Gothic / Industrial / Metal-heads
Billie Sylvain - Asylum Fellowship
Asylum began as Street Warriorz in January 1990. I'd been hanging with punks and skinheads, when God asked me to become an evangelist to them. I told God to go and jump but he kept on nagging so I gave in. Friends of mine were running a Christian music shop in Soho and they did some artwork for ideas I had for tracts. Then we went to various alternative places to hand them out.
We got to know loads of people and shared the Gospel with most of them. It was during this time we befriended Pat who later became the manager of The Intrepid Fox Pub (The Fox for short). In March 1996 we started our Asylum club at The Fox and played a selection of Christian punk, goth, metal, etc. That same year we changed our name from Street Warriorz to Asylum.
Seven years later and Asylum is still here, still waging peace on the alternative battlefield. Asylum is becoming more well known now and more people who don't know Jesus are starting to open up to us.
April 1998 saw the addition of Asylum Live, a bigger version of our monthly Asylum Club at The Fox. Asylum live happens about every 3 or 4 months. We hire a goth\alternative nightclub venue called Gossips, in Soho, only a minute from The Fox, and we have live Christian bands and there's actually room for people to fling themselves about on the dance floor.
We've had loads of up and coming U.K Christian metal and punk bands wanting to play and minister at Asylum Live. We are working at building the club up; we have to charge an entry fee because it's expensive to hire the venue.
We've also had to look at ways to get non-Christians along to Asylum live. When we do the Asylum club at The Fox they're already there drinking, we just walk in and set up and we play Christian music all night. But we needed an incentive to get non-Christians to come to Asylum Live.
I decided that we'd have to include music by non-Christian artists and put them on the flyers to get non-Christians to come. So far it's done the trick. We have two flyers, one is for Christians so they know Asylum is actually Christian and don't chuck our flyers away or spread rumors about how dodgy we are. (Yes we've had both happen!) And one for non-Christians which lists all the non-Christian stuff we play, so they don't chuck our flyers away because of their misconceptions about God. (Yes we've had that happen too!)
We only play about 10% non-Christian stuff but we have to be very careful about what we play. Andy A who is the number 2 in Asylum and also the DJ, checks all the music for its lyrical content. If it's not suitable it doesn't get played.
In March this year we started a weekly music stall in Camden Market. Camden is now the heart of the alternative scene in London and it's where you go to get your clothes, and to see and be seen.
We sell Christian punk, hardcore, metal, goth, etc. and blast it out all day on our stereo. We'll be moving the location this month next door to the Black Rose shop which is a mecca for all things Goth.
Also, there's the Asylum band X, which will be changing its name due to the original X re-forming after splitting up more than 10 years ago. Asylum's X goes out to promote Asylum and also to minister the Gospel to those who want to hear it. That's the low down so far. Please pray for protection, provision and finance for us.
What we as Asylum have learned about reaching out to gothic /industrial/metal crowd.
Asylum has been in existence for over 10 years and in that time we have learned many things. But I would say that out of all we've learned three things stand out to me in particular.
First, building friendships with people
Friendship or relationship evangelism is in my opinion, the most effective way of sharing one's faith in Christ. I and others on the Asylum team have been able to have a greater input in people's lives through being their friend. When people in the subcultures know you are really part of the scene, that you are really interested in them, that you respect their opinions, beliefs, etc. then they are more than ready to be more open and to hear what you have to say.
I've also found that people can challenge you about where you are coming from, or even open your mind to looking at things differently. It can be a real eye opener to hear how people in the subcultures feel about Christians because of the rejection, persecution, and lack of Grace that they have experienced at the hands of Christians.
If Marilyn Manson had experienced the true loving Christianity that Jesus taught then maybe he would feel differently about Christianity now. Many Christians have a very blinkered way of looking at things. Many of us have been programmed to think, or react in a certain way, rather than thinking things through for ourselves. And this can still sometimes affect us no matter how radical we may think we are. People in the scene that you've developed a good relationship with are good at pointing out when you are becoming blinkered.
People that you've not built a relationship with will just walk away and avoid you in future and probably tell others to as well. It's harder to walk away from a friend.
When you are dealing with people in the subcultures you cannot afford to be closed-minded or shocked about anything, otherwise you can come across as very rejecting. If you are friends with people in the subcultures and you bother to learn about the scene, then you are less likely to have a typical Christian knee jerk reaction. It is just no good to say "The bible says.... "To a people who mostly don't hold scripture to be their source of guidance, or the standard by which they live their lives.
I have found that as I've gotten to know someone they have naturally asked me more and more questions about my faith and I have become more and more adept at explaining my faith to them. The relationships have been able to withstand the times when I may disagree with where they are coming from.
The second is to be constantly flexible.
The various subcultures under the alternative umbrella are constantly evolving and mutating. Asylum has learned that we have to change with them. Christians have a tendency to traditionalize and institutionalize. God is constantly fresh and relevant and while his character does not change, his approach changes depending on what is needed. Jesus didn't just do the same miracles over and over again. Keeping abreast of the subcultures means that you have to read the magazines, listen to the CD's and even change the way you look. If you're still running around wearing 80's spandex and trying to get people in the metal scene to respect you, it's just not going to happen!!
The third thing
We've learned, sadly, is that a lot of attack and opposition can come from Christians who don't understand what you are doing and are therefore very quick to label you "Dodgy." But we're in good company as Jesus experienced the same thing!! Asylum is now at the stage where we feel it is more important to reach the non-Christians than try to please the Christians. Jesus was judged because people only looked at the surface of what he was doing. They saw him hanging around prostitutes, tax collectors, and other outcasts, going to drunken parties, etc.
Had they asked WHY he was doing that they would have seen that he was trying to befriend them and lead them into God's kingdom. People in the subcultures very rarely will come to Christians. We have to go to them. Or if we want them to come to us, we have to present things to them in such a way that they'll be interested and come along. Sometimes that may mean us doing things that (to Christians with little discernment) make us look like we are not right before God.
Someone from a subculture is more likely to take a flyer about Jesus from you if it has a skull and crossbones on it, than if it has a nice pretty butterfly and flowers!!
Underpinning everything that we've learned though, is the power of prayer. Prayer makes the difference. Without it, nothing gets done.