Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I'm not sure what discourages me more:

This article, or all the Christians that will defend their favorite celebrities when they read it.

I can't imagine God would be happy about this.


Eric said...

Don't get too fired up over this stuff, my friend. The butts in the seats are actually holograms too.

Johnny! said...

Abandon the episcopacy, invent your own. That's what this is. Only the bishop wants to still be the preacher everywhere without having to actually visit the people.

Hendrick Family said...

That's creepy for sure.

But I will admit...

If you could go to say...a carnival...and pay money to see yourself as a hologram...

I would do it.


Kevin Sturm said...

Can't imagine God would be happy about what exactly?

That churches are setting up videocast campuses or that Christians are arguing about whether it is Biblical?

rk said...

Thanks for the thought-provoking question. That's always welcome here. I have some thoughts...

I don't have any interest in trying to figure out if what these guys are doing is biblical.

For me, it raises questions more like:

"Why is this necessary?"
"What does this say about the Kingdom?"
"Is this beneficial (in an 'everything is permissable but not everything is beneficial' kind of way)?"
or even:
"Seriously, two churches whose membership numbers total about 20,000 people can't find a single person who could/would preach as good as a hologram... really?"

This isn't a time when I'm deeply interested in saying something is absolutely wrong or absolutely right. What bothers me is that we (as in "we christians") continue to communicate to the world that if you're good enough at something, you can be a star. And if you're a big enough star, God can get lots of glory by lots of people watching that big star do that thing that he's good at. And it wouldn't take me very long at all to pick THAT apart biblically. I won't do it in this post, because I don't want to assume that anybody needs that lecture from me. However, if any of you disagree and/or want to hear that perspective, I'll throw it up on the front page.

Please, please, don't any of you take this post to mean that I'm against big churches or good preachers or the use of technology in churches. I'm not.

I just get a little suspicious when i see churches go to great (and VERY expensive) lengths to keep the focus on ONE PERSON and then justify those lengths with ideas like "but look at how many people are being reached!"

Seriously, are we still buying into those kinds of number-based rationalizations? I assume I'm preaching to the choir here, but if not, again, somebody let me know that you don't have a clue what I'm talking about and I'll be glad to write something for the blog and open up a dialogue.

It's late. Thoughts, anyone?

Johnny! said...

Is a Church service about reaching people? If it is, this is a great idea.

Is a worship service about my own personal interaction with God? If it is, this is a great idea.

Is unity in the worshiping Body merely that we all hold the same ideology and are doing the same thing together at the same time? If it is, again, this is great.

(I don't think it's great)

Brett said...

Maybe you should write a song about this. Oh wait....

Seriously though. I think you hit the nail on the head with your response to Kevin. Why is it that we are more concerned with the person preaching or the presentation then we are the message? I admit that I get caught up in this myself since I have certain preachers that I enjoy more than others. However, certainly these churches can find some people to preach the true message and equip the Saints. I guess it might be the by-product of the "entertainment based" Christianity we have in many churches. We exhalt the messenger irrespective of the message.

Kevin Sturm said...

For the record I always enjoy reading your lectures since they are filled with witty banter that makes me laugh...

The clarification is good.

My question was rooted in what exactly are we questioning...the motives of the pastors and/or Churches mentioned in the article, an underlining message of the article about the current state of the Christian Church, or the validity/necessity of video-casting a message to a multi-campus church rather than supporting the growth of a smaller local Church.

I agree that some of the things in the article are questionable motives and that a hologram is probably a bit over the top when that money could be better spent doing something like say...supporting missionaries, community outreach, etc.

It also conjures up all sorts of connotations of the Wal-Mart bigbox Church that all small Churches should be concerned about. So as small Churches we should band together and say, "Not in my town!"...ensuring adding further hypocrisy to a situation that already has 'division' written around it.

I'll assume then that we are all not against the idea of a campus location church that video-casts the sermon, but rather in each situation think through and discuss the motives and necessity of it in a way where we have complete awareness to understand it's possible necessity...and thus avoiding another lecture and my carpel tunnel syndrome.

rk said...

i'm always reticent to say that i'm categorically against something like this, but i will say that i'm deeply suspicious of it, mainly because i've never heard anyone articulate a compelling biblical explanation for it. And because i have no doubt that this sort of thing leads to celebrity/idolatry-related problems.

having said all that, i'm teachable and open to being wrong. it's just sort of tiresome to me that no one ever says "this is the reason why we think that this is the most Kingdom-centered, biblically-motivated course of action." what i hear is more of "what's the big deal" and "you're just picking on them because they're successful" or even "people like to hear this guy preach, but i guess you'd rather we just turned them all away," or perhaps worst of all "how can you say God's not blessing this when all these people are being affected?" Goodness, i don't even know how to begin to deal with stuff like that.

Instead of forcing the skeptics to take the defensive, i'd rather hear people explain to me how it's most Body-of-Christ edifying to continue to throw money and technology at empowering and exalting one person just because he's good at talking. this seems counter to the teachings, methods, and identity of Jesus.

but hey, i continue to say that i'm open and teachable.

Again, thanks Kevin. The discussion is always welcome.

Kevin Sturm said...

I was and am still suspicious of it. In being totally honest our Church has discussed this as an option due the problem of actually turning people away Sunday morning because many Sundays there is literally no more room to hold people. We added services in the afternoon on Sunday and on Saturday at different times, but that didn't solve the problem as people didn't come to that service (separate issue I suppose).

Space in the Santa Barbara area comes at a premium price and we found it was not financially practical to try and buy property or rent a bigger building. What became a viable option was to look at satellite campuses within a reasonable proximity to our current building.

My skepticism was turned a bit by visiting a Church that was doing this, and by a Sunday morning talk (I can't really call it a sermon) that our pastor did on why we were making this decision.

So instead of me just repeating everything I heard I will let you make your own decision based on what I listed to.

You can listen to it here if interested.

Kevin Sturm said...

As s side note I will quote Britt in something that I've heard him say.

"The number of people that show up on Sunday show how popular the pastor is. The number of people that show up to the weekly prayer meetings show how popular Jesus is."

Not sure if that is relevant to the conversation, but seems like it may be.

rk said...

Good thoughts, Kevin. You have the kind of loving, for-the-glory-of-God-skeptical attitude that I don't feel like I usually see in these kinds of discussions. Thanks for giving me more hope today that Christians can actually find the truth together (not that we've necessarily found it on this issue...).

Also, I absolutely think that quote is relevant here. At least from a conceptual standpoint, that gets to the heart of what troubles me.

Trent said...


I'm not sure if you remember me or not, and ultimately that doesn't matter. As a local church pastor, I'd like to weigh in on the current discussion.

I wonder if some of this is personality-driven in a God-ordained kind of way. James (author of the letter) was a local church pastor. Peter a Staff Evangelist. Paul a missionary-pastor. Very different personalities and callings. While one stayed put, one travelled, etc.

As far as being Kingdom-centered and biblically rational, reaching a video-based generation with video seems fairly biblical and Kingdom-minded to me, provided you consistently move people toward "real people" interaction in small groups of some sort, something these guys try hard to do. It's reaching them where they are (video) and moving them to where they need to be (real). That seems as biblical as a sermon on Mars Hill or rituals in the temple of Jerusalem for the sake of the Jews. That paradigm seems not only biblically defensible but also Kingdom-oriented. Specifics might be questioned in each particular case, but the paradigm seems to be there.

As to provoking idolatry, it certainly can. I'm not sure it's anymore provocative than the "we've always done it this way at my church" (note the pronoun) attitude that is found across the gamut of smaller churches sans video.

As to the lack of development of other preachers, yep. It hampers that and there's no way around it.

As to the dilution of the message via focus on a personality, that's always a danger no matter the size of the venue. But if Marshall McLuhan ("the medium is the message") was right, to a video-drunk generation, this might actually be a God-send.

Lastly, I have to confess that I'm not the biggest fan of these types of things. I certainly could never see myself doing this. I wonder how much of that is because of my James-nature and not Paul-nature. But because you asked for a biblical and Kingdom rationale, I thought I'd take a run at it. Thanks for the brain provocation. And I'm certainly willing to be critiqued and corrected for these comments. I'm learning too.

From the peanut gallery,


Jesse Fullen said...

another staff member at my episcopal church used to work at a local methodist church and he was telling me the way most methodist churches work. He told me that Methodist pastors stay at their church for 5 years. After that, they are reassigned. This kinda threw me at first...why wouldn't a pastor stay and continue with their church health...etc. But then he reminded me of a local megachurch pastor. Ed Young of Houston's 2nd Baptist. This guy is on billboards all over the city, at the houston ball park...etc etc etc. If he were to die suddenly, that church would be in trouble. 2 of his sons are pastors but not prepared to handle a church with so many people. When i hear about these video churches i fear something similar. I fear idolatry and a faith based on the teacher...not the Lord. I agree with Kevin about his church...if your church wont seat anymore people then that might be necessary but i wouldn't volunteer to go to the first video church. I would just show up earlier and stake my claim.

kelli.briley said...

Hey Ross-

I stumbled across your blog through checking in on my old church, ComChurch, also where I worked for two years!

I've worked for North Point for 6 years now. I now work at one of North Point's campuses 20 miles north of Alpharetta.

When I first read the article you referenced it honestly made me laugh out loud. Most of the things the author talks about couldn't be farther from the truth.

First, we VERY rarely talk numbers...we talk life change. We don't go around announcing how many members we have or how many people showed up on a particular Sunday. It's all about life change. And sometimes that's hard to measure numerically.

Part of my job is to take people through the baptism process and what I hear has nothing to do with Andy Stanley. I hear people who had really messed up lives who had friends who poured into their lives and invited them to church. Once they were at church they heard about joining a small group and that's where the life change happened. Nothing Andy Stanley did or said.

Before making any judgments, I suggest visiting one of our churches. I think you might find that things are a lot different than you might expect.

rk said...

great to hear from you. it's been a while. Glad to hear things are going well for you and chris.

Thanks for the feedback. For the record, I'm really just asking questions and verbalizing my concerns. No "judgments" here. I know how it probably sounds, especially from your perspective, but if you read what i've written carefully, you'll see that i'm not declaring absolutes or saying anybody is evil or whatever. I repeatedly make it clear that i don't want to make sweeping generalizations or accusations, and that I'm open to being wrong. I do have feelings and biases, but i didn't even elaborate on any of those until i first invited others to chime in, which they have, in hopes that all of us will be shaped for the glory of God. Not everyone sees this the same way, and i think that's great. We all learn, from time to time, by graciously disagreeing with one another, honing in on the truth with an open mind and an eye on Christ and His Kingdom and the teachings of scripture.

If you have specific questions or thoughts on certain things that i've said, please let me know and i'd be glad to dialogue further with you, here or over email.

Either way, thanks for posting. Tell your hubby I said "hello." He's still one of the best sound/tech guys i've ever had the pleasure of working with, and also just a heckuva nice guy.


rk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kelli.briley said...

Glad there's no judgment:)

It's just interesting to me that people have so much to say about a church they've never been to or at the most visited once.

But open dialogue is always good.

But we're doing well. We have an 8 month old little girl Eva. She's our love. Your kids are adorable. LOVE the curly hair.

We both have blogs too:

And at least we can agree on one thing: Chris is a heckuva guy.

Anyways-next time your in Atlanta, let us know. We'll be happy to indoctrinate...uhhh...introduce you to North Point Ministries.

rk said...

Thanks again Kelli. You're making a great point. It's one that I totally agree with: we can throw around our opinions all we want, but when it comes down to it, nothing can substitute for a personal experience between real people.