North Point Church’s media department has produced this video. Some folk think it’s great that “we can laugh at ourselves.”
Me, not so much. More after the video.
(UPDATE: I should have noted the conversation at Jason Coker’s blog that prompted this post.)
Before I get to my “not so much” response to the supposed humour/satire of the above video, please allow me to chase a rabbit for a number of paragraphs.
Much earlier in the year I took a few seconds to write a post about the ludicrous nature of holographic preachers as apparently championed by church tech guru Tony Morgan and others. Many irony-challenged folk thought I was serious when I wrote,
Since so many of us in the west are convinced that entertaining pew fodder is critical to advancing “the gospel” and that only a very few have the necessary gifts to preachertain – this will become the “perfect” solution.
Christian Post picked up the quote and ran with it – but rather than linking to where it was written – which would have precluded some of the irony challenges – they chose to identify me as the writer of A Networked Conspiracy – my rather short book/long essay/audio CD from 2006. Better to quote “a published author” than a blogger, I guess. (And, hey, it did prompt a few more sales at Amazon. You can download a pdf for free, by clicking here.)
Tony Morgan is a true fan of the technology, seeing it as another example of what the church needs to embrace “if we are going to speak the language of today’s culture.” For those of us who would question how technology is used to present the gospel, Morgan pulled out what has become, at least to me, a rather shopworn response,
“If I’m criticized for my passion to present the gospel and help as many people as possible experience a life-changing journey in Christ, I’m willing to face that criticism to live out my conviction
That’s right, Tony because I dare “criticize” how technology is used to “present the gospel”, I am obviously a selfish luddite. And, of course, I think technology is evil and it couldn’t possibly be used to help tell the life-changing Gospel story. Problem is that when it comes to this understanding of who I am, my career path would seem not to support that reading.
My 1978 Bachelor’s degree (and that from 1981 of my wife, Imbi) is in Radio and Television Arts from Toronto’s reasonably well-known Ryerson University. In the late ’70’s/very early ’80’s, I was Sony’s youngest broadcast equipment sales person in North America. I co-founded my first “high tech” production company in 1981.
In the mid-80’s, my wife, Imbi and I co-founded another production company that also included what became a broadcast-focused, medium-sized post house (editing, graphics and audio post) in the third largest production market in North America. (Our production company is 26 years old this September.)
Imbi can guarantee you that I’ve been responsible for purchasing too many 100s of thousands of dollars of high-tech broadcast gear – for which we two were personally responsible – and might I note that the bank(s) got all of their money back and then some. (A little different than one spending a church’s money, might I suggest?)
As well, Imbi and I have (in the past) consulted on design and technology with churches in the U.S., UK, Africa and our home country, Canada. We even briefly spent time on staff with a megachurch where we had oversight for most of the areas covered in the above video. (That experience left much to be desired.)
The past three months where I have blogged sporadically were taken up being involved in the design and production of the rather large NAB booth for one of the world’s largest broadcast software and hardware companies. (NAB is the biggest broadcast and production hardware & software trade show in the world.) Along with being involved in the actual booth design, my work included producing a lot of moving image material, along with producing 2 minutes of film resolution content – that 2 minute piece was commissioned and done less than two weeks before the show.
I’ve also spent a moment or two involved in local church leadership. And produced a minute or two of moving image content that tells gospel-centred stories.
So, perhaps I might have a somewhat informed voice in this conversation. Or not.
“Sunday’s Coming” Humourous? Not so much.
Rather than comedy, the above video from Andy Stanley’s* North Point Church’s very well-equipped media department should really be seen as simply admitting the truth of something that won’t be changing anytime soon in that world. No doubt, some churches will even use it as a teaching tool for their teams who aspire to megachurch greatness.
In the past couple of days, Twitter has been filled with the “wink, wink, nudge, nudge, nod, nod” tweet response to this video (which went up on the 5th of May).
The “isn’t it great we can make fun of ourselves” response of many made me want to pick up my laptop and toss it across the room (into a stack of pillows so it wouldn’t be damaged, of course.)
People mistakenly want to call this “satire.” But the definition of satire is the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices.
Do any of you really think the North Point media team meant to expose the “stupidity or vices” of their Christotainment Sunday morning services which no doubt follow the very pattern shown in the video?
Now onwards and upwards with more and better video, graphics, cameras, lighting, presenters, music and preachertainers – until Christotainment Excellence™ is achieved and the appropriate rewards handed out.
… the strategy is: do something fun/cool/outrageous to get people in the door, then tell ’em about Jesus.
Let’s be clear about one thing: the motivation is great. Telling people about Jesus is our highest calling. Creating opportunities to tell people about Jesus is a wonderful task.
But there was a dark side that very few people really wanted to talk about: this ‘wow ’em and tell ’em about Jesus’ strategy doesn’t do much in the way of creating disciples. Instead, it creates instant flash with no long-term impact. The fact that even 70-80% of Christian kids leave the church after high school ought to tell us we’re doing something wrong. That we’re not growing Followers, that we’re not raising Disciples. Instead, we’re creating Consumers who will always chase after the next big fix, wherever that comes from. We’re not raising young people who understand such basic tenets of Christianity as sacrifice, service, humility, forgiveness, love, grace and mercy. We are, in fact, temporarily distracting young people with smoke and mirrors, sneaking the gospel in there, assuming that, since they ‘said the prayer’ following the pizza and root-beer gorge, they’re ‘in.’
And here’s today’s problem: those raised in this world are leaving their youth ministry days behind and moving into senior leadership in churches across America. . .and they’re using the exact same strategies in the larger church.
I don’t find “Sunday’s Coming” remotely funny.
Sadly, it simply tweaks the Consumer-Driven church from within.
It is NOT a satirical take on megachurch culture designed to elicit change.
It’s an inside joke.
Please, feel free to grab your violins while the joke burns.
*I so identify North Point as Andy Stanley’s as that seems to be the convention used to describe most North American megachurches – as they are mostly built around the personalities of their senior pastors.