Late last night, my girlfriend and I were driving in downtown Orlando onour way to meet some friends when she mentioned in passing that she heard arumor Lauryn Hill was playing a secret show at a club nearby. What? Surely,it couldn't be true. Not THE Lauryn Hill. Not here. Tonight? I bee-lined itfor the club in question just to make sure.
We pulled up, rolled down the window and asked the bouncer if the rumor wastrue. Yeah, he said nonchalantly. WHAT?!?
For those of you living under a rock, Lauryn Hill is the ex-Fugee memberwhose solo album, "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill," sold 14 million copiesand cleaned up at the Grammys a couple of years back. Her music is soulfuland bold and her message is overtly Christian.
Needless to say, we went to the concert, and it was truly aonce-in-a-lifetime event. There she was, 15 feet in front of us, alone on astage with nothing but a stool and her acoustic guitar. She wouldn't singany of her old stuff, only new songs from an upcoming album.
The music was awe-inspiring. She began the concert by telling the crowdthat she chose to have no accompaniment because she wanted us to listen tothe lyrics. Listen to what the songs were saying. Truly get them.
And they didn't disappoint. The spiritual bent of her previous work pales incomparison to her new stuff. Every song she sung had overtlyChrist-centered content. From "Jerusalem," which was nothing but beautifullyinterwoven Scripture, to songs sung from God to His children, to songsabout righteousness, to the river of God, to freedom in Christ, on and onthey went. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, began the firstsong of the night. To answer her critics: They don't know me, if they don'tknow my Father.
I heard more truth in that club than I have in church in a long time. Lastnight I saw in living color what it means to be light in the darkness. Lastnight I stood within earshot of someone I deeply respect and admire,someone who will touch millions of lives through uncompromised lyrics andamazing music. She will give answers to people asking, God, where are you?She will point people to a relationship with Christ.
Yet, the Church won't acknowledge her. She's secular, and her music isn't soldin Christian bookstores.
This week I read the manuscript of our upcoming release, "Walk On: TheSpiritual Journey of U2" (Relevant Books). I have to tell you, I now see Bono [Click for Bono: The Beliefnet Interview] and the Church in a completely different light.
The book details the story of a man, and a band, that came out of the firesof spiritual renewal in Dublin. In the formative years of the band'sexistence, Bono, the Edge and Larry were unashamed, on-fire Christians.They attended the Shalom Fellowship in Dublin faithfully, and they talkedconstantly about God in their music and in the media.
Then, after their debut album, "Boy," and the growing fame that came with it,their church told the boys that the Lord wanted them to disband the group.They were forced to choose between the wishes of their sincere, yetmisguided, congregation, and the passion that God put in their hearts tomake music that would change the world. They chose the latter, and theirchurch shunned them. .
As much spiritual impact U2 has had on the world over the last 20 years, from raising billions of dollars for the world's poor to pointing people toChrist through their lyrics, imagine how much more impact they would havehad had their church chosen to embrace them instead of reject them. Imagineif they had a spiritual umbrella to support and guide them through thisjourney, rather than throwing them out there to find their own way in alife of sheltered fame. Imagine if the Church supported them rather thancriticized them. Imagine.
The question is pertinent because the Shalom Fellowship is not unlikealmost every American church I know. Where would Creed be if Lee Universityhad not expelled lead singer Scott Stapp when they caught him smoking weedas a student there? What if they would have helped him get his heart andlife straight instead of slamming the door behind him? Creed has soldsomething like 12 million albums over the last few years. In their music,they are crying out for God, but they don't know where to find Him becausethe Church has said, We don't want you. [Click for Beliefnet's feature on Creed.]
I think artists like Lauryn Hill, Lifehouse, Creed, U2, all who started inthe Church and are at the top of the charts, need the Church to stand upand support them. If we're ever going to get outside of our bubble andimpact culture, we need to stand with, support, and embrace the voices outthere that love God or are looking for God and just happen to be outsideof our comfort zones of familiarity. Imagine if for the last 20 years Bonowas getting fed at the Shalom Fellowship, what a difference it would havemade in the lives of millions of people. Imagine Lauryn Hill with theChurch standing by her side. She's bringing the only Christian message mostof her fans will ever really pay attention to. You think most of the peopleat that club with me at 1 a.m. were in church that morning?
No, these artists aren't perfect, but in their own ways they're pointingmillions of people to the Lord. They're impacting more lives than thepreachers on TBN ever could. They're out there in the trenches, on a journeyto find a relationship with their Creator, and they're bringing an entireradio-listening and video-watching generation with them in their quest. Isay it's time the Church wakes up and gets out there. It's time the lightstops shining upon itself and starts to make a difference in the darkness,because that's where it's needed most. That's where these artists are. That'swhere the real mission field is. And I think that's where Jesus would be,too.