A week or so ago, I received an email from the Editor-in-Chief of an Internet sports site to which I contribute. It was addressed to all of the Featured Columnists. He admonished us to think more about packaging and less about content when we put together our articles. He talked about using multimedia presentations, slide shows, and other creative means of packaging our work to increase interest and drive traffic.
This editor talked about how the days of just writing a great article and letting it stand on its own merits are forever gone. He held up the newspaper industry as proof positive that the game has changed. Across the country, once-mighty traditional newspapers are dead, dying, or reinventing themselves to survive.
It all made sense.
It also struck a rather sad chord somewhere in me. I know I have heard all of this before…not in another secular industry, but in a sacred one. Have ministers not been told for a decade or so that the packaging has become paramount? Sure, we give lip service to the message, but you can tell that too many believe that if they have enough sizzle and pop in their presentation, the message could be in Na’vi (no, I haven’t seen Avatar, but I don’t live under a rock, either) and the congregation— I know that is an old-fashioned term: let’s call them the consumers— will eat it up, dance in the aisle, tell all their friends, and, perhaps most importantly, drop their wallets in the plate.
Whether you are writing a sports article or delivering the gospel, the prevailing message is that you have to keep up with the Camerons (as in James Cameron, Hollywood innovator) in order to be relevant. Maybe it is true. Maybe the package is more important than the Gift.
Or maybe we have turned church into some high-tech infotainment nonsense that feeds our egos and arouses our senses, and then confused that with worship. Maybe we think that providing entertainment that is arousing enough to pull this generation from their iPads and HDTVs just one time per week (though they may Tweet a “totally awesome” point you make while you are talking) is the essence of the Great Commission.
Look, before you pop a hernia or froth too much at the mouth, I am not saying we should not use available technology in presenting the Gospel. I am not saying that churches that are “cutting edge” are dens of iniquity. I am not even saying that I do not appreciate a multimedia presentation of the gospel.
I am saying this: if you spend most of your time consumed with the packaging, the presentation, until the message is more of an afterthought than you will ever admit, you have missed the mark and the meaning of ministry. Moreover, simply arousing the senses is not worship.
At least, Abraham didn’t seem to think so when he grabbed Isaac’s hand and his trusty knife and said, “The child and I are going up that mountain to worship.”
Go ahead and write me off as the Crusty Crab if you want to, Spongebob, but deep down in that dried out inside where you once soaked up Jesus until he oozed out your pores, you know I am right.
Who am I to talk? Forget I mentioned it.
God bless your Sunday.