I have been a member of the Christian Reformed Church for almost 25 years. As a young Christian who grew up outside of Reformed circles, one thing that immediately struck me about the CRCNA was the different attitude I encountered within this denomination with respect to culture and media. I noticed a posture of discernment that considered both “secular” culture as well as “Christian” or “evangelical” content.
For example, no one in my Pentecostal circles had ever suggested that there might be popular media that communicated Christian themes. Neither had anyone offered a critique of the Christian media that seemed sacrosanct to me. The Reformed teaching that my worldview affected how I consumed or produced media and culture was eye-opening. I thought to myself, “These CRC folks have a pretty good thing going!”
I’m older now, and I have lived in three different countries outside North America. Out of necessity, I have become a student of language and culture. I still think the CRCNA has a pretty good thing going. Our biblical rootedness and our confessional identity provide a solid foundation to produce and evaluate culture and media.
I’ve noticed, as I’m sure you have, that fewer and fewer people in North America are connected to Christianity. In many places there is little fluency in biblical themes and images. In fact, in several places where we once assumed a sense of “Christendom” or a widely held set of Christian assumptions, values, and institutional affiliations, that has disappeared.
Many see this as a loss. As Christians, we have lost influence and power. We see empty churches turned into restaurants, museums, and concert halls. Christians in Canada and the U.S. might worry that we could be headed in the direction of countries such as Libya, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq—or even the U.K., France, or Sweden—where people self-identifying as active Christians are now a small minority.
I wonder, though, if this could instead be seen as an opportunity. Might this be a time for North Americans to paint a renewed vision of Christ and his lordship on a canvas less sullied by the past?
The people of our world need to hear the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ now more than ever. The Holy Spirit can work through our legacy of discernment, creativity, and biblical depth in our approach to culture and media. Modern media platforms give Christians great opportunities to influence their culture.
I admit that as I get older my enthusiasm is tempered by reality. Evil is powerful, and media will continue to do harm to our faith, relationships, and self-esteem. Our Christian influence will wax and wane until Christ returns. And yet, I have hope.
I am thankful for Christian Reformed ministries, agencies, and institutions that produce media and teach us how to create and consume it in a way that is faithful to Scripture and our confessions. It seems that this is needed now more than ever.
About the Author
Rev. Zachary King is the general secretary of the CRCNA. He is a member of Fuller Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich.