Engaging Culture

Why We Should Be Careful Following Trends

A word needs to be said to pastors, writers, artists, and other leaders who jump on the bandwagon of “Christian cultural trends.” I’ve seen it most of my life, and I can tell you it doesn’t help in the court of public witness. I remember in the late 60’s when we got on the “Late Great Planet Earth” trend. The incredible success of that book was followed by a long (I mean really long) line of prophecy copycats, few of which offered anything unique and different.

Since that time we’ve had the HUGE trends of gimmicky sermons on sex and marriage, including the sexy marriage retreat phase, the prosperity gospel, the church-bashing trend, the political trend, the boycott businesses that don’t say “Merry Christmas” period, and more.  (Remember all the Christian “prophetic” warnings about Y2K?)

Especially in the Charismatic world, we’re besieged on a regular basis by hysterical “prophetic” announcements about the future of mankind, God’s judgment, or the end of the world. The current rage is the “Blood Moons.” Check Amazon.com and you’ll find at least 6 pages offering Christian books on the “Blood Moons.”

For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts on why trends don’t help:

1) In many cases, the original book or message that launches a trend is actually valid.  Not every time, but there have been moments when someone needed to share a new look at Bible prophecy, why Christian marriages should include a good sex life, God’s promises of blessing, or why Christians need to be active, voting citizens. Great. So let’s leave it at that.

2) But once those books or messages became popular, everybody thinks they have something to add – or worse, think they can benefit from getting on the bandwagon.  Good rule: Unless you’re an expert in a particular area, don’t assume you should write a book about a subject that’s trending. We want something new and insightful, not more of the same old drivel.  The problem is, most copycats are looking at it as a financial opportunity, not an opportunity to share new insight.

3) The stream of copycats doesn’t help set us apart from the surrounding culture.  While we’re clamoring for more books on “Blood Moons,” the world is desperate for more on Bruce Jenner’s gender change, or the latest celebrity divorce. Different subjects, but same disease. It’s all about a marketing mindset, not a vibrant intellectual or spiritual pursuit.

4) Finally, leaders need to plow new ground, not dig up well-worn fields.  Paul said in Roman’s 15:20 – “I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation.” Paul wasn’t interested in riding on anyone’s coattails, he was too busy sharing his message with people who hadn’t heard.

The world isn’t looking for more copies of someone else’s message or another trendy re-run. They’re looking for your unique voice to share the greatest message of all time. And for what it’s worth, I believe you should share it in a way only you can share it.

Now, whether or not you agree with this post, can we at least agree that enough books have been written about the blood moons?

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  1. What in the world is the “blood moons” anyway? I kid…partly. Have to admit I paid absolutely no attention to it. It doesn’t interest me one iota. In all honesty Phil, you hit the nail on the head with a good hammer. I’m not much of a trend-reader. I read what fits my particular thoughts at the time or what I may be working on. I try to stay current with culture so I can have informed conversation but I’m not much on reading all I can on a topic (except I do like to read stuff on Titanic). Good post today Phil I totally 100% agree.

    1. That’s actually a good point Bill. Your “Titanic” fascination I consider a hobby, not a trend. A trend happens when a staggering number of things are produced in a very short time. It probably happened around the opening of the Titanic movie, and I know it did for the “Noah” movie a few years ago. But in your case, I think you’re safe… 🙂

  2. For myself personally most of the “trendy” stuff I find can be interesting but that’s about as far as I go with it. I would agree with you that unless you are called to that kind of ministry or study you may want to show some restraint before joining in. A lot of the “end time” teaching seems to me to be so various and in many cases so inconsistent it becomes confusing. I figure if your not ready to go now then you probably won’t be then either. We can’t seem to get the church (and by extension the our surrounding culture) to agree on the basic morals clearly stated in the Bible, so I’m not to concerned about moons regardless of their color or times.

    1. I think much of the “variant” in the copycat books are because people are stretching to find a way to jump on the bandwagon. As a result, they’re more wiling to pursue wacky ideas, over solid teaching.

  3. Just for once I’d love to see someone in our field “lead” a trend. Well…other than you of course Phil.

  4. My favorite trendy book of yesteryear is the best-selling, “88 Reasons Why Jesus is Coming in 1988.” It’s sequel, “89 Reasons Why Jesus is Coming in 1989” did not sell so well.

    1. I joked at the time the book came out that the author’s father wrote “44 Reasons Why Jesus is Coming in 1944” and his grandfather wrote “22 Reasons Why Jesus is Coming in 1922”.
      What part of “no one knows but the Father” do people not seem to understand?

  5. IMITATION is the sincerest form of flattery (anon).

    CREATIVITY is seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what no one else has thought (Einstein).

    INSPIRATION is the collaborative calibration of one’s voice and message with God’s unique imprint on one’s life and calling…

  6. Is there anyway we can have a panel debate on this issue with those oppose and those in favor of the prosperity gospel and how it is NOT the gospel. Have all the prosperity Pastors on this panel. People like Creflo, et al should be told not to teach on this erroneous and devastating false gospel. This is no more than a pyramid scheme that should be brought to light.
    Sadly, there will be those who will not hear the truth in favor of getting wealth. Then their are the new Christians who are trying to please God and be a “good Christian” and be emotionally manipulated into the prosperity gospel.

  7. Great one Phil! This a topic that drives me crazy, because of, as you said, the way it makes all believers look in the court of public opinion. We should not be so quick to jump on the bandwagon or add to a topic unless we have something fresh or relevant to say. We are seeing this a lot with blogging. A cultural hot button or news story comes out and every blogger wants to write about because it’s a trending topic. I like to take my time, read a ton of stuff, ponder, and pray. And sometimes once I’ve formed my thoughts, it’s no longer a trend. My friends want to know when I am going to write about the Syrian refugee crisis, but I have told them I am still processing and I have seen several others write beautifully on the topic and capture my thoughts exactly. If I don’t have a fresh perspective to add, I won’t write on it, and then I “miss out” on the opportunity to jump on the trending bandwagon and “miss out” on the potential to grow my following. Sigh. Oh well… lol!

  8. We must not forget if true prophesy was given, then means it not that it’s comes right directly tomorrow…, but it comes step by step! Bloodmoon ends in September, today burning Syria…..

  9. Couldn’t agree more Phil. Another thought is that most of this stuff (going right back to Hal Lindsay and ‘Late Great…) is totally speculative, it is based 100% on someone’s view which they are entitled to but is that what the Christian community wants to major on?

  10. thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Phil – needed to be said – and now, back to writing my next ground breaking book on Christian vampires!

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