Pop culture opens doors for discussion
Thursday — just another day of the week. But now, UMHB alumnus and college minister at First Baptist Church in Belton Grant Hickman, is turning it into an opportunity to help engage students in what’s going on in the world, with hopes that they will begin to look at culture through a biblical perspective.
The event, simply called “Thursdays,” is held at FBC’s college house. Each week, Hickman presents something from the media- a music video, TV show, advertisement or a topic from culture, and then opens it up for discussion among students.
The idea came last year after Hickman viewed a Lady Gaga video, “Born This Way”.
“I watched it and was appalled but at the same time amazed at how well it was made. But I looked at the message she was portraying, and it got me kind of thinking about it,” he said.
Hickman decided to show the video to a group of his interns, wanting to see their thoughts on it.
“I just kind of took a chance and said, ‘OK, interns, we’re going to watch this, and it may offend some of you and it’s probably going to make you feel uncomfortable and awkward, but I want us to watch it and talk about it, and we did,” he said. “I saw light bulbs clicking, and I saw fruit from it, as odd as that sounds.”
Hickman believes that there is a divide between Christians wanting to maintain Biblical standards while also relating to the world that they live in.
“I think a lot of us who have grown up in the church are taught to just not be a part of it at all. We’re not balancing well between the grace and the call to righteousness that we’re in,” he said.
The plan for the event is to bring people together to figure out how the two relate, and see meaning behind what’s in American media.
“My goal with Thursdays is that it would be a place where students can come from different walks of life, and with different perspectives, and we can watch a TV show, or music video, and just talk about the message of it,” Hickman said.
Junior social work major Kristen Kimmel has enjoyed being a part of the discussions on Thursday nights, and like Hickman, wants it to be a time of finding balance between culture and Christianity.
“A lot of people think you have to be a Christian, or you’re involved in the world, and I think we’re called to do both,” she said. “Hopefully it shows us that we can be involved in the world but still not throw away our values and what God has shown us.”
Kimmel also likes the laid-back atmosphere and thinks it is a positive way to draw people to the church.
“A lot of times now it’s about getting people to the church, which is great, but God isn’t just in the church. He’s in culture,” she said. “Hopefully we can bring the church to other people, not through a preacher, but through the community and the fellowship of other believers.”
For senior business major Tobin Davies, the point of Thursdays all comes down to relationships.
“I think that engaging culture is especially important for Christians because Christians are commanded to evangelize and to minister, and both of those things are done through relationships,” he said. “People’s relationships are based on things they have in common with each other, and a lot of times, culture is that thing.”
Hickman hopes that by opening up discussion on real-life topics, ultimately, students would be able to use what they learn as an avenue for sharing their faith with others.
He said, “Everybody and their dog has an opinion on religion and is willing to share it with you. You’ve just got to be bold enough to help them get there. I think culture helps us bridge that gap.”