of this world but as followers of Jesus. That means we will make mistakes. That means we have to struggle with big questions and messy answers. But it also means we will regain our position of influence… our capacity to have an effect on the people around us.
Please understand, I am not advocating becoming unfaithful in a quest for influence. Quite the contrary, I think the best way to live – of living faithfully – is to allow the message of Jesus to so permeate our minds and hearts that the question of faithful influence colors EVERY decision, EVERY choice. This is the very heart, I believe, of living missionally… of truly influencing those around us with the heart and message of Jesus.