If you’re still wondering whether Muslims outnumber Christians in this country yet, you may be seriously out of touch. Entertainment has eclipsed us all as the most popular religion in the USA. If it has never dawned on you that TV is the chief prophet for the most recent religious revival in the 50 States, think again.
Talent contests like The Voice or America’s Got Talent now emphasize “the story” as much as the talent of the young people on stage. If you have struggled against all odds on the wrong side of the tracks in Detroit; or if you have battled against an abusive father or same-sex discrimination as a teen, Hollywood can save you. I’m serious: every show now features tearful video testimonies to the power of show biz to change damaged lives. And you don’t even have to pray for anybody: just vote as many times as possible.
There are reality shows like Home Free which give away dream homes to Americans with tragic life stories. If destiny has dealt you a losing hand, reality TV shows have the cash and the star power to reshuffle the deck. Each week, tearful winners testify to the power of the American Entertainment Industry. Amen and amen!
Spiritual truths once taught in Sunday Schools and Bible Studies are now conveyed through 60″ HDTV screens or laptops with wireless speakers. No, it’s not those old school lessons about faith in God; sacrifice for others; honesty; or humility. The values and virtues of the 21 Century are Tolerance, Diversity, Recycling, Kindness to Animals, and being Yourself. We have repented of the New Testament in favor of the Now Testament. And this is the Good News: you’re fine just the way you are as long as you have the faith to express yourself.
No wonder interest in churches has faded in every corner of the country. The local church finally has the big screens, but we can’t compete with the big money and the big names! It’s too bad we ever tried, isn’t it?
Somewhere in our journey to Relevance, too many of our churches gave up on the supernatural! Our number is Legion. We let go our ambition for the dramatic life change that always follows the Gospel of Christ. We began to settle for the low hanging fruit: things like counseling, weight loss, support groups, and spending all our energy on interventions to end human trafficking or advance racial equality. No doubt those causes are good, and they make us feel warm and significant somewhere inside. But they’re not the best. They are not the Main Event.
I suspect we began to lose the next generation when we accidentally packed away the Gospel along with all those 16 mm movie projectors and audio cassette players. It seemed edgier, more current, to engage the culture than just save souls. We embraced the rush of feeling empowered, instead of praying and waiting for the power of being saved. We surrendered the high ground of Hope, and went charging down hill to meet the rock bands and movie crews in the valley of Hype. The rest is history.
When the Church competes with Show Biz, their beauty and their bling and their buzz will overpower our 2nd-rate special effects every time. What Hollywood cannot compete with is the undiluted, outgunned, unafraid-to-seem-irrelevant Gospel of Jesus Christ. And for a long, long time, they haven’t had to.
I’m praying for a Great Awakening to sweep across Jesus Churches of all shapes and sizes all across the Land. I hope you will join me in praying for a powerful movement of the Spirit of God among his people; a call to share the truths of Christ even when they seem untimely- as they often have throughout history. Pray for a mighty army of newly awakened men, women and young people determined to stop Dancing with the Stars and start following Jesus with a cross once again. It’s surely late, but it’s not too late.
Lift up the Cross!