Having lived most of my life in the Bible Belt cities of Dallas, Tulsa and Colorado Springs, I have observed how the American church is growing – getting butts in seats, as it were. If statistics are to be believed, this in itself could be a good thing.
Now on the East Coast, word has it that church was less of a social institution. Surprise! I arrive here and observe the church is also growing in many areas of Virginia, Pennsylvania and other states. Probably a great thing… but do peoples’ lives look different? Or does our 21st century culture not allow for a God-centered life?
Hot on the heels of these questions comes Hillsong United, a group of young believers from Australia who have consistently given bold new songs to the global church. Now they up the ante by filming their two-year world tour and kicking off the movie with this verse:
“I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want.” – Amos 5:21 (The Message)
- Our culture is fundamentally in conflict with a biblical perspective. We have trained ourselves to look past need – I know I’m guilty, passing by DC panhandlers everyday. Since six companies control 90% of popular media, we are programmed to accept things like consumerism. Like Alcoholics Anonymous, realizing the problem and removing my own importance is step one.
- The conflict plays out uniquely in the world of “worship rock stars.” This film digs into the disconnect of staging stadium-size worship events in regions of abject poverty: band members often alternated nights of sleeping in slums and lounging in posh hotels. They desire to make a difference, yet they confess, “We’re not just sleeping through the fires raging in our world, we’re fanning the flames.”
- For inspiration and understanding, look to the past. I-Heart Revolution features a half-dozen segments that briefly recount stories of young revolutionaries throughout the world: South Africans who ended apartheid, William Wilberforce in England, the Little Rock Nine, etc. The entire film is book-ended by audio clips of Robert Kennedy’s Day of Affirmation Speech. In history we see that living God’s call may mean you’re a rich man (like Wilberforce) or a missionary to Hong Kong: sacrificing all for Jesus never looks the same.
- Martin Smith plays the Paul McCartney of modern worship quite well. As a lifelong fan of delirious?, it heartens me to see Hillsong United give the band props as forerunners of this movement. From a studio backdrop Martin serves up bits of inspiration throughout, along with delirious? music cues used at key points (i.e. “Kingdom of Comfort” plays during a segment on how modern Christianity is missing the point.)
- Indifference and injustice are real problems. They tell of visiting Rio de Janeiro and spending time among destitute families. You see children at age 4 who are carefree, loving life as kids do. But by age 9, their faces are reduced to a cold stare after years of impossible living conditions. Leaving blankets and sweets with these people is nothing if we ignore the bullet holes in the nursery.
- It’s a danger to think this is all about charity. I appreciated this plumb-line in the film, as some of I Heart‘s 20 Causes veer close to a hand-out agenda (which studies show can actually be destructive). Absolutely, every human should have access to food, water and shelter — that doesn’t mean we want a massive world-government program instituted to bureaucratically provide said needs. To hear a UNICEF rep say flatly that the church plays an important role is a beautiful thing. Now we have to step up.
- The agenda is love. You cannot talk about love, you have to show love. Just Walk Across the Room is the title of a popular evangelism book, also a point from the film about how to start simply. Seek God, then do something.
Your thoughts on all this?
P.S. So I looked at the post just below this one (with a Wish List link, no less) and I thought, “Yep, the film was a good message for me.” I was tempted to edit that post, but the dissonance itself says something I suppose.