Cinema and the church are in chaos.
Or at least that’s what some people want you to think.
Supposedly, piracy is killing the movie industry. Proposed America Bills like SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and its Senate counterpart PIPA (Protect IP Act) have been making headlines across the world. These have been set up to stop piracy (although they will end up doing a lot more than that if they are ever passed). Things in the UK are not much better. Governments and certain film bodies would have you believe that cinema is in the midst of an epic battle. Illegal downloads, the growth of on demand streaming sites, smart phones are all supposedly killing cinema as we know it.
In the same way we are told that the church is facing extinction. Recent articles by Krish Kandiah in Youthwork magazine and Christianity magazine (and online) highlight this issue. Young people are not sticking with institutional forms of church. They are leaving in their droves and not coming back.
As I am sure you are all aware, a little black and white silent film (the artist) scooped most of the major prizes at the oscars on sunday night. Why was that?
Now it’s not that the film isn’t good. It is. I enjoyed it. But is it really the film of the year? No. Not even close. So why did it win? Why did the Academy (who are mostly made of white, middle-class and very old men) choose this film as their film of the year? Maybe it’s the fact that the film harks back to a time when things were better. When there was no internet piracy. When cinema ruled the masses. That could be a factor but let’s look a little more of the plot of the film.
Karina Longworth wrote in LA weekly recently:
The Artist dramatizes the flexing of that muscle in a way that ultimately and cheerfully endorses the subservient relationship of the talent to the producer/studio. When the Goodman character fires Valentin, the star defiantly pledges to strike out on his own. “I’ll make a great movie,” he says. “And it’s not like I need you for that.” The rest of the narrative essentially proves him wrong: If Valentin wants to make a movie that anyone cares about, he needs to do it with a studio. That we’re supposed to accept his film-closing rebirth as an Astaire-esque dancing movie star — contracted by the same mogul who all but left him for dead — as a happy ending and not a humiliation, is a baffling turn of events, if we’re also supposed to sympathize with his plight as an independent artist. The Artist, then, is a film in which an iconoclast hits rock bottom by staying true to himself, and learns via near-death experience to embrace conformity.
Everything is fine. Don’t change anything. The studios have everything under control. It will all be okay. No wonder the film won Best Picture. But things are changing. People do not want to only see films in the cinema. They want to watch how them they want. Whether thats on a mobile, online or on their TV. And Hollywood needs to wake up and realize that. Hollywood fought against the introduction of sound, they fought against the introduction of TV, the fought against the introduction of video. And they lost. Every time.
The church is in a similar position. Things need to change. For some the church no longer works the way they need it to. Some people don’t want to go to a sunday morning service at 11am and sit and be passive for an hour plus. We can choose to be like the Oscars and pretend that everything is ok; choose to focus on the past and how great things used to be. Or we change; adapt; dream.
Piracy is not killing the film industry. At least not in the way we are being told. What is killing the film industry is studios trying to force us to see things ‘their way or no way’. Church is the same. A radical shift is needed. A deep changed is needed from the ground up. A superficial makeover will not do.
Evolve or die. I think the church can learn a lot from this. What new models of church do we need?
On Wednesday 2nd November I attended the “how to get your kids through church without them hating God” tour organised by Rob Parsons and ‘Care for the Family’.
Read part 1 here
In part 2, Rob Parsons shared, what he considered to be, the five killers of young people’s faith.
1) over busyness
I remember trying to organise a meeting about a drama service that would be happening in the church in a few months time. Half the battle was trying to find a date that everyone could make. Each possible date was shot down because someone either had house groups or music practices, or women’s meetings or prayer groups or youth clubs or deacons meetings or…well you get the picture.
The same is true for our young people. each week they can attend church services, youth fellowship, badminton clubs, running clubs, house groups and music practices. How they manage to fit in socialising and school into that packed timetable is anyone’s guess.
And there in lies the problem. The church is too busy. There are too many meetings and activities that people can attend. Do we really need them all? Is that what being a Christian is about? Meetings.
Instead of spending our week going out to our neighbours and friends, we spend our time coming to things inside the church. The great commission tell us to go, not come. We want to fill up our young peoples nights with all sorts of church activities so that they aren’t out mixing with questionable young people. But that’s the point. I know a number of young people who have left the church youth work because they just can’t be bothered feeling guilty about not being able to make all the meetings.
I overheard a conversation between two parents complaining that other members of the church let their children go to football on a Sunday morning rather than come to church. What they didn’t mention is that these boys still come to youth fellowship on a sunday evening and house group on a wednesday evening! Let’s stop forcing our young people to attend every meeting in the church just because that’s what we do.
Being busy isn’t always a good thing.
2) hypocrisy (public holiness)
Jesus called a group of religious leaders ‘white washed tombs’. nice and clean and white on the outside but rotting and decaying on the inside. Harsh words eh? But true.
On one occasion whilst having dinner at a Pharisee’s house, he talked about cups and bowls. He spoke about how they (the jewish people) have all these rituals for washing that gives the appearance of cleanliness but on the inside, it’s a different story.
How do our young people see us? Do we put on ‘holiness’ when we go to church? Are we simply actors in a play? And then when we get home we remove the costumes and become ourselves again.
The church needs authenticity. I need authenticity. Young people need to see people who are authentic. Following Jesus isn’t about pretending everything is okay and that you are really holy. It’s about bringing what you have (your doubts, your pain, yourself) to the table before God.
I attended the Scottish Baptist Assembly a few weeks ago (i’ll hopefully get around to blogging about it before the next one) and was struck by what one of the speakers said. As Christians we spend too much time attending ‘anti’ protest rallies when we should be spending more time at ‘pro’ rallies.
Too often Christians are known by what they disagree with rather than what they agree with. We speak out frequently about the things we think are wrong instead of things things we think are right.
We should be a ‘pro’ people. Let us celebrate rather than condemn. Let’s spend more time talking to our young people about what we love rather than what we hate.
I can be a very cynical person. I’ll be honest about that. I try not to be but it’s hard. Cynicism is all around us. It’s talked about in our families, our friends, our churches, the media and our workplace.
“what’s the point in doing anything, this is just how it is”.
“there’s nothing new under the sun”.
Now I’m not naive. I know life can, and often is, harsh and cruel. And that should be embraced. We should not run away from that. But that should not mean that our lives are governed by those understandings.
I want hope. I want to believe that people can change. I want to believe that we are all created in the image of God and are not born corrupt. I want to believe that new things are waiting to be created. I want to believe that we can change things and I want to believe that God is a universalist.
Christianity is catergorised by hope but it looks like we’ve lost it. Let’s stop being cynical. Let’s believe in something better. Let’s believe in hope, faith and love.
“have we taken holy things for granted? Have we lost the wonder?”
This was tough and challenging to here.
I was recently told of an older member of the congregation, when on entering the church, complained that she doesn’t know what to expect when she comes in because we keep doing things differently. Isn’t that a good thing? Why is is that our default position is that of rigid routines and traditions?
Shouldn’t we be amazed when we come to church? Shouldn’t we expect God to show up?
I think we’ve misunderstood the concept that God is the same, yesterday, today and forever. That doesn’t mean that God is static and unchanging. God changes his mind. God shakes things up. God changes. And so should we. So should our services. But not just for the sake of it.
The biggest question for me when session 2 finished was how to we shape our services (and our youth work) to allow space for wonder without becoming too familiar?
What do you think?
I try not to pull other christians down. Especially online. I don’t think its helpful.I don’t think it’s “christian”.
So, this post is not about attacking mark driscoll. There are enough places you can go online if you want to do that.
What I do want to attack his understanding of the notion of love. Or at least offer an alternative view.
The video above is from a sermon he gave on Sunday morning.
Let me first say that I agree with some of the concepts he is saying. He is right that we often cherry pick attributes of God, the ones we like, and drop the ones we don’t agree with. I know that God is loving and God is just. That’s not where I think Driscoll has messed up.
It’s his understanding of the following verse that, i believe, is incorrect.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:7-12
I do not think, in this verse, John is saying “god is loving”. John is not telling us about one of Gods attributes. He is stating something more profound. he is saying that God is love.
The essence of God…is love. At God’s very core; God’s DNA is love.
So every attribute of God whether it be justice, mercy, wrath etc comes out of a place of love. Love is the lens for every attribute of God. Love is the lens that every decision comes from.
That’s why I am deeply concerned with what Driscoll is portraying here. He is painting an image of a God that does not have love at its core.
And i think that leads to all sorts of trouble.
Thanks to Zack Hunt for the heads up on this. Check out his blog for other inconsistencies in Driscolls’ talk.