Friday, May 28, 2010

The Ministry of Hype

Here's another controversial topic.  In the nineties, while working for a corporate/commercial video production company, I ran the show for the big sales convention for a client.  The president, in one meeting months before, told me I was "in charge of hype."

What this meant was that I worked with the set designer to get the stage all ready, hired the lighting company to have some really cool, hot, moving lights, smoke, loud music, videos.  When properly arranged for the three day convention, I could get the sales people to yell, cry, get chill bumps, and then come back to do it all again the next night.  I was very good at it.

So do I take this skill to the church?  A few years later, I was actually wrestling with that idea-- I mean, why not, I'm good at it?  Then I visited a mega church and saw them do it.  Exactly what I could do.  And something troubled me inside.  On one hand, I could say God created light and sound and all those things.  But on the other hand, it smelled like manipulation of emotions.

What exactly does that mean?  Well first lets define "manipulation."  I describe it as the coercing someone to do something they hadn't intended on doing.  In some regards, the people coming to the church want the show-- they want to be emotional lifted up, then down, then up.  It's an emotional ride-- church as an amusement park.  I just don't think that's what God intended and certainly not what Jesus intended for His bride.

Then I think about the opposite-- so are we to kill all emotion?  Be the "Spock" church?  No, that's not right either.  So I do think it boils down to intent.  In other words, let's say I'm a pastor.  And I want numbers.  I want to be successful and build a huge church... a mega church.  I want to be the man.  The rock star of the steeple.  In that case, there's a lot of things I can do to manipulate emotions, especially for the sheeple (or is it "sheople?) who come wanting it.

Now sure, I don't' come right out and say all this.  No, I make it sound noble with things like "I have compassion for the lost," or "I'm reaching this generation."  Man, I'm spiritual.  So hopefully you're getting the sarcasm.  Does this mean thou shalt have no light-show with morning worship?  You know, if it's for truly His purpose.  But if it's to build my kingdom, clearly no.

Emotions, I'm told by my mentor, are "children of thoughts."  I'm still chewing on that.  Like children, emotions need boundaries and protection.  And there are weak minded sheeple out there and understanding the right Jedi mind tricks, I could manipulate a few of them pretty easily.  And if I can, then I know a lot others not only can, but do.

The opening music video of "The Imposter" called "Believe (is an Act)" is all about this.  Also, everyone's been sharing the link to the Sunday Morning spoof video which is awesome.  I just wonder about all of us who laugh at that video and then participate in what that is spoofing.  Kind of sad.  Pathetic really.

For those who think I'm off base, I encourage you to read John chapter 6.  Jesus did not have a disciple in charge of hype or publicity.  If He had, that disciple would have quit right then.  There was so much more that Jesus could have done to manipulate the crowd.  To bring in the numbers.  I mean, that's the point right? 

If Jesus was so concerned with numbers, why did He choose that moment to preach his most controversial sermon?  He had them ready to make Him king!  Bad move Jesus.

As I studied God's Number Philosophy throughout scripture, I found it's really more of an anti-number philosophy.  Or if you have to have a number, they're small.  Like One.  The shepherd who left the larger number (99) to find the One.  Or Three-- His inner circle.  Or twelve-- the number Jesus, the Son of God felt was appropriate for His purpose.  (Why does a mega church need 40 pastors on staff??  Just who is the senior pastor discipling?)

To the pastor dedicated to success by numbers, I remind that Jesus called us not to reach one million for Christ.  But to go and *make* disciples.  He took on twelve and He was God.

I'm just saying.  I'll quit now.


  1. Just a quick note to say I enjoy the way you write and aren't afraid to put controversial stuff out there for us to chew on. Keep it up!

  2. Great stuff. I think it's interesting that Jesus told us to go make disciples of all nations, but we don't do that at all. We have huge numbers of people "consuming" our rock and roll laser shows (with great coffee and donuts), but no real discipleship. Discipleship is hard. Creating a great experience so people can pat themselves on the back is a lot easier.

  3. I heard today, stats not substantiated, that an SBC poll of sermons showed that 95% of them are evangelical... pitches to get people to convert or recommit... 5% for growth. Wow, so much for discipleship.