Wednesday, December 14, 2005

the unusual, unbelievable, & unconscionable attributed to Christianity

Before I begin with this post, I want to personally thank Stephen Hesselman for his very kind caricature that he did of me (now featured as part of the permanent graphics at COT). I am extremely honored to be a part of his "hall of fame" drawings. I told him that there was only one problem with this, it looks much better than I do in real life. :-). Thanks Stephen for blessing this ministry not only with your talent, but with your theological insights as well. You will be seeing more of his excellent work here in the future.

-Mega-churches Cancel Christmas Morning Services:
You’ve heard about this already—several well known Mega churches (Willow Creek—Chicago area, Mars Hill Bible Church—Grand Rapids area, Fellowship Church—Dallas area, Southland Christian Center—Louisville area, etc.) are canceling their Christmas Sunday Services to allow some quality family time around the tree.

"At first glance it does sound contrarian," Willow Creek senior pastor Gene Appel told the Tribune. "We don't see it as not having church on Christmas. We see it as decentralizing the church on Christmas—hundreds of thousands of experiences going on around Christmas trees. The best way to honor the birth of Jesus is for families to have a more personal experience on that day."


But, as Ted Olson of CT points out, “if that holds true for Christmas, doesn't it hold true for every other Sunday? Why not decentralize the church every week by telling families ‘to have a more personal experience on that day’”? I fully agree with Ted's keen insight here. In reality what they are doing is not canceling Sunday Christmas services, but they are actually canceling The Lord’s Day. I’m telling you folks; this is a prime example that their arrogance knows no boundaries. Family trumps worship in their foolish, faddish, fabricated, fallacious, fatiferous, façade of fanciful, factious, and falchion brand of faith. (Sorry, my “inner-blog” needed to vent and feels much better now).

People have been in an uproar about this… but I want to encourage you with a slightly different take on this unfortunate happening.

I think this is great; a step in the right direction—answered prayer possibly. Have you noticed something of a common denominator here? The churches canceling their morning services are seeker-sensitive or emergent in nature. So be of good cheer! At least one Sunday out of the year, we should be grateful that those churches won’t be spreading their usual dumbed-down, self-focused, trying to be culturally relevant, non-biblical, skewed theology to their attendees. This is a blessing in disguise, trust me. Now, if we could only just find another 51 reasons for canceling their services… it could really have a positive spiritual impact on our nation and evangelicalism-at-large. Until then, thank the Lord for this small, but early Christmas gift in the form of an ecclesiastical stocking stuffer, if you please.

Sermo-mercials… in the Land of Narnia, Anything is Possible
Walt Disney Pictures in marketing to churches with the hopes of turning out sustained comers for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, that it's offering a free trip to London - and $1,000 cash - to the winner of its big promotional sermon contest. I’m not joking—.

The only catch is that the sermons must mention Narnia, based on the hugely popular children's books about four British children who walk through an uncle's magic armoire into an enchanted kingdom. (Don't emphasize God’s Word, but you must mention Narnia. Maybe someone from the "Boars Head Tavern" will enter?).

"Sermo-mercials" is what the promoters hired by Disney and its production partner, Walden Media, are using to peddle LWW . (I saw the movie; I liked it; but please…) Disney knows they have an blockbuster on their hands that works both as religious fairy-tale/analogy and secular fantasy. Can Narnia appeal to both groups? Disney hopes that the box-office receipts will be the winning combination of The Lord of the Rings with The Passion of the Christ.

“Tacky or not” as one journalist noted, “this is Disney's goal to create that kind of buzz among Christians - especially evangelicals - that made Mel Gibson's Passion such a box-office smash in 2004, with more than $600 million in worldwide ticket sales.” "Invite your community to explore the inspirational truths found in Narnia" reads a promotional magazine sent recently to tens of thousands of Christian congregations.

It gets worse: Disney is also encouraging churches “to paint lion faces on their preschoolers; show preview trailers to their congregations; discuss Narnia in Sunday school, and develop Narnia-themed Christmas pageants.”

If Lewis were alive today, even he would acknowledge that this is not "Mere Christianity."


Kirk said...

The church I attend is also closing its doors on Christmas Sunday. I guess not even one of the many pastors can go out of their way to lead a time of singing for an hour. I don't see Sunday worship as interferring with my Christmas time, let's face it, it's only an hour or so out of your day. What would those Christians who are being persecuted in other parts of the world think? I'm guessing those who give their very lives for the Gospel are not afraid of attending a Sunday Christmas service. It's shameful that American Christians are too busy for church.
As for me and my family, we will be attending a different church that Sunday, a church where they don't feel put out for worshipping on the Lord's Day, and I guess the other church leaders can just stay home and open presents.

Breuss Wane said...

Although.... Willow Creek is apparently caving to the criticism. Rather than open their doors for Christmas Day (which they haven't done for 25 years), they will hold a combined service with another mega-church:

Denise said...

Maybe I'll also stay home from church for Kwanza, the Super Bowl, and Martin Luther King Day. I want to have authentic experiences...I guess I don't get them at church anway.


Shawn L said...

I was heavily involved in a seeker-driven church 5 years ago. I was involved for about 8 years with them. Leaving the church helped me more than I can imagine.

God through the Bible and Steve Camp and John MacArthur and John Piper really awakened me to the gospel and the importance of being God-sensitive and God-driven and God-glorifying.

Keep praying for those friends of yours in seeker-driven and seeker-sensitive churches. Don't be weary in doing good and sharing the gospel faithfully! God is greatly to be praised!

Jeremy Weaver said...

Good stuff there, Campi.

pilgrim said...

My church is still meeting on Christmas--but with a sister church--they have their own building, and our rented space will not be available on CHristmas Day.

But some churches have no excuse.
WHen I first heard this, I thought-"No Christmas service?" that's okay--that's their choice--except this happens to be a Lord's Day.

littlegal_66 said...
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littlegal_66 said...

Regarding the promoting of Narnia to the Christian segment of the movie-viewing public:
Let's not forget the October marketing ploy made by Disney, involving some members of the CCM industry. As most of you are probably aware, EMI released the musical project, "Music Inspired by the Chronicles of Narnia" back in October, and featured original compositions (inspired by the book) by Jars of Clay, SCC, Jeremy Camp, and Rebecca St. James.

So, was the CD produced and released to help stir up advanced support for the film within the Christian community? (Oh, Billy Ray, Billy Ray......)

**Actually, for Bill Hearn's (now, that's Bill Hearn, Jr.'s) part, he said he pushed to release the album early to capitalize on the companies' summer marketing efforts, which included playing the "Narnia" movie trailer at Christian music festivals and performances by artists on the album at September's "Night of Joy," (the Christian music event that is presented yearly at the Walt Disney resort in Florida).**
(From the Oct. 11, 2005 New York Times article, "Marketing of 'Narnia' Presents Challenge," by Jeff Leeds).

(For more on the CD, check out what the artists had to say about the album and their contributions to it).

OPeb3 said...

In the last few churches I have been organist at, when Christmas Eve falls on a Saturday, we have the two services (530 & 1100), and then a "quiet" communion at 10:00 on Christmas morning. Likewise when Christmas Eve is on a Sunday; there is a quiet Communion Service at 10:00, and the big services in the evening. To me, having the evening worship tied with the Celebration of Our Lord's birth makes it even more special.

Tim said...

Well Steve,

You hit the nail on the head, before you even really began the article: "They want to have a little quality family time around the tree." Maybe they haven't read that passage about not learning the ways of the Gentiles:)

donsands said...

Personally I love to gather with God's children on Sunday and worship our Lord. It's a special time, that's for sure. In another sense I deem every day of the week the same. Some of ny fellow believers are convinced that we MUST worship the Lord on Sunday. And that's alright. Some are convinced we Must meet on Sunday nughts. Some see that we need to meet during the middle of the week. And these convictions come in all shapes and sizes. I was in an extreme holiness church for a year, where you were condemned if you were not in church on these days, an worse, you were commended over the slackers if you weren't, and that felt so good.
I have seen so much in the world wide church of the Savior to see that we need to lighten up alittle over how we differ on particular days of the week. Romans 14.
If anyone would want to share what he or she thinks the Apostle Paul is instructing here, I would be interested, and perhaps enlightened.
I love the Lord, and I love to worship our Father in Spirit and in truth. And that is everywhere, at anytime. Whether I'm gathered with His people, or alone, or even living under extreme persecution, like so many of our brothers and sisters across this globe.
(Romans 14: 13 & 19)

John Rush said...

I guess I'm a bad pastor.

We decided to have services Christmas evening rather than the morning--so families could spend the mornings together.

We plan a communion service in the evening to worship Christ. Woops.
Thought the Bible said something about how we consider days (in Colossians and Romans 14)something like "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind" or some such Biblical thing that affords Christians freedom in matters of the conscience.


Shofarguy said...

I guess the "C and E Christians" will just have to be "E Christians" this year! But what if Easter falls on a Sunday... Wait...Easter IS a Sunday...uh-oh!

I was Roman Catholic for 35 years. Those churches will be packed Sunday morning. (unfortunately for the wrong reasons)

I appreciate your comments that this is a quick test of a church's values.

iamchief said...
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iamchief said...

Thanks for this blog, Steve. I appreciate your ministry. We've met before at BCLR & at a youth retreat you did with Lance Quinn & Tim Senn several years ago.

A co-worker, who's a dear reformed brother, recently sent me an email about this exact subject. I responded to him and blogged our short conversation here:

Cancel Church, It's Christmas!!

Eric said...

I am a pastor in a small rural church. We held our service Sunday morning on Christmas Day, and it was incredible. There were far more people there than I expected there to be, and most important, the LORD met us that morning.

I am saddened that brothers and sisters in Christ were given the message that Christmas presents hold more joy than being in the Lord's presence. And I am saddened that fellow pastors gave up the opportunity to worship the LORD.

As a pastor, the greatest gift I received this Christmas was to stand in the pulpit Sunday Morning, the Day we celebrate Jesus' birth, and to declare Him as Lord and Savior! If the Lord ever blesses me with another such Christmas, I will be greatly humbled.

pregador27 said...

I think I will write an email to some of these churches commending them for making Christmas a family thing. And suggest Easter as well. Then we will only have 50 weeks to get creative about.