Why engage with popular culture?
The third reason I think it's useful is because it's useful in evangelism. I think it's useful in at least two ways.
Firstly it provides opportunities for evangelism. If we get used to not just absorbing pop culture but examining it and thinking it through, then we can do that not only on our own but with other people. When we've watched a film with a friend, for example, if we then go on to talk about the film and some of the issues that it brings up, that will give us an opportunity to speak at least some Christian truth into the situation.
But more than that, I think that engaging with pop culture provides a much easier and in some ways safer way of engaging with some of the deeper issues of life, with our friends. Let me explain.
Talking to someone about pop culture provides a screen onto which we can project the human heart for examination. With the human heart over there in that film (for example), we can talk about deep issues without having to directly talk about the deep, personal, taboo issue in our friends life.
Let me give you a situation to try to illustrate what I'm saying. A film we've watched with a friend might have touched on the common issue of people seeking meaning and security in relationships. You'd have to have a fairly deep relationship with someone in order to be able to say to them "do you think that the fact you're sleeping around with all these different people is a sign that you're looking for security, meaning or comfort in something that isn't providing those things?". (You might want to be a bit more tactful than that!). But in popular culture it's Mr Hero over there that has these problems. We can talk about Mr. Hero and that's fine, and as we do that it can resonate with the heart of our friend, but won't feel like a personal attack on them. It might be that later you can talk personally about such things. Essentially we're creating one of those: 'I've got a friend with this issue' type situation, into which we can proclaim the freedom and joy and good news offered in the gospel.
So that's the third reason why I think engaging with popular culture is helpful: it provides opportunities for the gospel - for proclaiming Christian truth into the realities of life.