Archives For Consumerism

Church Livestock

kinnon —  February 27, 2013 — 28 Comments

Rev. Dr. Muttonbutt

My buddy, Dave Fitch responded to another friend, Ed Stetzer on Ed’s “assault” on the “mega church sheep stealing critique”.

I love’em both, but probably agree with Fitch’s argument more than Ed’s.

But.

That’s not what this post is about.

Rather, its about the imagery. Of livestock. As a metaphor for the people in the pews.

Hey, Kinnon. It’s biblical.

Indeed, madam. You are correct! Sheep as a metaphor for God’s people is, in fact, to be found in the Scriptures.

Sheep were highly valued. Then.

Think of Jesus’ story of the one lost sheep, and the shepherd who left the 99 to search for that one.

How quaint.

I would suggest we view sheep with much less value today — if we view them at all.

And what of the shepherds? Well, then they were were possibly the lowest of the gainfully employed. (Think of Jesse not even considering having his youngest son, David, the shepherd, come to be consecrated by Samuel.) Shepherds lived with their sheep. They smelled like their sheep. They knew each one by name. A single shepherd tended no more than 100 sheep in New Testament times.

Today, returning to the church livestock metaphor, a shepherd (or pastor, in its latinate form) with only 100 sheep would be considered a failure. And how could any “successful” shepherd be expected to know all of “his/her” sheep.

Might I suggest the metaphor breaks down in its present usage within the church. And that this misused/misunderstood metaphor is responsible for much damaging separation between those who call themselves shepherds and “their” sheep — as if the shepherds are their owners. (Sheep cannot be stolen — except from their owners.)

Might I further suggest that the use of the phrase “sheep-stealing” is particularly bizarre amongst those who call us to be missionally-minded.

The reality is that we are all sheep. Or none of us are. (Shall we save the goats for another conversation?)

UPDATE: My buddy and City of God blogger, Dan Gouge ramps this up a notch or eleven with The Factory Farms of Christianity.

One Ed to Rule Them All

kinnon —  May 17, 2012 — 12 Comments

As I look back on my over half-century of existence I note a number of Eds in my life.

The first, from my childhood, the dreaded Phys… Phys Ed, that is. Though tall for my age, I was almost a year younger than most of my class confreres and my co-ordination so reflected. Phys Ed is not a name I remember fondly.

And then there was Drivers’ Ed. I believed Mr. Drivers’ Ed when he told me, “You do know they will fail you for going too slowly, don’t you?” So, after taking his advice to heart, I guess I was a little shocked when I failed my license the first time.

Mr. Kinnon, your son handles the car very well but he does 30 MPH everywhere. Around corners. In reverse. Through a school zone. Twice.”

My adult life was not particularly Ed-free, but I didn’t really become concious of the plethora of Eds until I entered the wonderful world of blogdom. (I’ll leave E.D. out of the discussion, if you don’t mind. Though the final Ed might bring it up as is his wont.)

My friend, Ed Brenegar was an early blogging comrade. A consultant to both church and business, Ed is one of the good guys.

Ed Cyzewski was next up in the pantheon of Eds. Introduced via his Coffeehouse Theology book, I’ve come to enjoy Ed’s writings at In A Mirror Dimly.

And then there’s Ed Stetzer. Missiologist, Church Planter, Researcher, Author and more. He even has his own Wikipedia page. With a double doctorate, and double Masters degrees one might expect Ed to be more than a little intimidating. But dang it, he’s just a very nice guy. (Though you won’t catch me arguing with him… much.)

But all these Eds, as wonderful as they are (except Phys of course) pale in comparison to the one ED.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemensch.

Give it up for, ED YOUNG JUNIOR!

Ed Young Pastor Fashion

Go to any Christian dictionary and right beside the word AWESOME, you’re going to see a picture of ED YOUNG JUNIOR with his big, shi… err… pearly-white grin.

And it’s not ’cuz ED YOUNG JUNIOR is the Senior Pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church Grapevine TX and all its many satellites. It’s not ’cuz he is MR CREATIVE PASTOR. It’s not ’cuz he has the coolest French-made jet (that most of his parishioners knew not about until some nasty TV station broke the story). It’s not ’cuz he tried to spend 24 hours on the roof of his church in bed with his wife. (Where I’m sure he would have talked about E.D. had he had the chance.)

Nope! What makes ED YOUNG JUNIOR the mostest, awesomest ED ever… Pastor Fashion.

PURE.

BRILLIANCE.

I don’t know about you, but most of the Pastors I know just aren’t the kind of fashion plates for the Kingdom they could be. (Yes Toronto Pastors Darryl Dash, Dan MacDonald and Barry Parker – I AM looking at you. Come on guys. Spend a little time at Pastor Fashion. It’ll do the rest of our eyeballs good. And Hyatt and Fitch. I’m not even going to bring you Americans up. Oh. Wait. I just did.)

ED YOUNG JUNIOR goes where lesser Eds fear to tread.

Yup.

Spanx!

Forget those fad diets that leave you craving a Cheesburger, Fries and a Coke at 11pm most nights. Spanx will give you the kind of control you’ve been missing. (Please note: This is not to be construed as medical advice. Consult your doctor before getting spanxed. Void where prohibited by law. Your mileage may vary. Batteries are included – from ED YOUNG JUNIOR, of course.)

And so to the Lessor Eds. Since the odds of you ever being as AWESOME as ED YOUNG JUNIOR, we kindly ask that you stop referring to yourselves as Ed.

Edward, Eddie, Edster, Edit, even Ward are fine.

But WITH ONE ED TO RULE THEM ALL, we’d really rather you not to try to confuse us by using ED YOUNG JUNIOR’s first name.

Man, I just love this American Christianity thing!!!

In this post, what I’d like to do and is riff a little on Imbi’s post from yesterday—one prompted in part by conversation with our now 21-year-old daughter, Kaili. (Happy Birthday, Kaili!)

Kaili has been reading books by J.I. Packer and John Stott on catechesis and discipleship, respectively. In her discussion with her mother, she said the word that is most important to her in this, is the word “transformation.”

Pres. Obama campaigned under the rubric of “Change You Can Believe In.” It’s truly questionable how successful he has been, and I guess our American cousins will decide that later in 2012. But I’d like to talk about “change you should be able to believe in.”

One of the standard rejoinders from mega-church pastors to any critique is to mention the size of their church and the number of people they have baptized. To them the sign of the effectiveness of their ministry is simply in the numbers and the numbers baptized. (Note that in the UK Interview by Justin Brierley, Pastor Mark makes a point of mentioning the size of “his church” and the size of Acts 29.)

And now I’ll probably offend a large number of people when I question this kind of reporting.

Allow me to chase a rabbit for a moment or two. Certain organizations, fraternities, clubs, etc have weird initiation rites that one must perform before one can join them. Otherwise intelligent people are willing to swear blood-curdling oaths or perform silly or even danagerous actions in order to join… to belong. The need to belong, wired into the human psyche, will often allow us to suspend our better judgment while swearing oaths or performing meaningless actions in an effort to join a community.

What can this possibly have to do with “change you should be able to believe in”? Especially in light of baptisms.

I’d like to posit that for many people getting baptized is simply their initiation into fellowship with other people. They have a natural longing for community and baptism is their initiation rite into that community. It may be done for spiritual reasons. But in mega-churches where there is little to no emphasis on discipleship, baptism is simply your way in.

Let me say that I hold the sacrament of baptism in high regard. But I confess that I don’t see that this “high regard” is particularly the case in many Celebrity–Driven, consumer-focused mega-churches.

So, when I hear of the great numbers being baptized in North America mega-churches I ask this question, “Where is the fruit?” Is it simply in bringing more members into the mega-church – more butts to fill up the pews or comfy theatre seating.

John Wesley said, “The Church changes the world not by making converts but by making disciples.” He was known for rigorously examining people to discover whether they had really become believers. It could take up to two years of intense discipleship before Wesleyans actually accepted a person’s conversion. And though I come from a line of Wesleyan preachers on my mother’s side, and identify myself as predominantly Arminian in my theology, I’m not suggesting this kind of rigour.

But.

There must be more than simple crossing a line from darkness to light and then sitting just past that line for the rest of one’s days.

I am suggesting that we should and must have an expectation of real transformation in the lives of new believers. This doesn’t happen by having them sit on their butts in comfortable pews listening to sermons on Sunday morning and, perhaps, occasionally on Wednesday evening. It happens with older-in-the-faith believers walking alongside younger-in-the-faith believers —teaching them the historicity of the faith, the power of prayer, the longing for the infilling of the Holy Spirit, what the fruits of the spirit are, compelling them to read the Scriptures and become like the Bereans who Paul lauded, and to learn to be makers of discipler themselves. (Note that the older and younger references are not meant to suggest chronology but rather people who have been Christians longer than the new believer.)

Let me point you to a post from Andrew Jones earlier this month, Practices of a new Jesus movement. And what are those practices; Bible study, open houses, fringe focus, simple habits, good business practices, a system for rehabilitation, native flavor, daily rhythm, not outreach TO others but outreach WITH others, something for the whole family and prayer — with the ministries characterized by Grace. Andrew says,

…they were wonderfully generous. Being poor, they made many rich. Including our family who were treated like royalty. We left with our backpacks filled with gifts and our hearts filled with a sense of overwhelming debt of gratitude.

Also, the intentionality of the movement was focused on impacting people’s lives with the gospel and NOT on creating community or starting churches which they saw as a natural outgrowth.

Sitting in pews, staring forward (or off into space) is not high on the list of the new Jesus movement – where the fastest growth of the Church is taking place in the world. Make a point of reading Andrew’s post.

Just what one needs. The week of Christmas, no less. And a 55 year old, Canadian white guy attempts to write a blog title, gansta-style.

Epic Fail as my adult children might say.

But.

The ridiculousness of the title just seems to fit the topic.

3D-1.jpg

Last week I posted Narnia & the Evil Penguins – A Holiday Special Event! It was an intentionally over-the-top look at what might be the next "big thing" in over-produced Christmas church events.

I should have known that Junior Ed Young, he of hating sheep stealing, jet-hiding, jewellery-taking, bank account wanting & hip-hop stylin' fame, would fulfil my "prophecy" right before our very eyes.

My buddy, Jamie Arpin-Ricci, DM'd me with this Dallas Morning News story on Fellowship Church's 3D Christmas Extravaganza. From Fellowship Church's website,

This Christmas at Fellowship Church, we’re taking our celebration to another level! We’re going to discover something beyond special. We’re going to uncover something more than spectacular. This year, we’re going to experience something supernatural!

I'm not really sure that 3D technology is supernatural, but if Junior Ed says so, perhaps it is. (And yes, they really used the hackneyed "to another level" line.)

Now according to the Dallas Morning News, brother Young acknowledges that "It's a little cheesy, but cheese works." Ed would know, eh.

In an interview last week, Young said he learned that the Church by the Glades in Coral Springs, Fla., would be using 3-D for Christmas services this year, and decided Fellowship should follow suit.

Young is known for attention-grabbing strategies, including challenging Fellowship's married couples to have sex each night for a week to strengthen relationships.

Church-by-the-Glades-Win3D.jpg

I'm surprised that Ed didn't offer people the chance to win a 3D package like Church by the Glades. How cool is that!

Come to one of C-by-the-G's 20 services and you could win a 46" Samsung 3DTV, a 3D Blu-ray player and 2 pairs of 3D glasses. (And not the cheesoid paper glasses that Jr. Ed was handing out.)

I can't believe that Bestis MegaChurch, Evah, Indianna hadn't thought of this – come to church and YOU COULD WIN!!!. Of course, there's always Easter.

Now, Young Ed wants everyone to know that they didn't waste too much money on the 3D production. No way, man. Frugal is the Fellowship Church word. Especially when there are megachurch expenses to be taken care of – including paying for the care and feeding of the 8.4 million dollar Falcon jet which Ed needs for his "ministry".

According to the DMN article,

Fellowship bought 28,000 pairs of 3-D glasses, but rented cameras for the videos, and spent about $8,000 overall to create the special effect.

8 grand. Really? An illusionist would call that misdirection, an erudite individual – prevarication, but let me call it what I know it to be – the end product of a bull's bowel movement.

ag3da1-1.jpg

Imbi and I do have some experience with 3D production. One of our clients builds the technology for a complete 3D production facility, not including cameras. And last year, in Las Vegas, we shot with a Panasonic prototype of their new 3D camera, the AG-3DA1.

It's quite possible the camera rentals were 8 grand, but the increase in production setup and shooting time, the increase in editing time and software upgrades (the Cineform 3D plug-in – most probably what was used by the FC editors, is $2,995 alone) and the upgraded/replaced video projectors would be substantially more.

3D-GLASSES-ON-FELLOWSHIP-CONG.jpg

But, hey, at least they got to produce really cool 3D dog videos,

The third (video) re-created a real-life episode from last Christmas, in which Young's dogs got into the living room and tore up gift packages.

And dogs ripping open Christmas presents in 3D is just such a powerful metaphor for the reason we celebrate the season, eh,

To Young, taking advantage of the latest 3-D craze is just another way to reach people who might not otherwise come to church.

"Christmas is the best time of the year for people to give God a shot," he said.

Especially if you can give God a shot in 3D. Ed puts it all in perspective,

"What a great opportunity for the church," he said. "3-D is so hot."

I can only imagine how people left the service and rushed out to the nearest Best Buy.

</snark>

Would someone please tell me how, when the Saviour of the world chose to arrive in the humblest of manner and location, Christians think technological extravaganzas provide the best representation of the birth of Christ?

In case you've forgotten, Luke says Jesus was born in a place where animals were kept and our Lord's first bed was a feeding trough for said animals.

Yet, this week, in hundreds of churches across North America, thousands of person-hours and millions of dollars will have been spent to tell a story that bears little resemblance to the event that changed history.

But, at least Fellowship Church ended their service with Silent Night – because, as we all know, child birth and animal shelter are always quiet, n'est-ce pas?

UPDATE: The guys @ the BHT reminded me of Ross Douthat's column (which I read via the NYT Google Chrome app on the weekend).

Douthat's column title: A Tough Time for Believers. He says this (which fits the above so well),

…the once-a-year churchgoers crowding the pews beside them are a reminder of how many Americans regard religion as just another form of midwinter entertainment, wedged in between “The Nutcracker” and “Miracle on 34th Street.” [emphasis added]

Or perhaps comparing Tron in 3D with Ed Young's 3D dogs.

Posts that inform this one:
What is What – What you win them with is what you win them to.
For Some, The Gospel Really is Hollow, Gram!
Willow de Soleil, Cirque de Creek – Cirque de Soleil vs Christmas. Cirque wins.
Dave Fitch's When is a Story Not a Story – Willow Creek and Acrobats on Christmas Eve
Church of the Little Rascals

FastCompanyWC.jpg

Perhaps it's just me, but this seems to REVEAL so much about the state of the evangelical church in the West.

Willow Creek, like many megachurches, looks less like a traditional steeple-and-people structure than a spiritual mini mall. It has a food court, a coffee shop that's clearly a Starbucks knockoff (complete with your choice of tall, grande, and venti), and a slate of ministries, events, and services comprehensive enough for a Christ-centered cruise ship. All of this telegraphs the message that the church is trying to meet present-day wants and needs. And it reflects the pragmatism that infuses the leadership summit, which Hybels says is meant "to mess with people's minds a little." [Some emphasis added]

And this quote is simply icing on the WC cake,

…Willow summit balances the secular yin with the Christ-centered yang.

It all just seems to bring this to mind. But. Again. Perhaps it's just me.

For the past week this blog has seemed to be all Chris Wright, all the time. Not that there's anything wrong with that. :-)

This post is no different – featuring an excerpt from an interview we shot with him midweek.

Chris is one of the more gracious and yet, one of the most prophetic leaders that Imbi and I have ever met. Though tired from a week of meetings and teaching in Toronto, Chris sat down with Imbi for a 45 minute interview that covered some of what he shared at Lausanne 2010 in Cape Town, as well as his thoughts on what the church needs to raise up leaders in the 21st Century. 

In my not humble, but accurate opinion, this is more than worth five minutes of your time to watch. 

Confronting Idols & Making Disciples from Bill Kinnon on Vimeo

This video is also available on YouTube.

Imbi and I would like to thank Barry Parker and George Sumner for helping to make this happen. Both Barry and George are on the Canadian Board of Langham Partnership. (Once again, we shot in George's office @ Wycliffe College.) We would also like to thank Barbara Jenkins, Director of Admissions @ Wycliffe, who has helped with arranging a number of interviews along with Karen Baker-Bigauskas, Assistant to the Principal, who simply makes things happen.

Chris Wright's books that are pertinent to this video: The Mission of God and The Mission of God's People.

View embedded video here.

Lausanne Congress 2010Chris Wright, International Director of Langham Partnership International, challenges the people of God to confront the idols of power and pride, popularity and success, and wealth and greed. He called the Church to repentance and simplicity.

If you watch nothing else, please watch from 6:30 to 13:50. And then Wright's call to a reformation that needs to BEGIN in the global Evangelical church just past the 17 minute mark.

And please note how this fits with my previous post.

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 embraceif 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.

NorthPointSundaysComingPseudoSatire.jpg

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?

Hardly.

What-We-Win-3d-Reflect-4.jpg

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.

In my post from last fall, What is What? I link to Dan Whitmarsh (via) in his post, Anything to Make A Sale, referencing entertainment techniques in light of “youth ministry”,

… 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.

Out of Ur pointed to this from Tony Morgan. Forget videographic representations of the preacher. Morgan expects churches to be using this within 12 months. No doubt. Whether or not they are actually "churches" is open for debate I'm afraid.

Holographic-Technology-_-TonyMorganLive.com.jpg

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.

I was only partially joking when I created this graphic, from this post. Click on the graphic for a full version that's easier to read.

Animatronic Preacher Man

StationsOfTheCost.jpg

John Santic is one of the many good people I've met in my mostly generative time on the interwebs. I've also had the pleasure of meeting him in person in Vancouver a few years back.

John has a very big heart. And like many others, he's concerned at what The Winter Olympics have wrought in his fair city – especially in regard to the "least of these."

John has chosen his art form, photography, combined with poetry to tell the liturgical story of the Stations of the Cost.

‘(There) are fourteen images with poetic reflections on the social, economic, and environmental issues surrounding the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. In the pattern of the ancient Christian Liturgy, the ‘Stations of the Cross’, we want to help you recognize that many are suffering as a result of the Olympics as low cost housing disappears, government debt increases, the environment erodes, and the poor are criminalized. Our hope is to bring attention to these issues because we are inspired by a vision of equality, justice, healing, and well being for all people.

Please make a point of visiting John's Stations of the Cost site and pray for Vancouver and the real costs of these "Games."