The New Christian Witness?

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In the days of Facebook’s waning influence, it’s odd to see virtually everyone in your feed post the same hot piece of news, say, the way they did way back in 2014. But the Christians in my feed saw something they really liked in Chris Pratt’s MTV Generation Award acceptance speech.

In the speech, Pratt is his usually quirky self, which shines through in every character he’s ever played, from the the lovable, dim-witted Andy Dwyer on Parks & Recreation, to the still quirky, but more deadpan hero hunk (not my type, but…) he’s played in the action blockbusters that have made him a huge Hollywood deal (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World).

But in this particular speech, aside from attempting to be entertaining, which many entertainers do, he also went where most don’t. Faith. Through a rambling, frenetic 3 minutes that he titled “9 Rules from Chris Pratt: Generation Award Winner,” he bounced around from lowbrow jokes about poop, and animals, and even breathing (Rules 1, 4, 7), to humanitarian encouragements to defend the weak and work hard to earn what you get (Rules 3, 5), to nebulous spiritual statements that could be identified as New Agey, e.g. “You have a soul. Be careful with it” (Rule 2) and “Learn to pray. It’s easy, and it’s good for your soul” (Rule 8), but which were actually clarified by more demonstrative doctrinal statements. And this is what I really wanted to touch upon – a unique cultural moment.

In Rule 6, Pratt said, “God is real. God loves you, God wants the best for you. Believe that. I do.” This is the comment that I saw most Christians pick up on. It’s a true statement. And it’s a sincere profession. The interesting thing is that he could have left it at that and arguably been no closer to salvation than an avowed atheist. Most people throughout world history have attested to belief in a real higher power. Many also assert his basic goodness.

But it was in Pratt’s last rule, Rule 9, that he actually got concrete in his beliefs. It was a brilliant maneuver, because everyone was so disoriented after the combination of disarming silliness, injunctions toward noble behavior, and general spiritual truths, that the audience was in a posture of applause before he even got to his culminating point.

And in Rule 9, Pratt stated:

“Nobody is perfect. People are gonna tell you you’re perfect just the way you are — you’re not. You are imperfect. You always will be. But, there is a powerful force that designed you that way. And if you’re willing to accept that, you will have grace. And grace is a gift. And like the freedom that we enjoy in this country that grace was paid for with somebody else’s blood, do not forget it. Don’t take it for granted.”

A Christian could possibly take issue with the “powerful force designed you that way” (i.e. imperfect) comment. But the spirit of what I hear Pratt quite cleverly saying here is, 1) despite what the world says, you and I are sinners who need to repent for that, and 2) there is hope in the undeserved love of God who paid for your liberation from those sins through his blood (i.e. in Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice).

Other celebrities have opened up as Christians in recent years. Kathie Lee Gifford and Ernie Johnson have been some public figures with very clear confessions of faith. Athletes like Tim Tebow, Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, Kirk Cousins, and Case Keenum have all been very open about their faith. But this is a slightly different community. The young creative entertainment field, which Pratt is now considered a leader in, is a different setting. Going into a population like the MTV Awards, where so much could be considered blatantly irreverent, and proclaiming that your freedom was paid for with God’s blood is HIGHLY unusual.

In fact, someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m not sure the gospel has been proclaimed that unabashedly in mainstream media, with that much attention, in front of that many eyeballs, since Linus read the Christmas account from the Gospel of Luke 2:8-14 in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

For those who observe Linus’ speech carefully, you’ll notice the fascinating nuance that Linus drops his security blanket when he quotes the angels proclaiming, “Fear not!” (Luke 2:10) Similarly, it took a ton of guts for Pratt to go where he did in this speech. And the question now is what, if anything, we should we learn from it.

For me personally, two things jump out:

1) Proclaim Clearly and Without Reservation

The contemporary Christian witness has arguably become not much of a witness. IF you have indeed shared your faith with a non-believer in recent memory (which for some of us is an enormous IF), take note of how many times you’ve used expressions like “I think” or “I feel like” in your testimony. Expressions like “I think” and “I feel” can be used effectively, and they’re essential when discussing things that the Bible has not forbidden nor commanded. But, in a courtroom, no one really cares what you think or feel. What we desire from a witness is what they’re convinced is true. “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” – THAT is witness language. If you’re willing to stake your eternal future on it, then you believe it with conviction, so speak it with conviction. Pratt said, “God is real. God loves you, God wants the best for you. Believe that. I do.” Of course he thinks and feels strongly about that, but he’s convicted enough by the Spirit to simply state it as fact. That’s good witnessing.

2) Be Willing to Earn Your Platform and Walk Through the Door When It Opens

There’s ALWAYS a risk and a cost involved in doing evangelism. The risk could be as light as scoffing and rejection or as severe as death. The cost could be an expenditure of a few minutes or the forfeiture of comfort or working years in order to do mission work overseas. But there is ALWAYS risk and cost in a Christian’s witness.

Pratt knew why he was standing on that stage. People find him entertaining. It’s a gift. So what did he do? He entertained them (the quality of the material is up for debate). He provided the culture with the service it asked for. But in that opportunity he seamlessly wove in a few brief statements about what made him tick and who really deserves the glory. This isn’t completely unlike what the Apostle Paul does in Acts 17 in Athens. The Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were not necessarily desiring to believe in Jesus when the gave him a platform at the Areopagus. They were seeking truth. Paul then proceeded to give them a logical argument debunking their perception of truth, and he maneuvered it into a testimony about Christ. In other words, he gave them something of what they asked for, but more of what they needed. Chris Pratt followed suit.

As American society becomes increasingly post-Christian, our witness will need to become more COURAGEOUS (as it will become socially less desired) and CLEAR (as it will become socially less understood what the essence of Christianity is). Pratt taught us that when you’ve earned the stage, “God loves you. Believe it. I do.” and “God paid for your imperfection with his blood.” are useful phrases to guide your witness.

What do you think? Good witness? Lots to learn? Not clear enough? Too Crude?

Regardless of style, I’m just thankful someone’s putting it out there.

Romans 1:16 “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.”

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