Ministering To Goths

Dave Hart - Sanctuary San Diego

Sanctuary is a Christian ministry for the music underground. We are on a mission to reach out to disenfranchised youth caught up in the most obscure musical subcultures. Sanctuary, San Diego primarily focuses on those in the gothic and industrial music scene, but we are open to anyone into alternative, punk, metal, techno and/or the Lollapalooza crowd. As we watch these kids embrace the message of nihilism and hopelessness in their music and their culture, we realize that there is a great need to enter the underground and offer a message of hope and freedom. Sanctuary is also a church.

History of the Ministry:

Two or three years after Sanctuary started up in Los Angeles, a San Diego concert promoter named Dave Hart began doing some concerts with STRYPER. He found himself continually surrounded by heavy metal fans asking questions about their musical careers, personal problems, and spiritual issues. God directed him to create a special place for these kids (almost like that movie "Field of Dreams" - "If you build it, they will come!") So he started a group called "The Rock and Roll Refuge", totally unaware of the group in L.A. Eventually the two churches found each other, affiliated, and Pastor Dave became an ordained minister of the Sanctuary churches. Sanctuary, San Diego continues today with the original mission of reaching disenfranchised youth on the musical edge, it's just that the edge has changed over the last decade.

How do you Reach out to this People Group?

There are a few keys to successfully reaching today's disenfranchised youth. One of the most important is to meet them where they're at. These kids already tend to view the traditional church with disgust and distrust.

Feeling they have been misjudged, misunderstood, and/or manipulated by the church, they have rejected Christianity as hypocritical, cruel and irrelevant. They will no longer come to the church. The church must come to them.

Sanctuary does this literally by visiting the kids in their own territory, the clubs and coffeehouses where they tend to hang out. We try to blend in, rather than stand out. We talk to them about their world, not ours; their music, their fashions, their culture, and their experience of life.

We believe that our freedom in Christ allows us to be liberal about cultural things, while being conservative about spiritual things. We believe in building bridges and developing real relationships with those who need God, so that we can introduce the ones we love to the One we love.

This is the same pattern Jesus followed when He left heaven to meet us where we're at - laughing with us, crying with us, eating with us, dying for us (Phil. 2:5-11). He was not ashamed to eat with the tax collectors, and sinners and prostitutes were his friends. Why should we be any different?

We are also reaching people throughout the world in cyberspace through our web site, through email, through news groups and chat rooms. We are connected with a number of other underground ministries throughout the world so we can be a resource for others trying to reach these kids for Christ.

Many gothic, industrial, or metal fans feel isolated and alone. They believe they are the only one who likes their music or lives their lifestyle in their little town - especially if they are also Christian. By sharing our common interest in music and poetry on the computer, we help these young people realize they no longer have to remain isolated in their corner of the world.

Goths are usually intellectual, artistic, and articulate. They are into art, poetry, and music. They are passive, introspective, and can be dramatically emotional.

They can also be too self-absorbed, brood to a fault, and they internalize everything (even things that have nothing to do with them). As a group and as a rule, Goths take their stress and pain out on themselves, not on others - cutters, piercers, slicers, suicide addicts. They will beat themselves up in their guilt and their sorrow to prove how real their pain is.

They are some of the most creative, interesting, wonderful, gifted people I have ever met, and some of the most troubled. I know these generalizations don't fit everyone exactly, but as a group, these characterizations mostly hold true in my experience. And I know these are not entirely flattering portraits, but it is an honest assessment, and these are not killers.

I think that we need to do some things as a Christian gothic community. We need to dispel the rumors about goths with the truth. Be honest about who you really are. We need to be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks us - an answer about who we are as goths and why, and about who we are in Christ (for those of you who are IN Christ). We need to practice the character of Christ in all our dealings, in faith, not fear.

This Columbine tragedy has put the gothic subculture in the public eye in a way that not even a year of Manson's "Anti-Christ Superstar" tour could. It can no longer remain an underground phenomenon. We have been "outed," brought to the surface and thrust into the mainstream, whether we like it or not.

Gothic is going to move from subculture to culture. It will become much broader and more inclusive than it started out to be. All things dark and black will now be labeled gothic. Anyone singing sad songs in a black dress will automatically become gothic.

You may doubt me, but you need to remember back to a time (if you can) before 1984, when heavy metal was just an obscure and extreme corner in the world of rock music. But after the success of Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, and Van Halen - Heavy Metal WAS rock music. The same thing is about to happen to Goth, only this time; the changes are being born out of tragedy, rather than success. There's no going back. The gothic/industrial community will just have to learn to accept the inevitable.

What does this mean for us? For a while it means that goths will be under a level of scrutiny, often accompanied by an animosity they have not been accustomed to. (Oh, joy! Even more mockery and abuse!) But after a while the culture will adapt, as it always does, and gothic will become a cool cultural phenomenon copied by un-goths to show that they are "hip" as well.

And some people will get rich, especially movies stars and musicians. For Christians, perhaps it means an era in which gothic/industrial music and ministry will become more acceptable to the public. And perhaps some gothic version of Calvary churches will offer synthesized worship like incense. Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe not.

In any case, it will push the true underground even deeper. The expressions and fashions of the disenfranchised will turn and twist a little bit more and some strange, new sub-culture will strangle hundreds and thousands of young people before we can reach them with the message of hope.

It makes our job a little bit harder. Someone will have to start all over again learning a new culture, a new language, a new music, and a new mindset. I wonder how much time we have?

Reaching the Trenchcoat Mafia. For some time now, I have been crying out in the wilderness: "We must reach the underground. We must win the Marilyn Manson generation." Although the Trenchcoat Mafia at Columbine were not gothic, they were part of the Marilyn Manson generation. While I would never say that the entertainment media makes kids do dangerous things, it certainly contributes to the cultural atmosphere, mindset and worldview that makes inconceivable acts like this conceivable in the minds of angry and anguished adolescents like these.

Despite all its self-professed cheerleading, the Church has been retreating for some time now. Perceiving the world to be too dangerous, they have drawn back from the deserts and the outlands where people most need to be offered hope and Living Water. They have been busy building the walls of their holy cities higher and higher, happily singing "A Mighty Fortress is Our Church." They have even withdrawn from the mainstream, hoping that politics will be a more safe and effortless weapon - although it is clearly not one of the weapons of our warfare (II Cor. 10:3-5; Ephesians 6). Like the Pharisees of old, the church is building barriers and denying entry to more and more of the outcasts and making them feel uncomfortable (Mt. 23:13, 15). And yet, this is our destiny: to reach the unreachable; to search the highways and byways, inviting the poor and disreputable to a feast of His Love (Luke 14:16-24). Where are those with the eyes of God to look past the scary masks and the intimidating titles and see the hearts that are torn apart in fury and failure? Where is the true Remnant that realizes it will always be dangerous to do Christianity right - but are going to do it anyway? Where are the brave souls who will say, "Here am I. Send me!"? (Isaiah 6). Where are the Christian warriors who will leave the safety of the City to spend their lives for their Lord? We can no longer cling to the old banner of "Come and see...." We must once again rally around the battle cry of "Go, therefore..."(Mt. 28:19).

The Last Days

One of the stories that came out of Columbine is of one of one of the gunmen who stood in the library and screamed "Does anyone in here believe in God?" Out from under the desks where all her friends were cowering, Cassie Bernall, shaking but resolved, stood up and professed her faith in God. The gunman was reported to have screamed, "Why?" as he shot her dead on the spot. Cassie Bernall was an American martyr. To the best of my knowledge, she was the first Christian to die on American soil, specifically for declaring her faith, in almost 200 years. I do not believe she will be the last.

It would appear that we may well be in the Last Days, indeed. For the spirit of Lawlessness will grow until the Man of Lawlessness is revealed. And the Spirit that restrains him and his time seems to already be withdrawing (II Thess. 2:6-8). Does it not seem that we are in the beginning of the time of sorrows (Mt. 24)? What can we do in these dark times?

I believe that the Christian gothic/industrial community has been called for such times as these. Who else is more prepared to deal with dark days and painful times? You are a tribe of poet/priests and poet/warriors called to fight the darkness you know so well.

So what can we do in these dark times? Be who you are. Be confident in your unique calling. You are a chosen tribe, a holy nation of priests (I Pet. 2:9) and a peculiar people (special treasure) (Exod. 19:5; Deut. 14:2) of a Holy (unique, special, set-apart) God. Be imitators of Christ. Look in the mirror. Surrender the weights (of fear, bitterness, the past, the pain) that hold you down (Heb. 12:1-4), and walk in His way. Do not forsake the fellowship of like-minded believers. Read the Word. Walk the Word. Remember where you came from. Come alongside the misfits and the disenfranchised. Be ready to die - to your old life, to your dreams, to your glory, to your sin-nature, to this world, to this body. Remember it's all going to burn. Remember that our suffering will not last forever. Live to hear these words and these words alone: "Well done good and faithful servant" (Mt. 15:21, 23).

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