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July 18, 2010


Kevin Powell

Greg...Amen! It's been my experience that pastors/church leaders/churches who adopt some technological "innovation" because they believe that it's in technology that real power exists. They don't believe that a poor preacher from Nazareth could "reach" people by looking into their eyes while preaching, touching their leprous skin, and wiping their tear-stained faces. They are unknowing disciples of McLuhan, agreeing that "the medium is the message" except the "message" is worldly power and glory, not the gospel of the kingdom of God, or justification by faith. The message is really "Look how cool and hip we are! We use technology to make the gospel relevant!"

While every church uses some form of media, be they books, hymnals, banners, stained-glass, PowerPoint, we don't often do the critical work of reflecting on how these media influence or impact our proclamation.




I have two quick points.

1. This technology reminds me of the '70s film Logan's Run. So, if you are a member of these kinds of churches, run to the front door before getting trapped in a holographic ego trip waiting to energize you with media frenzy instead of the Holy Spirit.

2. This technology may be useful to achieve cult status for ministers, so if you are schizophrenic or Hitler, consider joining the congregation and learning the technology. Then, it is time to start your own cult and practice mind control to all of your victims. You'll just have to figure out how to insert arsenic kool-aid through the speaker system, but you can all die on camera together.


Greg Horton

Jon, Michael York as Logan. Loved the book sooo much. Mainly because I was a kid and he had sex with like seven gypsies in a row, and then the word orgasm kept repeating. It was heady stuff for a 13-year old. The movie was ok, probably pretty good technology-wise for its time.

The other danger here that my "ought to be a dystopic writer" mind is saying, is that the pastor can pre-record all this stuff and then bang his Argentine mistress for 355 days out of the year. It's not as if any particular campus knows exactly where he is.

If you haven't been to some of these churches, the cult status is already achieved. I think the more accurate word is cultic, as many of them still adhere to a pretty orthodox version of evangelical christianity, but it wouldn't take much to push the edges.


How is it I'm so offended by this idiocy when I don't have a dog in the fight?

I like your response to this, but I'm not convinced we nonbelievers don't have a stake in this. I think it's everyone's business when corporations engage in very public displays of douchebaggery, and then expect that hiding behind a cross will keep people from calling megalomania by its proper name. Like you, I don't go so far as to denounce faith itself (whatever my private sentiments might be)--I think if we demarcate people by beliefs or by communities of reference, the fundamentalists win. But I do agree with a lot of the prominent atheists that religion is accorded a lot of unconscious and unwarranted deference. Even though it's impolite to say so, I don't think it it's a good idea to give free platforms and publicity to narcissists, con artists, and well-meaning people whose livelihood depends on their being clueless.

Greg Horton

Leighton, I too think we have a stake in it. It's just easier to wedge the argument in under other terms. I would argue, as i often do in class, that everyone has a stake in this because the kinds of things people believe end up in voting booths. The religious among us can talk about religious freedom, and I do think it's an important principle, but the more open-minded and open-ended they are, the more likely they make political choices based on Constitutional rights, not ethics based on mythology--and I use that in the technical sense. And I agree the deference is often unwarranted. I'll go a bit farther. Tood and I have been discussing the way certain megas have helped build a national consensus based on popularity and market saturation, not based on competence or intelligence or piety or good works. That's troubling to me. The deference ought to be predicated on actual displays of holiness--at least then we're not dealing with douchebags--rather than on who reaches the most people of faith. In other words, expertise is now based on market share, not actual competence in the fields of theology, philosophy, ecclesiology, or even being a non-dick. I think it's apparent that men who run multi-site churches, and there are no women to my knowledge, are megalomaniacs, but you're right, it's not polite to say so, and it's excruciatingly difficult to point it out when they're carrying a cross, even if they're not nailed to it and it probably fits in their pockets.

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Todd directed me to your work. Anyone who recognizes the zig-zag streak of genius in Todd Littleton is ok with me, theist or not. You pretty much verify my belief in apostasy but that is another story for another day.

Mr. Young and his ilk are verification of the narcissism of his demographic. Self-effacement is not part of what the hydra-heads do. What they do is hasten the end of the local church and the influence of Christianity as a cultural force. No one who counts really cares how tight the band sounds. If we decide to settle for mind candy in this latest rush to idolize a man (and not a very good one, at that) we deserve what we get. God will find someone else to use. Ed, Ronnie and the whole bunch will just have to make love to their money.


Todd and I have been discussing the way certain megas have helped build a national consensus based on popularity and market saturation, not based on competence or intelligence or piety or good works.

Any chance one or both of you could expand this into a post? I'm really out of date on church trends. I've been ignoring megachurches lately, since I think in the ecology of evil and incompetent organizations, they're little fish (c.f. WaPo on our intelligence agencies). But middling political influence notwithstanding, this American Idol with tax breaks is appalling.

I'm not sure holiness or piety should be grounds for deference, but maybe if you were to distinguish piety from Puritanism and holiness from histrionics in exactly the way the Constant Noise Network doesn't, it could be useful. I'd just as soon stick with good works, though. Hard to go wrong there.

Greg Horton

It's my very next post, hopefully. If I finish grading today and can focus long enough, I'll do it. My concern hasn't been an individual mega, but how they foster a broad consensus by simplifying to the point of simplistic. More on it later. And yes, good works, amen.

Matt Mikalatos

I suppose in the last six years you've already mentioned this, but I find the assumption that there is not a worthy pastor to be found and installed in these other communities really troubling. It seems to me that it could easily be used to argue that Christianity is not working... lives are not being changed, people are not able to lead, and the Holy Spirit is not gifting people with the requisite pastoral gifts. I don't think those things are true, but I think that beaming your holographic pastor in makes me wonder if those churches think that.

Going beyond the multi-site question, too, I've seen several churches recently doing a sort of church-planting "branding" thing where they are trying to re-create their precise church in other neighborhoods and cities (and even other countries), apparently without any understanding that there might be necessary cultural adaptations in other places. It brings the whole "we do it the right way" attitude down to a micro level. One church here in Portland (actually a church that I hear a lot of good things about) just planted their brand in another major city where there are "no good churches." That's what the guy in charge of the plant said. No good churches. I know for a fact that there are several excellent ones in the city in question. But it's not precisely the same as "The Mother Church."

Another quick sidenote: I know that proponents of multi-site often use evangelism as an argument for why this is a good thing, but their definition of evangelism has more to do with filling seats than with introducing people to a relationship with Christ. In my experience, most of the people who show up at the satelite campuses are either coming from the Mother Ship or are ditching whatever church they used to go to so they can check out the new one. It's the traditional pew shuffle, and there's just not much evangelism involved. It would be interesting to see a demographic study on where the people come from who join the satelite churches....



My mother-inlaw's church in Houston recently bought out a church that was dying. Instead of keeping the staff that was there, they let them go and now have the pastoral staff (there's 13 on staff I believe) take care of both "campuses." The pastor preaches three sermons at the main campus and then one at the other campus. I made the suggestion to her that the pastor should look into getting seminary students to help out with the other campus through preaching, youth ministry, and other ministries. I was informed that the Pastor really wants to in charge of both campuses and preach at all of them.

You're comment about church leadership above does create a feeling that no one is able to lead, but the major problem is that these churches promote workaholics among pastors and staff members. They want all the glory and all the work so they are lifted up above the message. It's a horrible horrible trend that mainline churches need to keep fighting against.


You know how I feel about this and you're more eloquent than I with the written word so I'll skip the sam's club version redundancy. I do have one observation... Does Ed Young remind anyone else of the anti-Christ from the Left Behind series? I never saw the movie and I only read the first book, but I recall the anti-Christ being blond and charming etc. This has "lead up to the rapture" written allllllll over it... Creeeeppppyyyyyy


I've never seen the LB movie or read any of the books, but I've had this in the back of my mind from the first time I read the word "hologram."

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