While walking with my wife on vacation in Lyon, France, I came across a large square with a beautiful stone cathedral at one end and a concert stage set up at the other end. Being of the curious sort I took a picture of the cathedral and then walked over to see what was up with the stage. Upon approaching the stage I was met by a very kind young man who, in rather good English, told me that the concert setup was for 'World Youth Day'. This of course, is a day that has been set aside by the Vatican to promote the Catholic religion among young people both inside and outside of that religion. The young man seemed very excited about this special day and said that they were celebrating mass and then were going to have a Catholic Reggae concert.
Ok, so because my vacation apartment was a block away from the concert and I was sure that sleep would not be gotten during the performance, I went by that same square while I was on my way with my wife to get her nightly dose of gelato. (some kind of fancy ice cream that I don't understand but she seems to enjoy) What I saw made me think. There were four or five guys up there on stage singing their hearts out trying to build up the excitement of a full blown pop concert atmosphere in that square. And there were, I admit, some two hundred or so enthusiastic teens around the stage totally into what was going on. Besides these die hard fans there were maybe another two hundred or so that were hanging out, watching at a distance like they were too cool for what was going on onstage.
As I stood there and took in the dichotomy of a Cathedral that dates back to 1180 attempting to win the youth back with reggae music I was struck with several thoughts:
1. The young people of today must learn to honor history and beauty. Although I am not a Roman Catholic, I am an admirer of beauty in architecture and construction. The cathedral in that square is breathtaking and took five hundred years to complete it's construction.
2. The numbers didn't add up. In the city of Lyon (population 1.44 million in 2014) there are Catholic churches everywhere you turn. Most of the city claims Roman Catholicism as their religion (83-88% nationally in 2014). So, my question is, where were all of the Catholic teens for this event? Given the statistics there should have been at least several thousand there that night if this was an effective tool to engage Catholic youth and interest the unbelieving youth in the Catholic religion. The only thing I can conclude is that with the shopping, bars, clubs, and other night life happening that Catholic reggae wasn't high on their priority list that night.
3. No matter what one's views are on the addition of the word 'Christian' to every genre of music imaginable to endeavour to make that genre a tool for evangelism my question is this: If the Roman Catholic church cannot make a resounding success of attendance at a concert in a town that they have completely dominated for nearly a millennium on a day as big as World Youth Day, why does the evangelical church think that they will fare any better trying to 'sell' a much less mainstream Christianity to a much less informed and indoctrinated audience by these same means? If the numbers don't work for the Roman Catholics, it is certain that they are not favorable to us in our outreach endeavours.
In conclusion, I realize that there are rock, pop, hip-hop, and yes, even reggae concerts held every day across the globe in the name of a Christianity of one stripe or another. Yes, many thousands attend these concerts - especially the highly publicized ones with high profile acts, backed by their labels, and playing in cities that are fan strongholds. Having said that, in areas where the culture is moving more quickly from post-modern to pre-pagan where church is seen as a stale artifact of the past this approach seems to be no longer working. Given this scenario, thought must be given to more effective methods of reaching out to those for whom music with the word 'Christian' attached has no value or attraction.