Ministering to Underground Subcultures

Trevor Macpherson - Worldshakers Christian Growth Center

You can find them on the street corners of any major city, they wear black or disheveled clothes, have many parts of their body pierced, their hair is weird, they talk of anarchy and declare that they are Satanists. Who are they? They are Punks and Rockers or, as they have been more recently called, "Generation X" - the Alternative - Underground Subculture. At first, most of us thought that this was just another fad and that, like other fads, it would just fade away. But, if anything, it is growing larger.

The interesting characteristic of this underground subculture is that it is almost worldwide. For instance, if you look alternative you can go to Europe, South America, Asia, even some places in Africa and the Middle East, and you will immediately be received by the underground there. The thing that connects these people is music. Here we listen to groups from all over the world and they do likewise.

Why is this Significant?

Right now there are many parts of the world where God is moving but these movements have very little affect on us because they take place in the context of completely different cultures. Often, if we try to transplant what is happening there, it doesn't work in our culture. Alternative people are the outcasts of almost every culture so if God were to move in the underground, because it is so inter-connected, it would be like a wild-fire going from country to country and culture to culture. Then from the fringe of each culture the fire would begin to sweep into the center.

This is exactly what happened about 25 years ago; in 1971-72 thousands upon thousands of Hippies from countries all over the world found God and came into churches as the "Jesus people." Gradually, this has changed the whole character of church. Before the "Jesus People" movement, church had hymns for worship, a mid-week evening Bible study at the church, where the pastor taught and everyone listened, and the pastor's Sunday message generally in the tone of a parent to a child.

After the "Jesus people" movement, choruses and contemporary worship began to be added. Though gradual at first, now most churches all have contemporary worship. Next, because the "Jesus people" were activists and radicals, they weren't satisfied with just sitting and being taught, they wanted to be part of the discussion. The church began to have discussion-type bible studies which eventually moved out of the church and into people's homes and on every night of the week.

Finally, the "Jesus people" didn't want to be treated like children and have a parental figure get up every Sunday and point his finger at them and tell them what bad kids they were. So there was gradually a change in preaching style to an adult-to-adult approach. I believe that God is getting ready to change things all over again with a new underground subculture.

The question is, are we ready? What would happen if a group of Alternative kids who were recently saved came into your church this Sunday? They have all different colors of hair, piercings all over their bodies, they are a little rowdy and (because they are just new Christians their language isn't cleaned up) one of the young guys comes up to the pastor and says, "Shit that was a good message!"

Would the older Christians let their love cover a multitude of sins and not put religious stumbling blocks in front of them? Would they welcome the young people in with open arms or would these young people begin to feel the cold shoulder and slowly realize that they weren't welcome the way they were.

I don't think God is going to release His power in the underground until there are enough churches and ministries ready to protect all the new little lambs He wants to bring into the kingdom. He doesn't want them slaughtered by the wolves just waiting for an opportunity.

Understanding Generation X

As Christians, whose task it is to take the gospel to every living creature, how then do we reach these young people? It seems that everything that they stand for is contrary to what we believe. Unfortunately, the church is under a misconception which makes it even more difficult. Generally, the attitude that the church has taken toward the subculture is, "these are good kids who have gone bad, so we need to get them out of it and bring them back to the good." This basically says to young people, "unless you come back to the middle class you can't have Jesus." We wouldn't word it that way, but isn't that what we are communicating?

"How do you reach a people group who are usually so negative?" Is the question I kept asking myself when God spoke to me about reaching out to this subculture. As far as I was concerned, they were mouthy, rebellious, ungrateful and angry Satanists and anarchists. Try as I might, I just couldn't see how God could do anything with this group. Sure, I had seen firsthand how He had been able to touch the hippie subculture to birth the Jesus people movement but that was different because there I could see some common ground.

They wanted things like peace, love and freedom, similar to the views of Christianity, but this new group seemed completely opposed to everything that I and my faith stood for. Fortunately, God sees what we do not and He began to work on my heart over the next 3 years to totally transform my attitude.

He began the process during a conversation with two young people in our church; we were talking about secular heavy metal music and the negative effect it has on people. One of them said, "well it's like that line from the AC/DC song "Hells Bells", (WE ARE TAKING YOUR CHILDREN TO HELL AND NO ONE IS PUTTING UP A FIGHT). I was so startled that I asked him to repeat it, and then asked if he was sure that it actually said that. I couldn't believe the arrogance of the devil. Not only was he doing it more openly than ever, now he was bragging about it. My second reaction was in the form of, "them those are fighting words!" I felt that someone had to put up some kind of a fight for these kids.

Heavy Metal Concerts

I decided that a good place to start, was to take a couple of these young guys and start going out to the heavy metal concerts that came to town, not to protest, but to witness and pray. I had heard from a friend who worked on the streets, that whenever one of these the openly Satanic bands came into town suicide and Satanism would increase after they left, like a wave of evil being released each time they played. Therefore, along with the evangelism, we decided to also take seriously the need to bind up the spirits that came with these musicians, in order to stop these releases and to stop the spirits from doing their work.

As we continued to go out to these concerts over the next couple of years, we saw 3 significant things take place:

  1. At a number of the concerts the enemy's spiritual power was totally shut down. We were even able to read about the results of out prayers in the reviews the next day; sometimes they would even comment on the exact things we had prayed for.
  2. As we shared Christ with these young people we began to find out that they weren't exactly what we expected. We discovered that most of them had come from really hard, abusive backgrounds and that their rough outside was basically a cover for all of the hurt inside.
  3. At some of the concerts the Lord would prompt me to just stand and pray for the people. As I did this He would point out a person walking by and I would hear Him say, "no one has ever prayed for this person, would you please pray for him/her". As this happened numerous times a night at each of the concerts, I began to see that this was a forgotten and neglected generation that very few people have cared about, including the church.

Why the Anarchy?

Even after studying the cultural philosophies I still had a hard time dealing with the anarchy and the Satanism because I just couldn't seem to get a handle on why these were popular. I brought this dilemma to my friend who worked with street kids downtown and he was able to give me some helpful insight.

He pointed out that, for many of them, their first exposure to authority was in the home, where they had parents who abused them. This abuse either continued, or led to, their being put in foster homes. For many of them this didn't help because they were then abused by these new authority figures. Then, when they complained to their social worker (the next authority figure), they were often not believed and were left in the abusive situation or had to run away.

Most of them, also because of the above problems, did poorly in school, which again brought them into negative confrontations with the school's authority figures. This pattern then continues on with the police, government officials, landlords, etc. until, from their perspective, "authority is corrupt so let's get rid of authority and have anarchy instead."

The way my friend's ministry had learned to respond was, "You are right, authority is corrupt, that is why Jesus is coming back because only He will rule the world with true justice. In the mean time, instead of being an Anarchist, which leaves you with nothing, why not become a Godarchist, (obeying authority, not because it is just, but because God has told us to) and end up with true justice and eternal life."

Are They Really Satanists?

For some of these young people, the Satanism is very real and they have embraced it in rebellion to God but for most of them that isn't the case. For them it is more by default than by actual choice and far more for show than real belief.

This second group has a dilemma because they know they are in need but since they have cut out authority figures and resources from their life, where then do they turn to get help?

The one place that they should be able to turn to and find help is the church but unfortunately, when many of them have they tried to go to church (and we were shocked to find out how many really had tried) instead of acceptance and love most of them found rejection.

Therefore, they travel on down the line and end up with Satan, who seems to be the only one who is interested in them. But instead of helping them, he destroys them.

We, on the other hand, as the church, need to be there for these needy young people, helping them with an attitude of love and acceptance. I was talking with one of these young fellows, all dressed in black and a musician in one of the local punk bands, and he mentioned to me that when he was younger he had gone to church. I encouraged him to try going back but he told me they would reject him. I suggested that maybe it was a misconception and he should give it a try anyway. "No" he said, "I have tried going back and they did reject me".

Then I told him to come to our church because he would be accepted there. He took a long, careful look in my eyes and said, "I believe you, there is something different about you". He asked for my phone number, so he could call me if he wanted to talk more. I realized that the difference he saw, was the love I had for him. I don't know where along this process it happened but that night I realized that God had actually changed my heart, I really did love him and for him to find a person, who loved and accepted him, instead of rejecting him, spoke volumes to him.

Try to see it from their point of view: when they try to go to church they get rejected and then, as if to add salt to the wound, church people come down to their streets and yell at them, telling them what horrible sinners they are. This is their picture of the church. Most of them have never once experienced a Christian who genuinely showed them love instead of rejection.

If this was the extent of your contact with the church and Christianity, how do you think you'd feel, and how in the world would you ever find God?

Cross-Cultural Missionary Work

Slowly, it dawned on me that this truly was another culture (or as some have called it, "a tribe") and that I was actually being called to a type of cross-cultural mission.

This meant that I needed to learn their language, their values and even their perspective on life.

Positive Aspects of the Alternative Subcultures

The other thing I began to discover was that there were actually some positive aspects to the subculture. For instance, they love creativity, honesty and sincerity and they hate hypocrisy. Also, most of them won't compromise their principles for materialism. I found that, as with all cultures, there are some aspects that are contrary to the gospel and some that are more consistent.

This entirely changed my perspective on the ministry. This was when I began to see that we weren't called to get good kids who have gone bad to come back to the middle class church. Instead, our goal became to teach them how to walk with Christ in their own subculture or, in other words, to be in it and not of it. This way they become the salt and light to the next generation so we don't neglect another one.

Also, in my studying I discovered that there wasn't just one group, but that there were a number of major groupings:

  1. Punks - Usually dress in black, have outrageous hairdos with shocking colors and unusual styles, and many of their body parts are pierced and filled with weird jewelry.
  2. Rockers and Alternatives - Usually have long, out of control hair, either a disheveled shirt or a T-shirt with graphic pictures of their favorite bands, worn out jeans and a leather or jean jacket.
  3. Skin Heads - Their heads are totally shaved, they wear short jeans with suspenders, high laced Doc Martin boots with different colored laces (each color identifying a different faction) and tend to be most violent of the subcultures.
  4. Skaters - Usually long hair hanging in their eyes, long baggy shorts, and they will either be on or carrying a skateboard.
  5. Goths (Gothic) - Usually all black clothes, white or pale faces, black make up, black hats, often spiky hair, they hang around cemeteries and many of them are very artsy.
  6. Retros - They dress very much like the old Hippies. They are into organic foods and often are vegetarians.

What do they think about Jesus?

They have a hard time seeing that Jesus is really for them. One night, when we were talking to the kids on the street, I gave a young guy a tract that we had made up. When he looked at it he said, "oh, that's not for me". He said it in such a funny way that I asked him what he meant and he said, "well I don't have a job and a big car so it's not for me", and he was dead serious.

I then understood how much we, in the middle class church, had changed Jesus into our own cultural image. Consider this for a moment, Jesus:

  1. Was only 30 years old
  2. Was uneducated
  3. Didn't have a place to lay His head
  4. Was an international refugee
  5. Grew up with the mistaken stigma of being born out of wedlock
  6. Regularly criticized and pointed out the hypocrisy of the senior pastors and denominational leaders of His day
  7. Spent most of His time hanging out with longshoremen, prostitutes and the equvalent of punks and rockers.

In your opinion who does He sound more like, a normal church member or one of these street kids?

Next, consider this: if Jesus came today, how many churches would be willing to hire him as a senior pastor? Not many. He was too young, uneducated and far too radical. Yet somehow we have so changed the image of Jesus that these kids find it hard to believe that He is the "friend of sinners" (punks and rockers). This has got to be changed. We need to present to them the real Jesus before they can find the real salvation.

Reaching out to the Underground

  1. The first and most important way to reach out to these young people is to see past the outward roughness and just love and accept them, period. They need this more than anything else you could ever give them.
  2. Second, whenever you see these young people please pray for them (remember you may be the first and only person to ever pray for this person), they really do need it. This is one of the clearest ways to let the enemy know that someone is going to put up a fight for these kids.
  3. Third, using the vehicle of music. "Studies show that teenagers will listen to an estimated 10,500 hours of rock music between the 7th and 12th grades alone," (U.S. News and World Report Oct. 28, 1985). Music does play a major part in their lives (far more than when we were growing up) and, therefore, it is a very effective vehicle.
    1. Encourage the young people in your church, who probably know the kind of music that will reach their friends, to start a band which can be used in reaching out to this new generation. If it is not the kind of music you are used to; please be patient and long-suffering with them, as long as it is Christ-centered, encourage them to use it for Him as an outreach to their generation.
    2. Another possibility would be to buy some CD's of the number of the good Christian Alternative bands that are available and give them to these kids.
  4. Finally, these young people are far more visually oriented than our culture so a picture is worth 10,000 words. Vivid graphic art is an another very effective tool for reaching them. Instead of thinking, "what can I say to these young people", think, "what picture best communicates the message I want to them to receive". This may even involve word pictures.

Ministry hints

Here is something that I have noticed and, to me, shows why we need each other. Generally, the older the person is who has a ministry, (e.g. Zine, band, outreach, ministry center, etc.) the more burden and vision they tend to have but less ability to convey it in a relevant way. This group has been called to mentor the next generation into its calling.

It seems the younger they are, the more relevant they are, but they often seem to have little burden for ministry. This is the next generation. Finally, there is a third group that is right in the middle (late 20's to early 30's) who seem to have both, some burden and some relevance. These are the workers who form a bridge between the other two groups (remember, this is just a generalization, because I have met people who don't fit into these catagories).

This means we need to work together. Neither, "those old coots are on a control trip and keep trying to cram me into their idea of Christianity," nor "those young punks are only out to have fun and be cool and don't even care about ministry" will work.

With lots of love, acceptance and a miracle from God, we can see this "Lost Generation" get free of the enemy and be found by the Good Shepherd.

Prophecies about the Underground: Crucial Role in the End Times - Rick Joyner, from the Harvest Morningstar Mininstry

The Lord has prepared a ministry for this last day, which will be the marvel of the men and the angels. These will not be the self-seeking or the self-promoting, and most of them will remain unknown to the world and to much of the church. Their works and their preaching will stir nations but many will fade into the crowds and disappear before anyone even knows who they are.

They will have no desire to build major ministries and will not covet fame and fortune. They are "spiritual celibates"; they will not "rape the bride". Just as a natural eunuch is given entirely to preparing the bride for the king, and has no desire for her as he is not even able to, these will be completely given to preparing the church for her King. Their whole purpose is to see the King's joy because they are truly His friends. These will follow Him wherever He goes.

While many of their peers have been seeking exposure and promotion for their ministries, these have been quietly preparing themselves just as Jesus did for His thirty years. While others are advancing in ministry many of these have been retreating. While others have been building up, these have been digging down, trying to strengthen their foundations and deepen their roots. Not in rebellion, and often grieving over it, these are usually out of harmony with much of the church.

When the battle unfolds, much of the leadership in the church will have gained their positions through self-promotion and political manipulation. Many who are considered "generals" by the people will be "privates" in God's eyes. Some in the lower ranks in the people's eyes will be God's top generals.

These will not seek rank or position in the church at this time, but will quietly, mostly incognito, direct the end time strategy of the church. Their authority will be in their wisdom. Like Stephen, who was but a deacon but whose wisdom and power lit a fire that set a new course for Christianity, this new breed, without fame or position, will direct some of the greatest events in history. Though men will never know many of them, the entire host of heaven and hell have known them from the beginning.

Not since Jesus has the enemy feared anyone like he does these selfless messengers of power. Just as he tried to destroy Moses and Jesus by killing the children, his present onslaught through abortion and drugs is a desperate attempt to destroy these before they can mature. Some of them will have been dragged through the dregs of the human sin, trauma and despair before they are awakened. They will love much because they were forgiven of much and delivered of much. As deep as the enemy has been able to get his roots into them, that is how deep the Lord will fill them after their deliverance.

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