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"Brother, you are out of God's will!"

Those icy words hit me with the force of an arctic gust. I'd just spoken to a church group about the state of popular culture and the need for biblical discernment. As usual, several people milled around afterwards to ask questions. This particular gentleman wanted to know how we in Focus on the Family's Plugged In ministry could possibly make slogging through the sewage of today's entertainment a full-time job without it seeping in and damaging our own spiritual lives.

You may have wondered the same thing. Well, the unvarnished answer is that it's a genuine calling covered by prayer. Our own prayers. The prayers of our spouses. Not to mention the intercession of countless friends around the world who tell us they're partnering with us on their knees. It's as simple as that.

I must admit, there's something about God's call that I don't fully understand: None of us claims to have heard directly from the Lord about doing what we do. No audible voice. No vision in the clouds. And, of course, nothing in His Word saying, "Become unto me a voice in the culture proficient in gangsta rap, R-rated movies, point-and-shoot video games and MTV." Still, I'm convinced that God uses some of us, for a season, to stand in the gap in this fashion.

I'm often reminded of an Old Testament account in which God tells Ezekiel that his calling includes witnessing evil so that he can be better equipped to speak out against it on God's behalf ("Go in and see the wicked and detestable things they are doing there … You will see them doing things that are even more detestable" Ezekiel 8:9,13).
While I'm not claiming that Plugged In is on a par with the prophet Ezekiel (though let's face it, Ezekiel never had to review a Saw movie), I do believe God has raised up this team for a unique purpose that often involves wading through detestable stuff in order to expose, as the Apostle Paul says in Eph 5:11, "the fruitless deeds of darkness." In many ways, that verse spells out our mission statement.

Another passage close to our hearts is Colossians 2:8. Paul warns, "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ." Our mission involves exposing the hollow, deceptive philosophy so prevalent—and attractively packaged—in today's entertainment. And if that means one of our editors endures a trashy film so that, quite literally, thousands of teens don't have to, it's a job worth doing. And we know families value that, because now gets more than a million visits every month.

As much as I wish my team and I could keep out of the media mire and just declare, "Stay pure even in your entertainment choices," I know that God's people—especially adolescents—need solid, well-documented proof. Teens won't forego a raunchy comedy simply "because we said so." Any parent who has ever tried to get by with a similar line knows what I mean. Kids want to know "why." And that requires specifics shared from a thoughtful, first-hand perspective.

I know that because I was a teen who battled in this area. It took a number of years of walking with the Lord, but He finally got my attention. Not through a sermon on purity. Not with a tape on holiness. I'd heard those sermons many times, but I felt they just didn't apply to entertainment. Fortunately, an individual gave me a cassette tape that specifically addressed contemporary music and the need for discernment. It really convicted me. That's what we're about. Plugged In strives to address discernment issues head on. Month after month, we research and write about pop culture because young people are being blinded—like I was—by an enemy eager to indoctrinate them through what passes as entertainment.

Everyone who has signed on for full-time service in this branch of our ministry is uniquely called and committed to doing everything possible to equip you in the area of media discernment. Separating trash from treasures. Helping you teach critical thinking skills to the next generation. Developing biblical character in a media-driven world. And we covet your prayers as we strive to fulfill that calling. Our founder, Dr. James Dobson, often says that Focus on the Family should never tell someone, "We don't know, we don't care, go somewhere else." That's our goal as well, even if it gets messy at times.