Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lessons from a Magazine Store

We spent yesterday afternoon enjoying the sunshine in one of our favourite parts of Toronto - the Annex. For the uninitiated, the Annex is cool, vibrant, and artsy. It's the home of the Fringe theatre festival, Tafelmusick Baroque Orchestra, and rock mecca, Lee's Palace. And on any day, you can wander through countless bookstores, cafes, and tea shops to find interesting people and stimulating conversations.

One of our favourite stops is the magazine store near Bathurst. We usually stick to the music section, but yesterday, I looked to see if they had any Christian magazines - ideally, something related to Christian music. I found my titles hidden in the Literary section, and thus the lesson began.

Of the 14 titles that could be considered 'religious' or 'spiritual', only 3 contained any sort of Christian association. One was evangelical, one Catholic, and one was on sacred history, Christian and otherwise.

Now, I make no judgement on the lack of Christian content in this store. Obviously, the store owner is doing what any wise business person should do - choosing products that reflect the purchasing needs of their clientele.

But as a Christian musician working in Toronto, it does provide some insight into the community and its demographics.

Is there a need for the Gospel in the Annex? Of course - we all need the Gospel.

But the insight provided by the magazines allowed me to contemplate the following questions:

- How would the Gospel be received in this part of town?
- Would people object to the message? Be offended? Be intrigued? Not care?
- Could I use my creativity to present the Gospel in this community?
- How can I be a witness to Christ in a way that won't be seen as preachy or Bible- thumper-ish?
- Many of the other magazines in the store speak to a community that is intelligent, well-read, well-informed. How do I share the Gospel in a way that will not be seen as condescending, insulting, or cliche?

I don't have answers to these questions right now, but I do think it raises questions for all us in music ministry. If we are truly called to take the Gospel outside the walls of the church, first we need to learn about our community, and then we need to learn how we can share the Gospel in a way that will not be taken as manipulative or judgmental.

I'm not saying we change the message, but sometimes, we must be creative and open in the method.

The challenge begins...

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