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5/05/2006

WAKING UP FROM BIG SCREEN RELIGION

New data about the influence of media blockbusters like The Passion Of The Christ is making a strong case that non-Christians aren't as spiritually affected by seeing movies about Jesus as they are by seeing people thinking and living like Jesus. This may be proof that big screens do little more to influence thinking about Christ and faith in our society than tracts left on toilet seats in restaurants, or bracelets of multi-colored beads, or any other well-intentioned "witnessing" device since the fifties in America.

If the conclusions being drawn are correct, what an amazing opportunity to discover a more incarnational approach to "witness." By "incarnational" I mean becoming Christ on earth - having our thoughts and actions inhabited by the character of Christ. This means taking seriously the pursuit of learning how God thinks, what His priorities are, what His agenda is and how we can adopt these thoughts, priorities and agendas as our own today where we live. This is discipleship. It's the greatest form of evangelism that ever was.

It's disciples that we are told to go make. Not believers in the story of Jesus but followers of the God Jesus - his ethics, loves, hates, and every other attribute on display when He walked the earth.

It's a great time to be in the American church. She's waking up from her love affair with being approved of and popular, her lust for quick fixes and big splashes. She's realizing slowly that big isn't necessarily better - that slow and steady, one person at a time, one disciple making one disciple making one disciple might be healthier and breed more loyalty and self-lessly devoted representatives of God in the end than a blockbuster shown to millions.

Hopefully when she's fully awakened to the importance of discipleship she'll be less convinced of the superior power of popular culture. She'll still appreciate the beauty and message of a novel or rock song but realize in her maturity that the best of these are less potent than a community of people dedicated to being the love, mercy and peace of Christ on earth together. She'll once day become a modern version of what Paul called a "living letter" - a living film about the Christ.

In the mean time our failed attempts to entertain people into belief aren't going unnoticed by the very people we're trying to entertain. Ever realized you were being laughed AT when your goal was to be laughed WITH? That's where the church in America is today. But laughter is a great motivator. And it's hard to sleep through.

Hope this wakes you up today. (And makes you laugh.)

12 Comments:

Blogger GrovesFan said...

Powerful stuff my friend. Our church just added a new position to our staff. A pastor of "Community Life." I'd never heard of it before nor had most of our members. His focus is to desciple members. To make sure that everyone is not merely attending, but being descipled and descipling others. Small group studies, home groups, committed involvement and mentoring. Only then will we be better able to reach others for Christ as desciples and not merely believers. We're catching on!

5/05/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Day by day by day by day"....


brody

5/05/2006  
Blogger bdg.theTRu said...

agreed. My only concern with churches looking to Home Fellowship Groups and discipleship efforts is that it's quickly becoming a "trend"...

all the "good" churches have small groups and home groups... all the "good" churches call their members "disciples"... Rick Warren approves, so it must be the way to go...

I suppose that's a bit of cynicism on my part, but i've just seen it all before... i've been in small groups that have fallen apart... and i've tried my darndest to make them stay...

I guess what i'm saying is that it is certainly the way to deepen our faith, build community, and grow stronger together, but it all still comes down to the individual commitment, not just herd mentality...

RE: the video, that's hilarious... my parents almost left their church because, among other things, some other family had started sitting in "their" pew...

peace... love... bdg...

5/05/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

A BIT of cynicism? Yea, and I have a BIT of hair, Mrs. Spears is a BIT of a slut and Hitler had a BIT of an anger management issue.

All right, all jabbing aside. A trend is just something a lot of folks are doing. So? I'd hope a lot of people stay married, neuter their pets, and cut partially hydrogenated oils from their diets. If they did these good things they may create a trend - but a trend that's far from unwise right?

Being against being popular is as odd as being against being unpopular. Id rather be pro representing God well. Let the popularity chips fall where they may.

Anyway, I'm wondering now that I read your comment, bdg, why we (and by we I mean you - it just sounds nicer to say we) think "small groups" or "home groups" when I say discipleship? Our church has small groups and sunday school classes and every other permutation on community you could imagine. Doesn't mean discipleship is taking place. Doesn't mean the emphasis on the "event" of church isn't being made. I'm not thinking method when I say discipleship. I'm thinking intent. Not the outside of the cup but the inside.

What is being produced by whatever program a church is using? What is the result? Growth by converting Christians ticked about pews to our more entertaining or more traditional or more whatever church services? Growth by babies being born? Growth by expecting little of members? OR growth (however that's defined) by discipleship? The result comes, I've seen, from different methods. Not necessarily the ones you mentioned.

And, what did you say to your parents when they told you they were upset at someone sitting in their pew?

SG

5/05/2006  
Blogger Seth Ward said...

"I'll just walk around the mall and think about Jesus" needs to be a song.

5/05/2006  
Blogger introriff said...

"You are in my spot, and if you don't move I am calling the usher over here to take care of you." :lol:

Wasn't that on a episode of Raymond or something?

5/05/2006  
Blogger GrovesFan said...

First of all Shaun, you don't have a lot of hair, just the right amount.

The intent of our church's small groups and home groups is to disciple individuals, provide accountability and mentoring, and to help others to be more Christlike in their thoughts, actions, and life styles everyday. I can't stand Rick Warren personally so I certainly wouldn't be doing something because HE said so. Don't even get me started on him.

Having been in churches of many shapes and sizes (20 members to 15,000+) throughout the years, I have experienced the ups, downs, positives and negatives of of them all. The more we come to really accept that THE church is the body of believers and not the building or the programs it hosts, the more we will be Christlike in our lifestyles, indeavors, thoughts and actions. We stand and live FOR Christ, not for the church, demomination, or building that stands on the corner.

I found the cartoon hillarious! I've never seen a church that has a coffee shop inside, although I've seen churches in shopping malls. I've seen people leave churches over some of the dumbest things though. Usually over not wanting to change something, because "that's the way it's always been."

Our new Worship Arts director (yes Shaun, Bruce was voted in overwhelmingly, but after a good debate) is constantly hounded by the older people in our church who insist on more hymns, quieter music and NO DRUMS (they are of the devil afterall ;) ). They gripe because there are no younger people in their service. While I love traditional hymns and enjoy a mix of them and more contemporary music, the whole purpose of church is to WORSHIP and GLORIFY God. To edify and desciple others, and to serve them and our communities in Christ. We go from three services to two during the summer months and it's always a battle to keep everyone "happy."

Beth

5/05/2006  
Blogger Chaotic Hammer said...

This is excellent stuff, Shaun (and Beth).

I agree that it doesn't matter what "method" is used to achieve discipleship, and I honestly don't care what trend all the cool kids are following. But in my life, for a long time, a "small group" or "home group" has been where this growth has occurred most effectively.

If our church building exploded violently tomorrow (without any people inside, of course) and the leadership decided to disband, we wouldn't know the difference. I don't say that to diss the "big church", I really enjoy the worship in a large group, and the teaching and encouragement we get there.

But what has happened in our little community of believers is what has literally transformed my life from that of a passive spectator into that of somebody completely immersed daily in life with Jesus as Lord, in every area of my existence. As I type this (I work from a home office and am on break for a few minutes), my wife is upstairs with three of the other women from our group. They are laughing, and crying, and sharing burdens, and praying, and Jesus is among them, powerfully. There is no religion and no pretense. And by the way, there is no scheduled meeting today, just people who started out as strangers, who had nothing in common except faith in Christ, but have become best friends and now love each other, and enjoy one another's company.

My wife had asked a couple of them for some help with some home cleaning projects, and the rest decided to get together and make a day of it. This has been typical for our group. Each time a member has had a need in his or her life, the rest of us have made room in our lives to drop what we are doing, and focus on meeting that need in a real and tangible way.

Interesting story -- we had started a few months ago looking for service projects we could do in our community. A couple of people researched local nursing homes, soup kitchens, whatever, to see what we could do. And no doors seemed to be opening. No organizations sounded interested in making use of our eagerness to serve. But within about two weeks, something interesting happened -- the Lord began moving on the hearts of the people in our group to share with the rest about the things that they were going through. What appeared on the outside to be normal, happy, healthy people attending a weekly Bible study, turned out to be very messy lives, and very injured hearts, and very broken spirits, putting on a front for public consumption. And once those walls started coming down, the sharing of burdens, and praying for one another, and really rolling up our sleeves and helping one another became contagious, and we have all opened up our lives to one another, in love, to allow healing, and growth, and genuine life change. It turned out that the most immediate "service projects" were already sitting in the room with us -- we just didn't know it before.

In this environment, we feel free to challenge one another boldly regarding life decisions and how they impact our walk with the Lord. We read scripture, and really dig deep to find out how that scripture applies to our lives practically, not just theoretically.

I hope I don't sound like I'm "bragging" about this, or that I've found "the answer" or "the formula" to living life for Jesus. I'm just sharing a personal, first-hand experience about things I've seen and experienced, that have made all the difference for me in my life, and have made me eager to know Jesus more intimately, and to share His love with others. This story is still being written, and unlike a 30-minute feel-good episode, we have people that we love in this group that are dealing with cancer, and broken marriages, and mental disorders, and all sorts of messy stuff.

Lord Jesus, please show up again the next time we meet, because You are really all we have. Without You, we're just a room full of messed up people.

5/05/2006  
Blogger Amy said...

Wow. Hammer, I am so jealous of your experience. It's what I long for. It's the reason I left the church I've been attending the past year (one that has a huge building project and cafe ;-)) and lately have been attending a much smaller group.
Here's the thing. The danger is that a small group gets "ingrown" and doesn't grow...doesn't reach people. I really love the cell church I've been attending, like so much, but I know some people in my life don't approve because it's likely not to grow. What does one do in this situation?

5/05/2006  
Blogger Kathryn said...

i loved this post.

5/05/2006  
Blogger bdg.theTRu said...

ah crud... never enough time...

let's see how i do... touche on the cynicism... to be clear i'm not "against" being popular, i'm against basing your decisions solely (or even largely) on the hope that it may allow you to become popular... does that make sense?

If you do something that happens to be popular, because you know it's right, then great... if you do something that you know is popular, because you hope it will make you popular by association then i'm not really for that...

can God use both cases? yes, of course... but i think it's a matter of the heart, and i think i said earlier that i'm not trying to judge, just pointing out a possible scenario...

your statement "Id rather be pro representing God well. Let the popularity chips fall where they may." is exactly what i'm saying with different words, but probably not as clearly...

also, i'm not entirely associating small groups and sunday school classes or church for that matter with "discipling" either... the best example of discipling another believer for me happened entirely outside of the church setting... with a guy that i worked with who didn't attend my church at all...

the reason i think they are associated with each other so often is because you need to whittle relationships down to a one-on-one in order to really create an atmosphere that's conducive to discipling... Sunday School class, small group, home group... these are good stepping stones to narrowing it down to that level...

before i go, i told my parents pretty bluntly that they were being ridiculous... and long story short, they're still at that church and we worked it all out...

i need to get to bed... and good grief, you've got 2 new entries already... you're killing me :P
peace... love... bdg...

5/05/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

That help me understand your points, bdg. Thanks for clarifying. I'm sure it's my reading and not your thinking or typing that's to blame for the misunderstanding. Good thoughts as always.

SG

5/06/2006  

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