#BestOf2013: Tired of the Show – Hollywood, the Church & the End of the Competition

curtain 200c2 #BestOf2013: Tired of the Show   Hollywood, the Church & the End of the CompetitionWhat are people looking for in a church?

Pastors ask this question regularly – and we should. But too often, I think we miss the mark entirely.

For instance, not long ago I was part of a discussion with a group of ministers sharing new ideas. I enjoy the innovative, forward focus of such talks.

Then something odd occurred to me. If you took the religious language out of our conversation, I wondered if you’d be able to tell whether we were a group of ministers talking about church, or a local theater group talking about the upcoming show season.

Much of our discussion focused on issues like stage lighting, how much video or drama to use, the quality and volume of the music, advertising, signage, seating, transitions between segments of the service, etc.

The other voices faded into the background for me, as I realized something about myself.

I’ve spent decades tweaking lights, buying audio equipment, setting up chairs and all the other work it takes to put on church services. But, as much as I love the body of Christ…

I’m getting tired of the show.

This article was originally posted on February 26, 2013, when we had less than 10% of today’s readers. I think it’s worth a second (or first) look as one of the overlooked #BestOf2013.


You’ll Know Them By Their Video Clips

Does anyone think the reason our neighbors aren’t going to church is poor stage lighting and sloppy transitions? Or are they looking for something else entirely?

It’s not that the staging elements of church don’t matter. We still talk about them at our church staff meetings, too. If they’re done poorly, they can distract from the message. We just need to be sure they don’t replace the message.

But let’s face the truth. It doesn’t matter how big our churches are, how much money we have, or how many A-List producers become believers. If we compete head-to-head with Hollywood on entertainment quality, the results are already in.

Hollywood wins.

The church loses. trans #BestOf2013: Tired of the Show   Hollywood, the Church & the End of the Competition

Not only can’t we compete with the latest Hollywood blockbuster at the local theater, we can’t compete with what people have on the phone in their pocket. The highest quality entertainment in the world is literally at our fingertips, 24/7.

My neighbor isn’t going to be blown away by the entertainment quality of our church’s Easter pageant.


The Church Has No Competition

So the bad news is, the church can’t compete with Hollywood. Or Disneyland. Or the moral decline of our society. Or our own smart phones and iPads.

But the good news is, we don’t need to compete with any of those things. Because the church has no competition.

The church needs to do what only the church can do.

Jesus said the world would come to know we’re his disciples, not because we build bigger buildings, or when Christian companies start making higher quality movies. Jesus said people would know we’re his followers because we love one another.

There’s a growing concern that the church needs to do a better job than we’ve been doing, or we’ll lose the next generation. The good news is that this has been the concern of every generation, yet the church continues to live and thrive.

The bad news is we will lose this generation and the next one (at least) unless we do one thingStop competing with Hollywood (and with other churches) and start doing the Jesus stuff better.


What If…

What if, instead of obsessing over a better Sunday morning show, we got the “love one another” parts right?

What if we decided we were going to

  • love God
  • love others
  • teach the Word
  • live our convictions

and do that really well.

Has the world ever seen a truly united church, loving God, loving each other and loving our community?

What if they did?

We’d truly have no competition.


So what do you think? Have we had our priorities where they should be? Or have we been emphasizing the wrong things, sometimes?

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  1. A great article that addresses the sophisticated church culture I call Worship in America. The following is a response I wrote to disruptions in church this past week . I think it also fits here as well.
    I grew up in a 3rd world country where family and extended family were not only highly valued but vital. We didn’t have cry rooms and nurseries, and children’s church. A pastor might stop in his sermon and suggest someone provide a breast for the crying baby. Other than that brief distraction, people stayed focused on the worship service. I’m not suggesting we adapt all the aspects of a third world worship culture. I do, however, suggest a central reason churches struggle, and our children grow up and leave the church, is because our worship culture is focused on performance instead of nurturing. I contend a high percentage of people attending the sophisticated worship events today desperately need to be loved and valued but leave church every Sunday with their need unmet by the “worship performance. It is my observation that many church services in America today are often so scripted and power point oriented, the Holy Spirit can’t get a word in edge wise!
    Maybe because I grew up third world I’m comfortable with interruptions in the flow of worship service events. In our church we’ve done away with power point almost completely. We allow plenty of time for the people to share, talk, testify, break out in spontaneous singing, pray for one another, and be family. If a baby cries, or there is some other interruption in the flow of events, that’s OK we’re family. If I have to shorten the sermon, I can, and that’s OK too.
    People in our church are intentionally loved, valued, and cared about. They go out each week to love, value and care about the people in their world. We stay connected to each other all week encouraging, empowering, and enabling one another to be the hands and feet of Jesus. New people come to our church not for the performance but because they know they will be loved, valued, and cared about… and their crying baby isn’t going to disrupt the worship either.

    The most effective ministries in our church spring not from sophisticated planning and programming but from plain old fashion “lovin’” That one ingredient gives shape and validity to everything else our church does from sermons to nursery; Sunday School to Elders agenda. It’s growing a church that even includes some people who may never physically walk through our doors on Sunday morning, but because they were intentionally loved and valued they found a life changing relationship with Jesus.

  2. We left a mega church for several reasons. The plays were Broadway worthy and one twerk close to blasphemous. Sunday was like attending a muscical-overly long , too loud and monotonous. The meat was skimpy as the Bible scriptures were few and cut off mid passage.The meet and greet after the announcements were mechanical. This church had all the belos and whistles-a huge sprawling campus with a Starbucks cafe in the center-hip people well coifed and coutured busily rolling by. A charismatic pastor with body guards would appear live and address an additional 5 or 6 campuses on a big screen. Walking out, I felt sad and really empty. Too much Hollywood not enough Gospel!

    • Hi, Mimi. Unfortunately, big churches aren’t the only ones susceptible to the lure of style over substance. The bigger ones just do it better. I want to see and support churches of substance, no matter how big or small they are. I hope you’ve found a church where you can grow, share your gifts and be a blessing to others.

  3. Pastor Karl, I have been thinking over these same things recently. A lot actually. I was trying to find the passage where it says “my house should be called a house of great production.” Couldn’t find it anywhere. From what I gather, prior to his leaving his church Rob Bell had a very basic approach to church. Keep it simple and lets wrestle with the word together and then share that with others!!