“Contemporary Church” Video Makes Me Laugh, and Wonder

May 7, 2010

This is a great piece of satire, by people who obviously know how “the system” works:
(h/t Jonathan Brink)

“That’s too funny!” I say.
Kay, after laughing says, “That’s not funny anymore.”
“Why not?” the kids ask.
“Because it’s too close,” she replies.
“Kids,” I add, “this is how you can have a great church. You don’t even need Jesus anymore!”

…I don’t mean to detract from your laughter. We should laugh! But I have to wonder: Have we emphasized form over function? What is the function of a local Jesus community, anyway?

Bonus question: Did you notice how everything was centered on the stage? What does that make people the people in the seats… the audience? If the medium is the message, what message is sent, week after week, by having the majority of time, energy and money devoted to a stage production?

Update: I pulled together a variety of thoughtful reactions to the video in a new post.

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

20 responses to “Contemporary Church” Video Makes Me Laugh, and Wonder

  1. I watched the video a little while ago and definitely laughed at first, thinking about my own church (which is fairly mega) and then it scared me a little as to how right on it was. I know it was meant to be funny, and it was, but it definitely made me think about how we “do” church.
    I’m regularly overwhelmed by all the stuff going on and wish we’d focus more on really getting into a real worship mode. But then on the other hand, for people who are new to church, sometimes this stuff really works and brings them to a place nothing else does. There’s a fine line between being that sort of seeker service and serving those of us that have been around a while. I don’t know the answer, but stuff like this definitely makes me think.
    As always Jon, your blog is great!!

  2. Great video! This is one of the reason’s why my husband and I left ‘church’ for a number of years. I think every church leader should watch this video.

  3. This video is hilarious.. and kind of sad in the same breath…

  4. I couldn’t help but think of this quote from Doug Pagitt – “One of the reasons churches in North America have trouble guiding people about money is that the church’s economy is built on consumerism. If churches see themselves as suppliers of religious goods and services and their congregants as consumers, then offerings are ‘payment.’”
    The church all too often is built on consumerism and we sell an experience, disguised as a religious/mystical experience. The reality is that we cannot control or create an experience of the presence of God but we can, if we have money and staff and equipment, construct something like that. So we take the easy, predictable path.
    now here’s the really sad part… if my church had money, staff, equipment, etc. to pull that off every Sunday, our service would probably look pretty much like that.

  5. oh wow…thanks for that…kind of stings a bit..but yeah..great.

  6. Hi Jon — thanks for posting about this. I’d seen a few copies on FaceBook but hadn’t actually watched the video until I saw it on your site, since I trust you.
    And then I read Bill’s post, which led to Jason’s post, which led to my comment on jason’s post that sus up my numbness:
    “It all just makes my heart and head hurt. Whatever happened to loving Jesus, and doing what the Father is doing, empowered by the Spirit. How come that seems to be so hard to do anymore?
    Either it is a big show, or it is someone pointing out how the big show is really bad and the small group is everything. And then someone says “No, they’re both fine as long as God is in it” and then someone says “Yeah but I got so tired of that that I started this”
    I think I’m so churchified and so over-discussed that I’ve somehow forgotten just how to love the people I meet, and ask Jesus how to love them, better — and do that with others who want to do the same.
    sigh”

  7. Carrie, there are all the negatives you cite. But let me also question the positives: “sometimes this works and brings them…” to what? Don’t misunderstand me, God can and does work through elaborate productions. But what Jesus do people see, and what kind of disciples are we producing? See the link I added to Bill Kinnon above; he posits, “What we win them with is what we win them to!
    I am afraid the system is self-reinforcing.

  8. Carol, for some, it may be necessary to “leave church” in order to “live church.” My question — which I hope you see as positive, because I don’t know your situation — is: Are you living and being church, together with others?

  9. Scott, it is both, isn’t it? Doubly so when you stop to realize that it was made by folks who create what they mock. I initially called it satire, but I no longer think that was the intent. But that doesn’t make it any less prophetic.

  10. Hi Jon – actually, my husband and I recently joined a church we really like. We’ve been going for about 6 months or so. We took about a 4 year break, and finally decided to start looking for a church. It only took about a month to find one we really like, but the church seems to be focused on the community. So to answer your question – yes. I think our view of church will forever be changed because of our hiatus, and we are thankful for that!

  11. Roy,
    Thank you for being so open! It means a lot. There certainly is comfort in predictability. I called this video “a great piece of satire,” but I no longer think that is the intention. Even so, I think it carries a prophetic message, warning us against the comfort we desire.

  12. Ray,
    Yeah, ha ha ouch, eh?

  13. Keith,
    Since you trust me, here’s one more you might appreciate: Jamie Arpin-Ricci shares The Rule of We. “Essentially, it says that we must intentionally identify ourselves with any criticism we make of others in the Church.”

  14. Carol, thanks for the update! I’m encouraged to hear you are carrying your experiences forward. Let’s stay hungry. 🙂

  15. Jon, I did post the video on my blog and commented a bit further there…
    http://roydonkin.blogspot.com/2010/05/constructing-experience.html
    I like the idea of a rule of we

  16. You asked “What is the function of a local Jesus community, anyway?”
    I will use the paraphrased words of Frances’ professor Steve Korch, since I was not there to hear him but have heard her relate what he said. The purpose of the church (yes, I used that archaic word ;)) is to glorify God–that is, to recognize and show Him to be as great as He actually is. When the church is gathered, we glorify God by discipleship, teaching and exhorting each other (fellow believers) to understand and live out the message of Jesus. When the church is scattered, we glorify God by evangelism (another icky term), telling and showing others that Jesus is more important than anything else.
    Any apportioning of funds and investment of time should be in the service of these goals. My fear (which I assume is yours as well) is that it is easy to make such showmanship a substitute for the essentials.
    And in case you were wondering, the guy’s tattoo is pronounced [wayehee] and is Hebrew meaning “and it/there was.” As in Genesis 1:3 “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ [wayehee] light.”

  17. The video is funny. And any satire is for the folks wanting to go post-neo-modernism.

  18. Matthew, thanks for that comment! At first, I nodded my head. Then I thought, “Wait, I don’t disagree, but I don’t quite agree either.” Then I thought about my response. Finally, I decided it deserves its own post!
    And yeah, it didn’t look like the guy’s tattoo was one he picked up from his biker days. Thanks for the translation! 🙂

  19. Chuck, it is funny. And we are way past post-neo-modernism now, that’s so passé. To be truly hip, it’s time to go neo-post-medieval.