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Entertainment + Religion = Spiritual Signficance?

June 15, 2009

I just finished The Unlikely Disciple. I think this quote was one of the most thought provoking, as Roose (who is not a Christian) talks about how a once-stimulating church experience had now become drudgery: 

“At Thomas Road, on the other hand, there’s almost too much stimulation. The stage lights, the one hundred-decibel praise songs, the bright purple choir robes, the tempestuous bellowing of Dr. Falwell – it’s an hour long assault on the senses. And all you have to do is sit back in your plush, reclining seat, latte and cranberry scone in hand, and take it all in. It’s Church Lite – entertaining but unsubstantial, the religious equivalent of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. And once the novelty wears off, once the music become familiar and the motions of praise become pro forma and mechanized, you start to realize that all the technological glitz and material extravagance doesn’t necessarily add up to spiritual experience” (199).

Once again, Roose is very perceptive of the evangelical sub-culture. Are high-definition screens,  a crazy-talented band, and a coffee bar bad in themselves? Nope. But if they serve as replacements of true gospel teaching and discipleship, all in the name of getting people “in the doors,” then the church is in for a world of trouble.

In the next couple of days I plan to elaborate on this sort of thinking in another post, but for now, I’ll just remain saddened that dazzling technology has often become synonymous with spiritual signficance.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. David Miles permalink
    June 15, 2009 8:09 pm

    Thanks for the thought provoking post Brian. When I was at the Weekender at Capitol Hill Baptist Church a month ago we has a session on how many churches try get people into their church – with different labels such as seeker sensitive, or missional or even traditional. I was convicted as Matt Schmucker said that the question churches should be asking is not “how can we get people into the church,” but rather, “how do we worship” and he concluded that this is done best as the church images Christ.
    The competitive advantage that the church has is the gospel. Anyways your post was a good reminder of some of the things I learned from the weekender. Thanks

  2. June 15, 2009 11:04 pm

    David –

    Thanks for your thoughts. I think you bring up a number of very good points. I think we’ll always be challenged to ask ourselves why we’re doing what we’re doing, and whether our practices are actually biblical or just culturally ingrained. It’s amazing how much we pick up from the culture, baptize in religious language, and then make it seem like it’s pleasing to the Lord and therefore the only way to “do church.”

  3. matthewcthomas permalink
    June 16, 2009 1:58 am

    this should be on some famous theologian’s recommended reading list

  4. June 16, 2009 11:32 am

    This is something we (Alex and I) struggle with b/c we have creative minds and can always come up with different ways to make something “cool.”
    Especially when it comes to music he is a perfectionist and always wants to do his best and wants to make the music beautiful and interesting.
    We have to be careful not to take it too far.

  5. June 16, 2009 11:48 am

    Matt – i recommended it. Are you saying I’m not some famous theologian?!?!?!

    Kristel – I hope I didn’t give the impression that creativity is bad. In fact, I believe that stuff like web design, music, graphics should be done with the highest level of skill, as when that type of stuff is tacky I think it reflects poorly on the church. I just hope we can walk that line of doing media with excellence, but realizing that it is not a substitute for the message of the gospel, but rather one more way to deliver the message :). Thanks for your thoughts, and I’m thankful for people like y’all who are much, much more talented than me when it comes to doing something “cool.”

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