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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Theatrical Christianity


Ask any pastor or church leader "Why do we have a raised platform, focused special lighting, a sound system, and (maybe) cameras and video monitors"?  

More than likely they will answer that is so they can further the gospel or something similar.
"It's all for Jesus"?

It is?

WHO benefits from the electronics, video monitors, platforms, and is the center of focus for a congregation?  Jesus or the man on the stage? Does God's Word need the special effects, sounds, and lights or if we are honest, does it cross the line into fleshly entertainment?
Do you realize that many Sunday Sermons are delivered by professional orators (called preachers) who have not only crafted and polished the message, have rehearsed in front of a mirror, and many are even imitating some other preacher they admire?

In today’s visible church world we find many “alternate realities” under the guise of winning souls, "growing God's kingdom", growing one’s ministry, "going to the next level", achieving some sort of destiny,
and having a successful church (and church business). 

This point was driven home one night as we watched one of Americas Best Selling Christian pastor-authors, one Sunday night television.  Not being much of a TV watcher myself, this was a revelatory mind-boggling view of what has become “Christian”.
The speaker (who rarely, if at all, even quoted from the Bible) appeared on the stage of one of the most elaborate settings this side of heaven itself.

The huge auditorium must have seated tens of thousands of people, ceiling lighting that looked like a starlit night sky, and was enhanced by state of the art lighting, and sound, and center stage of it all was the humble hero of the day. Every facial expression and every timely pause was choreographed and delivered flawlessly

Luke 7:25 But what went ye out to see? a man clothed in soft raiment?
      Behold, they that are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings' courts.

Acts 12:21  And upon a set day Herod arrayed himself in royal apparel, and sat on the throne, and made an oration unto them.

The “sermon” began with a cute little joke that sent ripples of chuckles through the huge auditorium. 
He went on to encourage the folks to achieve a better life, live happy, and have a winning attitude.  His message really impacted those watching from their pews and televisions as reflected in the sales of millions of his books and DVD’s.
His highly polished and timely delivery, accompanied by appropriate hand gestures and facial expressions, just made you feel good.

Surely many of the good folks drove home with anticipation of how they were now motivated and equipped to succeed in life.  

Likewise we recall how we desired our building to be improved in looks, comfort, and with the electronic necessities of modern churches. 
Better lighting, better cameras, better sound equipment, better presentation were all sought after. 

One year, we even did a major theatrical presentation called “Hotel Hallelujah” in which the majority of the membership played in various roles of the saints and sinners of our day.
I was the voice of the emcee.
We portrayed Elvis, Lady Di, Willie Nelson, Kurt Cobain, Selena, and many others as they met their fate. 

It was a huge effort by our church with rehearsals, stage props, and advertising in an effort to “reach” people for Christ.  (We were copying another church in this production).
Despite the advertising, rehearsals, and the expense, there was only moderate attendance and it is highly questionable that anyone actually got “saved”. 

But it sure was a great show.

We use these two illustrations to demonstrate how shallow church has become as the focus has shifted from “a temple made without hands” to the works of men’s hands. So much time, effort, and finances go in to support the typical “church” operation which culminates in the Sunday Show Case.
There are other matinées such as classes, special groups, etc., but The Sunday Show is the Big One.

Can there any doubt who the focus is on?

Do we realize how vain it has become?
We now have the spectacle of SUPERSTAR PASTORS.  

The Sunday show determines the financial success of the business side of the ministry and how the players performed. 
In some churches efforts are made to "follow-up" with visitors and those who may have made a "profession of Christ".  
You  can sugarcoat the "show" with words of concern for souls and changing lives, but if you were to strip away the tithes, salaries, buildings, and lifestyles from the typical evangelical pastor, how many real servants of God do you think would be left?   

People know something is terribly wrong with the theatric Christianity
that is so prevalent, but they have nowhere to turn, so they think.  For many of us the thought of not attending church was off the radar and it was only by God's grace were we delivered from institutional Christianity and have found wonderful simplicity in gathering with others away from the Institutional Church. 


  1. WOW Rory, well said. So true with many places that are called church today.

  2. Sorry didn't find this earlier. A spot-on presentation of how it really is. "Flesh and blood hath not revealed......"