Clergymen are always looking for effective ways to get people to come to church and particularly like to target those who are outside the fold of God. In years gone by churches had visitation/outreach efforts whereby they urged members to go out into the highways and hedges and compeled the unchurched to come to Sunday School and worship.
In succeeding years, churches tried Sunday School campaigns, high attendance days, “don’t break the chain” challenges, and presentations by special guests to attract a crowd. I have even known church staff members who dared to swallow a goldfish if the church Sunday School reached its high attendance goals.
Today, churches attract and greet guests with free Starbucks coffee, pastries, seeker friendly worship services featuring dramas and videos, and great pre-school attractions for children.
Over the course of my pastoral ministry I suppose I have used most of the above measures to get people to church and hear the preaching of the Gospel. However, according to the United Kingdom’s Premier Christian Radio, Derby Cathedral, an Anglican church in England has decided to draw a crowd by showing a film that reveals full female nudity, human sacrifice, and graphic sex.
According to the Anglican Mainstream website, the Cathedral is pressing ahead with its plan to show the films amidst opposition from some church leaders. The dean of Darby, Dr. Stephen Hance, explained, “We plan to show two, not for the faint-hearted, horror films and Monty Python’s Life of Brian on a large inflatable screen.”
The two horror films are The Wicker Man and Don’t Look Now. However, the review in Python’s film states: “Parents need to know that this movie, like other Monty Python films, pokes fun at religion, death, politics, and ancient history. Although the film is not about Jesus, it does jokingly convey the life of Jesus’ contemporary, a man named Brian.”
The review continues to explain that the film lampoons religion and that there are scenes of full-frontal nudity (male and female), but that it is meant to be humorous rather than sexual.
The dean of the Cathedral excused the showing of the films by saying, “We won’t be showing God anything that He hasn’t seen before.”
Not everyone agreed with the dean’s assessment of the decision todshow the films. World Daily News reported, “Another leader, Kristin Simmons, argued that the cathedral is primarily a place of worship. One film depicts the human sacrifice of a Christian man who recites Psalm 23 and curses people upon his death, and in the other, the protagonist is employed to restore a church building; it involves seances and communication with the dead and a very explicit sex scene.”
Then the dean explained why they were showing the films: “We are looking forward to welcoming all those who want to enjoy these diverse special screenings and my hope is that it will encourage the people of Derby and Derbyshire to discover their cathedral.”
The truth is that what it takes to get folks to church is what it takes to keep them in church. Logic would tell us that if you get folks to church with entertainment and keep them with entertainment then you will only convert people to become aficionados of entertainment – certainly not disciples of Christ.
Karl Vaters, writing for Christianity Today, explains, “When we reduce the gathering of God’s people to an entertainment venue, we don’t enhance it, we diminish it. Diminish. That is such a benign word for the damage we do to the Gospel when we use it as a tool to put on a better show.”
The only thing worse than getting people to church with unrealistic screenplays void of any significant truth is boring people with the absolute truth of the Gospel.
We are stewards of the greatest story ever told – the story of a man who was really God, who left the ivory palaces of heaven, came into this world as a baby, lived his entire life on this planet without ever having an impure thought and never saying a word that He should not have said. He never failed to do something that He should have done and never did anything He should not have done. He performed miracles including walking on water, feeding thousands of people with what was no larger than a Happy Meal, healed the sick and raised the dead, and demonstrated an unconditional love by dying an excruciating death to become the ransomed price to pay for our sins, rose from the dead, and is coming back for us.
There is no Oscar-winning film, no Super Bowl victory, no World Series championship, no Disney World vacation, no cruise to the beautiful islands of the South Pacific that could compare with the blessings and benefits of God’s message of redemption and gift of salvation, because God’s goal for us is not happiness, but holiness – not entertainment, but eternal life.