03 February 2012

The Gospel as Performance Art

by Phil Johnson

f you subscribe to my Twitter feed, you already know that I flew back from Ukraine yesterday. It's great to be home, of course, but it was a remarkable privilege to teach pastors and seminarians at Irpin Biblical Seminary. It was an even greater thrill to spend a day with the saints in Grace Bible Church, Kiev. Last Sunday was one of the truly great and joyous highlights of my life—rich worship followed by a full afternoon of fellowship with the people of that church. It's a day I will never forget. The only thing that would have made it better would have been if Darlene could be there.

Anyway, this past week I've been thinking a lot about my first visit to Kiev, with John MacArthur, more than 20 years ago. I remember those days clearly. It was late September and early October 1991, exactly 50 years after the Nazis slaughtered 33,771 Jews at a Kiev ravine called Babi Yarand less than two months after the collapse of the Soviet Union. People were hungry—starved—for the gospel.

Since then I have been to some 35 countries on five continents, and I've never seen any culture more eager to listen to the gospel than Ukraine (and the rest of the former Soviet Union) in 1991. The churches I visited were all crowded. A steady stream of recent converts gave their testimonies in every service I attended. Each new believer was brought to the front of the church and encouraged to "repent." And they did—confessing their sins with heartfelt remorse, and verbally professing their newfound faith in Christ with overflowing joy and enthusiasm. It was amazing and uplifting and deeply convicting to someone like me, who had become somewhat sluggish spiritually with the comforts and refinements (and superficiality) of Western evangelicalism.

Anyway, one of my most vivid memories of Kiev in 1991 was a day we were walking across a public square in downtown Kiev with a bundle of Russian gospel tracts and Scripture booklets. Ukrainian people crowded around us, clamoring to get one. I was caught quite off guard by the suddenness and enthusiasm of people's response. The moment was unforgettable.

But we weren't the only Western Christians in the square that day. There was a group of "gospel clowns" and mimes from some American church, and we inadvertently interrupted their performance, because even the people who had been watching them suddenly ran over to get gospel literature from us as we approached the center of the square. One of the mimes glared at me. And then, breaking character, he said something to me in English. He wanted us to move on so that they could get on with the task of pantomiming the gospel.

To this day it amazes and appalls me that anyone confronted with the openness of Eastern Europeans in the wake of the Soviet collapse would think wordless "performance art" is a better medium for declaring the gospel than straightforward preaching, simple one-on-one witnessing, and plain-language gospel literature. It's like anti-contextualization—culturally insensitive, incomprehensible to the target culture, and tainted with the scent of spiritual jingoism—but I'm certain those mimes believed their method was the very epitome of innovative "relevance."

And it occurs to me: That reflects precisely how multitudes of American evangelicals still think. They are more enthralled with their clever methodologies and ingenious "contextualizations" than they are with the gospel itself. Honestly, they seem at times to love their own flamboyance far more than they care about lost souls.

At least Rob Bell was honest about what he was trying to do. He openly called himself a "performance artist." But let's face it: the typical Noble/Furtick/EdYoungJr-style shtick is nothing more than bad performance art, too. The recent Code Orange Revival was promoted by garish floor gymnastics that looked like a poor imitation of something from Cirque du Soleil. Virtually all Mark Driscoll's major gaffes are products of a mind that has been overexposed to movies, rock concerts, cage fighting, Chris Rock, and whatnot. Even the Elephant Room, heavily promoted as a rare moment of candor and tough questions, turned out to be carefully scripted and strictly controlled so that no opinions were harmed during its filming.

A lot of what's called ministry these days is mere spectacle. Authentic apostolic-style gospel ministry is nothing like performance art.

When evangelical megachurches gave up the pulpit for a stage; traded psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs for AC/DC tracks; hired vaudevillians instead of pastors; and turned away their ears from the truth to follow fables, they chose a path of apostasy.

The only way back starts with repentance.

Phil's signature


Rob Willmann said...

Praise the Lord for your candor.

And you are dead on accurate with your Elephant Room description. So relevant that even the hipsters are calling it twaddle.

I did some missions work in Wales, and while there, I noticed that the culture there had been so Godless for so long that when we preached the Gospel, it too seemed likee a breath of fresh air.

Your comment of mimes reminds me of the 'clown communion' video that floated through the blogosphere a couple years ago where some church tried to be relevant by having ministers and deacons ministering the Lord's Supper dressed in clown attire.

What an affront to God and his spotless bride.
Glad you made it back, Phil.

Unknown said...

Thank you Phil for hitting the nail on the head. We need to return to gospel and true repentance.

Anonymous said...

"Vaudevillians instead of pastors." And, there lies the heart of the matter.

The Bible Christian said...

Excellent Phil,

Thank you (Dan and Frank also) for your discernment and your continual defense of "the faith" doing it without ruining your testimony and for His glory!

Jerry Wragg said...

Another "smart bomb," Phil! And what astounds me is that these ministry madcaps don't seem the least bit concerned that they might kindle a profession of "faith" that rests "on the wisdom of men." What Paul saw as the gravest of dangers---pandering to someone's particular vanity---is vigorously defended today as essential to any effective ministry. What they egregiously overlook, however, is that a profession of faith rooted in self-fulfillment is no true faith at all.
The thought of someone being strongly persuaded to follow Jesus without actually being broken over sin, repenting, believing, and pursuing holiness was anathema to Paul! In today's "church-de-solei," the very opposite is outreach 101. Deplorable!

Steve Talas said...

For a man with apparent jet lag you sure hit that nail bang on the head!

Robert Warren said...

It's Beat Poetry without the poetry.

Robert said...

Why does anybody think that we actually need any more entertainment? Where does the Bible talk about that? I certainly don't recall reading about Peter, Paul, John, or Jesus going out and trying to entertain anybody to get them to listen. They spoke to the actual needs of the people and didn't bother with any of that mess.

Why aren't people trying to follow their example instead of trying to act like they have something better? Seriously? Mark Driscoll, Steven Furtick, James MacDonald, Perry Noble, Ed Young, Jr., etc. think that they have a better method than Jesus and the apostles for evangelizing to the lost and edifying the church? Of course, if you tell them that, you're just a hater or legalist.

Thom C said...

Amen! What more is there to say?

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Excellent, excellent, excellent!!!

Glad you made it home safe!

Kerry James Allen said...

Thanks Phil. "Some preachers evidently do not believe that the Lord is with their gospel, because, in order to attract and save sinners, their gospel is insufficient, and they have to add to it inventions of men." CHS

Tom Chantry said...

Somehow I knew before the day was out Mr. Spurgeon was going to have something to say about this.

John Dunn said...

Geez Phil, tell us what you really think and quit hiding behind the TGC stage curtain!

This is spot on. Woe to those hirelings who peddle the Gospel for popularity, cheap thrills, and money.

Pam said...

For a minute there I thought I was reading blessed C.H.Spurgeon, too, Tom.
I knew things were getting so out of hand when my dear and saintly, elderly mother a few years ago said that she didn't want to go to church any more because it had all become "a show" and "I never know if I am going to church or a bar." When the elder folks expressed their concerns they were told that they did not care about "lost souls" and if they did not like it they could leave. Now, THAT is Biblical thinking, eh? Thank you, Phil for speaking up for my elderly loved ones and the LOST souls who need to hear the Gospel.

Solameanie said...

Nothing to say after reading that but a quiet, humble "amen." Having been to Russia and the CIS myself, I've seen exactly what you've seen in the response to the Gospel. I sat in a pastors' conference in the late 1990s when John MacArthur was teaching pastors in Moscow. The eagerness of the packed room to hear and learn God's Word was incalculable.

Then to have this hunger cheapened by nonsense is infuriating.

donsands said...

The encouraging thing is that God does really save souls, and brings them to repentance and grants a sinner forgiveness. America-gospels are that God adores you, and mo matter what, just come and join us.

Real quick, I just left Rite-Aid, where I bought some Keebler Cookies, and a man shared his religion with me as I stepped through the front door. He was a JW. And so we had 20 minutes of discussion.

I told him I worshipped Jesus Christ and the Father, and then asked him: "Well, then what is Jesus, if he isn't God?"
He said, "God created him. He is actually an angel."
I said, "An angel? How can an angel save human sinners from our sin? I don't want to be saved and forgiven by an angel, which is a servant of the Lord, and actually someone who serves me."

The man said: "Hmmm. You have given me something to think about."
Of course i went to John 1:1, and shared how "the Word was God". And he insisted the Word was [a] god.

Thanks Phil for this most excellent post. It's encouraging. And yet it is also heavy on the heart.
When will our Church in America turn back to the greatness of the Gospel, the truth of Christ crucified for our filth; for our unworthiness He was made a curse, and makes us worthy.

Have a terrific weekend, and Lord's Day. (John 1:1,14)

Nash Equilibrium said...

The product of a mind that is overexposed to movies, rock concerts, and cage fighting? I love that! Man does that hit the nail on the head on our degenerate and indulged culture! Great essay!

Nash Equilibrium said...

PS: The whole mime story reminds me of finding a starving man, and then feeding him cotton candy instead of real food. Sickening!

Gabby said...

Praise God and thank the Lord for men who tell the truth and preach the word. You guys have helped lift the depression that settled in my soul these past 2 weeks by simply being honest, telling the truth, and staying faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ. I thank God for you all.

Anonymous said...

I would take Phil's proposition a step further. Instead of returning to the 'pulpit' -- which often includes a certain amount of one-man-centered theatrics in itself, and has led to more theatrics by others in the limelight -- I believe we need to return to the Lord's table as the centerpiece of our fellowship.

Breaking bread together is the reason given in the NT for why the church met (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:33). In this Christ-centered context of New Covenant renewal and fellowship, Christ was proclaimed (1 Cor. 11:26; Acts 20:7-12) and prayers of praise and thanksgiving were offered to God, and the Lord added more people to His church (Acts 2:46-47).

Just as the church is not a building, neither is it the pulpit. It is the "laos" (people) and "kleros" (inheritance) of God, gathered as Christ's "ekklesia" (summoned assembly) for edification through mutual ministry by every member of the body (Eph. 4:11-16; Heb. 10:24-25). Edification includes teachers and preachers, but it should not be limited to them when the church is gathered.

More thoughts here:

Citation Squirrel said...

I am currently re-listening to a sermon series by the late Major Ian Thomas on Elijah. He describes the great show down on Mt. Carmel in 1 Kings 18. Elijah tells the crowd “if the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” The crowds response was less than enthusiastic. “The people said nothing.” They had to make a moral decision and they weren’t thrilled about having to do that. Then Elijah goes on to describe the contest: two bulls, two alters, you pray to Baal, I pray to the Lord, and the one that answers with fire “he is God.” The response of the crowd: wildly enthusiastic. They were excited. They were going to get a show.

A moral decision: no. Entertainment: yes. It sounds like what goes on today.

Tom Chantry said...

When I read this this morning I couldn't help but think about what it would be to have Michael Scott for your pastor. The boss on "The Office" tried to be a stand-up comedian, a hip-hop artist, an awards show emcee, and on and on it went. Of course, he wasn't particularly good at any of these things, but even that wasn't the point. The sheer impropriety of it all was staggering. The office needed a boss - someone with sufficient gravity to lead, and instead they had something worse than a clown: they had a wanna-be clown that wasn't all that funny. Stunningly uncomfortable moments ensued.

And yet, this is precisely the model for many evangelical pastors. They imagine themselves to be entertainers: and the consequences are disastrous. For one thing, they usually aren't quite as funny or entertaining as they imagine. For another, they entirely lack the sobriety and self-control which the Apostle said is a requirement for office. The resulting shenanigans are worse than uncomfortable - they are blasphemous.

CCinTn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

CCinTn, thank you for your comments. Perhaps I should clarify mine.

When I spoke of the Lord's table, I was not referring to iconic furniture or accessories for imagery or appearance, though architecture and furnishings certainly do reflect our values and practices as Christian congregations.

I was speaking of the church meeting to eat a meal together as the Lord's supper, along with the other practices we find in NT gatherings (apostolic teaching, fellowship, prayer).

Check out the link I provided at the bottom of my original post for more thoughts on this.

CCinTn said...

corrected earlier typos, sorry...

I would agree that the Lord’s Table should certainly be a focal point of the fellowship we have together. In many churches you would be hard-pressed to find a cross let alone a baptistry, communion table or pulpit. I guess those things do not lend themselves to the ‘presentation’ that those churches are wanting to portray.
The cross is what the Gospel is all about and when we see the cross, it tells me something. My Savior had to die on there, instead of me!
The baptistry sends an important message as well and reminds us that we are to follow the Lord’s example.
You made excellent points regarding the observing the Lord’s Table and I also believe that seeing the communion table displayed is a great reminder of those things.
The pulpit, and by that I mean something a little more substantial than a music stand, can send the important message that “here is where the Word of the Lord is proclaimed”

Are these things ‘necessary’ for a church building to have or are they called for by scripture? No, but they do provide some important imagery that sends an important message to those in the congregation, both believers and unbelievers.

Again, it comes down to what the church is wanting to ‘present’. The Gospel or something other? When the pastor says he learned how to preach by watching Chris Rock you have to wonder about the motive behind the ‘presentation’. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/september/30.44.html

Phil’s article was spectacular. Kuddos.

Kevin Zuber said...

"The only way back starts with repentance."

Someone and everyone close to Jms MacDld needs to say this clearly and often!

bidonit said...

I walk into my church and the mood candles are lit the background kind of music is being piped in to prepare me to be ready for the show. I have the same feeling as if I was going to see U2. The lost don't need to be manipulated or co-opted into our group. They need to be turned from there empty,wicked, rebellious, and exasperatingly futile life of sin towards God. How depressing that they so many times they either see just another dog and pony show or some dry dead lecture that tries to fix this life with humanistic dribble. I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation. That message is the most exciting truth they rarely hear in the vast majority of churches. We are in a battle, but one worth fighting. Love your site.

DJP said...

Yes Kevin, but if it is a dainty elitism that kept certain TGC leaders from taking the warnings (and warners) seriously, is MacDonald the only one who needs to hear that word?

CCinTn said...

I understood you Reopmo... you'll notice that I said you made some great observations about the fellowship we share around the Table but took it a step further and mentioned the visual reminder of the piece of furniture. That's what I meant by saying "I also believe that seeing..." I apologize for any confusion there, but I got your points and they were very good ones.

Jerry Wragg said...

I can't help noting that while the media-hyped, celebrity faces of American evangelicalism should finally and completely repent of this disastrous experiment in pragmatism, large masses of faithful pastors never actually bought the lie of modern contextualization. So many of us haven't compromised the Scriptures, haven't been intimidated by those who criticize our narrowness, and haven't desired the apparent success of every house of cards up the street. We've continued to preach God's word, standing on the shoulders of the ministry giants (dead and present ones) who've mentored us. What often goes unnoticed are the droves of malnourished, enervated sheep finding their way into our churches and experiencing, many for the first time, the sanctifying grace of rich doctrinal preaching. No rhetorical frills or marketing surveys, just New Testament feeding and leading! How exciting to see the Chief Shepherd slowly draw His true people away from the Big Top and into real pastures where they can find rest for their hungry souls.

Phil Johnson said...


Thanks for the reminder about Driscoll's ridiculous remarks saying he learned how to preach by watching Chris Rock. That eloquently illustrates the point I'm making. I inserted a reference to that into the blogpost above, but you get credit for bringing it up.

Robert said...


With JWs, you can just take them through all of the I AM statements and ask them how Jesus can claim to be Yahweh. That gets them past the flase translation of John 1:1 that they always throw out...somehow they forgot about all of the I AM statements.

Robert said...

Wow...if you combine Driscoll learning from Chris Rock with Tom's comments about Michael Scott (the character did an imitation of Chris Rock that wreaked havoc in the office), it all comes full circle. And once again it reminds me of Driscoll in his Mickey Mouse shirt...because it seems that is who he seeks to emulate.

Anonymous said...

Jerry Wragg at 7:46am made one of the best comments in this and every other thread about the Elephant Room disaster.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

Praise the Lord, not only do you talk it, but you also walk it, Phil. Amen to your observation. Amen to your final assessment/application.

Scot said...

"The only way back starts with repentance."

What a great signature to a great blog post.

Honestly, they seem at times to love their own flamboyance far more than they care about lost souls.

Oh boy, that's like taking dynamite to the high places. Maybe in the early days it was about souls, but now it's really is about "doing something for the Lord." You are extra spiritual and pious if you become a missionary, and you get 10 bonus points if you start your own ministry. But I've listened to some of these missionaries and even basic Christian doctrines are fuzzy in their minds. Business and "how-to" spirituality books dominate their libraries, not poetry, theology, and the writings of old saints.

Even when eternity is brought up, which is rare, it's not about the renewal of creation or the saints free to worship God as they should, it's really about how effective evangelicals were to finish the Great Commission.

Sorry for the ramblings, this topic really gets my blood boiling. Please keep these posts coming Phil, they certainly helped me see the vanity of evangelicalism, and for that I'm so very thankful.

Kerry James Allen said...

Stay true, smaller church preachers (of whom I am one). "Long ago I ceased to count heads. Truth is usually in the minority in this evil world." CHS (Apologies to Tom Chantry for quoting Spurgeon so much, it's just that he (Spurgeon, not Chantry) does it so much better than I ever can or will.)

DJP said...

Possible correction to what I've said several times: it may be Tom Chantry who first uttered the prophetic words, "Sooner or later each member of the Gospel Coalition needs to ask, what matters more: the Gospel, or the Coalition?"

Tom Chantry said...

No apology needed, Kerry. Your quotes, like Phil's "Weekly Dose," are a reminder to us all that there is nothing new under the sun. I mean, if Spurgeon addressed everything that goes on today, only did so 150 years ago, what more do we need to know?

Christ's church didn't die out from the false teachers of his day, nor will it die out today.

Anonymous said...

"So the last will be first, and the first last.” Matthew 20:16

Press on, small church pastors.

Marla said...

Glad you are back Phil. Appreciate your brevity and truth.

wv: agonsc

D. C. said...

Thank you for this word. The only time I have met you it was great to see you live out the centrality of importance of the preached word.

Terry Rayburn said...

Good stuff, Phil.

With all the talk of Spurgeon, it might be noted that he balanced the importance of the CONTENT of the message preached with "Lectures To [His] Students" which taught that boring the audience with dull speech and un-animated lack of posturing does not serve the Gospel.

Modeling Chris Rock's style is not the problem, it's modeling Chris Rock's world.

Spurgeon "rocked" in this regard. Even the profane "enjoyed" him.

If you are a Pastor or teacher, please don't bore your hearers with dullness, thinking that content alone will enrapture those who are not pre-enraptured by Christ in their [probably neglected] quiet times before your message.

You don't need to be a clown, a mime, or an audio-video Spielberg, but no need to be a standing corpse droning to sitting corpses, either.

Terry Rayburn said...

BTW, you can read Spurgeon's take on animating in Lectures 6 & 7 of Vol. 3 of Lectures To My Students found here.

James S said...

Right on, Phil.

If the gospel and the Word of God is not being preached then nothing of any substance is really happening at Furtick's, Noble's and their ilk's churches.

The Holy Spirit moves on churches when the Gospel & scripture is proclaimed (And in the correct & proper context, not half a verse out of context like the sick joke of a 'sermon' that T.D. Jakes gave at the Code Orange festival).

This is probably why they need to have loud ac/dc songs and goofy clown-like circe de soleil troups performing, to cover-up the fact that nothing is happening.

CCinTn said...

Terry Rayburn,
I'm prefacing my comments by stating that I've never been to seminary. I'm just a lay person. But I would like to gently disagree with you when you said modeling Chris Rock's style is not the problem, it's his modeling his world. I think that those who model the Chris Rock style or the style of the sawdust revivalist or any other such style is that the focus moves from God's Word to the one who is proclaiming that Word.
In other words, the idea that a minister must use theatrical antics or the pacing back and forth on the stage or walking among the audience to keep their rapt attention and to keep them engaged in the message is wrong thinking. To me, that is the point of this post. It's a man-centered methodology rather than God-centered.
Can a minister preach in a very dull way, sure. Quality of delivery can surely be taught and developed but the remedy is not to co-op vaudville tricks 'to keep 'em laughing'.
"My sheep hear my voice". The Holy Spirit is the one that makes the Word come alive. He doesn't need our help with a juggling act.
Paul said he did come with flattery of speech. He acknowledged that Apollos was a better speaker than he but he trusted in the power of God's Word. I do think that Paul would have had a problem if Apollos visted Corinth and decided to pantomime the Gospel.

Aaron Snell said...

Hey, that's fun: elgise-du-soleil

Or if you want to mix your languages but make it sound more like the original, kirk-du-soleil

Just watched the video on the link, and it certainly is an apt name.

CCinTn said...

Carson and Keller have posted their response on TGC. Not so much a response as it is a primer on the issues. Well written. Heady. Informative. In no way acknowledges or addresses whether errors were made.

Unknown said...

CCinTn said, "I'm just a lay person"

There is no such thing! You're a vital part of your church ;-)

jmb said...

And all that show-biz-like fawning over Jakes: (slight paraphrase) "You didn't have to come here and take the heat"(?) "You actually had DINNER with us last night!" You'd have thought he was Billy Graham making a surprise visit.

D. C. said...

Sorry for the multiple deletes....was trying to post a link the Time Cover that asked the question "Is this Man the next Billy Graham?" speaking of Mr Jakes. I am not savy enough on the posting yet. My apologies.

jmb said...

D.C. - Thanks. Didn't know about that.

Darlene said...

The fixation on entertainment, the sappy praise songs, the stage replacing the altar, the auditorium replacing the nave, the de-emphasis on or discarding altogether of the sacraments, the cult of personality, the wresting of Jesus Christ from the Church - these are just some of the reasons why I am not an Evangelical.

Kevin Zuber said...

Just read the Carson / Keller article on TGC site: Very thoughtful (if wordy) . . . seems they are trying to be "balanced" (never liked that concept much) . . . much good . . . but there's more they could / should say / do (notice the dualisms).

I'll read it again -- I may have missed any reference to Mark Driscoll . . .

donsands said...

"..these are just some of the reasons why I am not an Evangelical."-Darlene

What are your beliefs, if it's okay to ask?

I actually agree with your statement BTW.

Aaron said...

Driscoll modeled his speaking style after Chris Rock? I guess he included Rock's vocabulary too.

The world is so much better at being the world. The only thing the church has to offer is the gospel.

Aaron said...

@donsands: except for the altar part since Protestants shouldn't have "altars" anyways.

Moon said...

Amen Phil! thank you for sharing your experience in Kiev, it's a joy to hear how the gospel is being forwarded in those countries! :)God bless you!

Terry Rayburn said...


You shot that straw man standing next to me right in the heart!

You know, the one who says,

"...a minister must use theatrical antics or the pacing back and forth on the stage or walking among the audience to keep their rapt attention and to keep them engaged in the message..."

and that we should

"...co-op vaudville tricks 'to keep 'em laughing'."

I know you're only exaggerating and spinning, but yikes! Do you seriously think that's what I advocated?

I assume you didn't read Spurgeon's suggestions to his students in regard to the physicallity of preaching.

You also may want to re-read my comment more carefully.

Off to get my giant Bozo the Clown shoes and Groucho glasses complete with nose. Got some teaching to do tomorrow.

donsands said...

That's true Sir Aaron. No more altars do we need.
"It is Finished!"

Have a great weekend brother.

rom623rom828 said...

Is the following relevant to this "The Gospel as Performace Art" blog? Its not unusal for theatrics like this at HBC in adult ministry as well as youth ministry.

Blood Promises via the Brothers MacDonald:

At the end of my message, we brought an eight foot tall wooden cross into the center of the room and put 4 red ink pads on the ground. I put my thumb in the ink and pressed it on the cross and told the students whenever they felt ready, they could do the same, marking the cross as theirs and claiming the promises made by God for us. It was a powerful time as they marked the cross and we sang Amazing Grace, Nothing but the Blood and the Wonderful Cross. God showed up and the Spirit moved. Praise God.

CCinTn said...

Hey Terry Rayburn,
Sorry my bad. I made a mistake of using part of my post to respond to your post but then went on to a completely different comment that I probably should have put in a second post.
I agreed with your post about 98 percent and only meant to add to what you said that the visual reminders of our faith, including the fellowship we experience around the Lord's Table, can be important to what we want to "present". In other words the table (furniture), the cross, the baptistry etc.
I then launched in to a comment regarding the main post and how some are "presenting" something other than the Gospel.
Again, please take no offence my brother, none was attended.

C. T. Bennett said...

Unfortunately theatre has entered mainstream Evangelicalism in various doses and at numerous points. "Signing" songs in the dark with luminescent gloves, dramatic video vignettes, drama troupes, and for years flyers advertising cruises with sumptuous dining, entertainment, "classes," shopping, and on Friday a no-holds-barred-and-no-punches-pulled debate between a Catholic/Buddhist/atheist/Muslim (fill it in "bad guy") and the warrior Christian -- an event lined up 6 months in advance and sold as though it were a cage fight. Furtick/Noble types are currently the most egregious form of this but excoriating them whilst supporting the latter is an evaluation scheme that would benefit from more nuance. Ironically, Neil Postman predicted much of this as churches began switching to images/drama/amusement from just talking. It is hard "in Canaan" as we are in the West to think of an area even in one's own personal life that wouldn't benefit from a purer focus on God Himself, ungilded, as it were, with the drone of Fleet street hype promising "amazing things" and "you don't want to miss" and "best conference line-up we've had" and "preaching a brand new series...." As MLJ pointed out often, the audience bears guilt, too, for desiring hype of sorts. Great post, great reminder, and thankful for the mission-work of Kiev 91 to the West a quarter-century later.

Terry Rayburn said...


Apology accepted, and my sincere apology for snarkiness picked up by Sam's snark-detector (thanks, Sam).

I see what you were doing in the two parts and agree with you.

Terry (also inTn)
Clarksville, that is. Swimming pools, movie stars (Sgt. Carter from "Gomer Pyle, USMC", who is buried in Greenwood Cemetary here). Good thang we're not way back in them Smokies, or us'n and our yungins be feudin' 'bout this for the next hunnerd yeers :)

candy said...

Clowns are scary.

FX Turk said...

I'm glad I read all the way down to Candy's comments, because I was just about to publish, "No comments on how scary clowns are? "

Our readers deliver, y'all.

candy said...

I was a clown once, remember Frank? :)
I am not joking on the clown comment.

candy said...

Ok...let me clarify, since you must be sarcastically referring to my lack of substance, Frank.

I read a book once by Ray Bradbury, called "Something Wicked This Way Comes." It was about a carnival that came to town in the middle of the night, and something was off kilter, only noticed by two observant boys. The town was sucked in by the lights and action and didn't realize that the carnival catered to their weaknesses and desires and sucked them in. The end result was that they were entirely trapped somehow within the carnival itself. The man who lead the carnival was a type of Satanic figure. Thus, I happened to be thinking of that book when I made my clown comment.

donsands said...

I just bumped into this, and thought of this post, and thought I'd share it. It's pretty bad. It's very bad in fact.
But, it's what many think is a good thing.


Caleb Kolstad said...

Great stuff here! You say what i would like to say if i could only say it as well as you say it.

jmb said...

candy -

In the movie version is a scene involving spiders that I will never forget, unfortunately.

Rodri said...

Hi Phil,

Thank You for your post. Suggestion. How about you start your own Elephant Room, name it after your blog "The Pyromaniacs Room" and invite Mark Driscoll. In that Video he made several years ago addressed to you he stated he was looking forward to meeting you so I say set up the format and reach out to him. If he agrees to the terms of the format and actually shows up then you can ask him all the tough questions face to face. Moderator? Todd Friel