There is an ancient idea called simply the common good. The notion is bound with the idea of citizenship, a mutual commitment to general welfare, social justice, and public service. For the Christian, the notion is also bound to living in the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:1-13).
And what does this have to do with the nation’s largest free, non-gated, 10-day music festival that features 500 performances on 14 indoor and outdoor stages?
According to Chris Romano, a consultant with Thrivent Financial Services, the best thing about being involved with festivals and events is the opportunity to help build a community, foster a sense of pride within a community, and engage a community. There is very little else outside a community festival that can do that to the same degree. (1)
And According to a study at the University of Minnesota, hometown pride is critical in the development and improvement of any community. Festivals promote community pride by celebrating things that make a town special, like Bethlehem’s celebration of arts and culture. Here is where it becomes real: residents with community pride are more likely to volunteer with organizations that support the common good, such as helping to meet the needs of the less fortunate. (1)
First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem is one of those organizations that promotes the common good.
As Christians, if we want to do good for people, we manifest God to them. If we want to manifest God and make him known, we do good to others, because that is the way Jesus wills to manifest Himself, wrote John Piper, author and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The church is the place where these two things come together: manifesting God and a commitment to the eternal and common good. Piper said that only by inspiring a spiritual and practical commitment to the common good can we help make our common life better. (2)
The common good is also the best way to find common ground with other people—even with those who don’t share our faith. A commitment to the common good could bring us together, and that commitment is especially attractive to young people, who are the fastest-growing group to avoid specific religious affiliation. (2)
The question is, does Musikfest promote the common good?
The festival engages the community and fosters a sense of pride. Nearly 1 million people attend the festival annually, and it takes 2,000 volunteers to help the festival run smoothly. For our Sunday morning appearance alone, we average 1100 people in attendance and take some 100 volunteers from FPC Bethlehem, who transport and set up gear, arrange chairs, pass out water bottles, and welcome people.
Musikfest also provides a place of common ground, where people from all walks of life, from all socio-economic, political, and spiritual backgrounds can gather to celebrate music. Friends, family, and strangers who may never come to a physical church building might be more open to hearing a gospel message as it is presented through music in a community forum. If by our involvement at the festival, one person is inspired to know more about God and how to get involved in our community, then we have promoted the common good.
And let’s face it, we take some really great music to Musikfest. See you there, Sunday, August 3, 10 a.m. at the Festplatz Tent.
First published at First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem blog.
1. Grames, Eliza and Vitcenda, Eliza (Winter 2014). Community Festivals—Big benefits, But Risks, Too. [Blog Post] Retrieved from http://www.extension.umn.edu/community/news/community-festivals).
2. Piper, John (November 29, 1992). Living in the Spirit and in the Body for the Common Good. Retrieved from http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/living-in-the-spirit-and-in-the-body-for-the-common-good