Now is the time for the CROSS RHYTHMS ministry to make changes to its editorial direction and expand its readership outside its current support base. Jonathan Bellamy explains the next step on a God-given strategy.
Over the next few issues you will see a subtle shift in the way we write Cross Rhythms magazine. If you listen to Cross Rhythms radio or visit the Cross Rhythms website you will probably identify similar shifts. Articles, programmes and web pages will be presented less with Christians in mind and more with non-Christians in mind. The language we use will be more accessible and we will try to avoid the traditions, trappings and elements of Church culture that are confusing to those outside of it.
The aim of this is to take Cross Rhythms media ministries far deeper into the mainstream marketplace to make it more accessible and to relate more effectively with people who do not have a Christian faith. We have never seen Cross Rhythms as providing entertainment for the Church, but conversely we have always believed we must work media with the local Church in purpose and strategy. For many years it has been right for us to be a voice primarily within the Church. For years we have talked about the potential of using these vital tools of music and media to engage a relevant Christian worldview with our communities. In fact in this very issue of Cross Rhythms we have published two articles, Worship Music As Teaching And Evangelism and Jesus In The Pub, which bring exciting insights as to how the Church can begin to undertake the Great Commission. But in future issues you're unlikely to find such articles in Cross Rhythms. Don't get me wrong. We won't be dumbing down. Nor will we lose our spiritual fervour. But teaching and preaching articles (indeed editorials like this one) will be gradually replaced by journalism sufficiently creative to envision the Church but also engage those outside of it. So do please pray for us as we endeavour to take this long running publication to the next level with subtle changes to our articles, columns and record reviews. If Christian arts and media is truly to escape from its cultural ghetto we must make changes. So much music made by Christians, having reached its current state of excellence, desperately needs to be heard by those outside the confines of the Church. Now is the time to do more than talk about engaging in evangelism or developing a prophetic Christian media, but to actually begin to do it.
Over the last year, running the FM Access community radio station in Stoke-on-Trent God has taught us so much about this. He has also shown that people will respond to it. Chip shops, hairdressers, petrol stations, doctors' surgeries, taxis, universities, pubs and even Muslim shops play the station in their daily business and we get much encouraging feedback on how much people appreciate the format. We felt it was right to position the station as a bridge between both the Church and wider communities. We needed to reach both! However, as the Church has grown to understand us and are behind the vision, this releases us to shift more in approach and style towards Christian programming that is relevant and understandable to a wider community. Naturally, more people who don't know much about the Church or Christianity will end up visiting our website or read the magazine so these areas need to be consistent too.
Financially God has also used our serious pressures to shape our thinking. Whilst 95 per cent of the people in our nation do not attend church most Christian music sales are targetted at the declining numbers in the Church! The same with media initiatives. Most here and abroad are aimed in programming and funding terms at the Church. There's nothing wrong in this but at Cross Rhythms we have felt challenged that if we really believe in these tools we need to put our money where our mouth is. If all this Christian music and media has been raised by God to do more than entertain Christians, and instead has a significant role in reaching our communities, then when are we really going to take that step and stand in that belief? This year, as we have been looking at how to financially keep Cross Rhythms alive, God has begun to reveal financial streams. As well as Friends of Cross Rhythms (where Christians can support the vision of Cross Rhythms), we have launched CR Direct music sales and sponsorship of programmes on our radio station. Both these last two streams, as well as the essential support of Christians, will require a response from those outside the Church. God is showing us that our future survival is connected to our vision and now is the time to walk into it. As one old man called Isaiah wrote: "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland!" He could well have written that just for us!The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.