This Christmas at Fellowship Church, we’re taking our celebration to another level! We’re going to discover something beyond special. We’re going to uncover something more than spectacular. This year, we’re going to experience something supernatural!
I'm not really sure that 3D technology is supernatural, but if Junior Ed says so, perhaps it is. (And yes, they really used the hackneyed "to another level" line.)
Now according to the Dallas Morning News, brother Young acknowledges that "It's a little cheesy, but cheese works." Ed would know, eh.
In an interview last week, Young said he learned that the Church by the Glades in Coral Springs, Fla., would be using 3-D for Christmas services this year, and decided Fellowship should follow suit.
Young is known for attention-grabbing strategies, including challenging Fellowship's married couples to have sex each night for a week to strengthen relationships.
Come to one of C-by-the-G's 20 services and you could win a 46" Samsung 3DTV, a 3D Blu-ray player and 2 pairs of 3D glasses. (And not the cheesoid paper glasses that Jr. Ed was handing out.)
I can't believe that Bestis MegaChurch, Evah, Indianna hadn't thought of this - come to church and YOU COULD WIN!!!. Of course, there's always Easter.
Now, Young Ed wants everyone to know that they didn't waste too much money on the 3D production. No way, man. Frugal is the Fellowship Church word. Especially when there are megachurch expenses to be taken care of - including paying for the care and feeding of the 8.4 million dollar Falcon jet which Ed needs for his "ministry".
According to the DMN article,
Fellowship bought 28,000 pairs of 3-D glasses, but rented cameras for the videos, and spent about $8,000 overall to create the special effect.
8 grand. Really? An illusionist would call that misdirection, an erudite individual - prevarication, but let me call it what I know it to be - the end product of a bull's bowel movement.
Imbi and I do have some experience with 3D production. One of our clients builds the technology for a complete 3D production facility, not including cameras. And last year, in Las Vegas, we shot with a Panasonic prototype of their new 3D camera, the AG-3DA1.
It's quite possible the camera rentals were 8 grand, but the increase in production setup and shooting time, the increase in editing time and software upgrades (the Cineform 3D plug-in - most probably what was used by the FC editors, is $2,995 alone) and the upgraded/replaced video projectors would be substantially more.
But, hey, at least they got to produce really cool 3D dog videos,
The third (video) re-created a real-life episode from last Christmas, in which Young's dogs got into the living room and tore up gift packages.
And dogs ripping open Christmas presents in 3D is just such a powerful metaphor for the reason we celebrate the season, eh,
To Young, taking advantage of the latest 3-D craze is just another way to reach people who might not otherwise come to church.
"Christmas is the best time of the year for people to give God a shot," he said.
Especially if you can give God a shot in 3D. Ed puts it all in perspective,
"What a great opportunity for the church," he said. "3-D is so hot."
Would someone please tell me how, when the Saviour of the world chose to arrive in the humblest of manner and location, Christians think technological extravaganzas provide the best representation of the birth of Christ?
In case you've forgotten, Luke says Jesus was born in a place where animals were kept and our Lord's first bed was a feeding trough for said animals.
Yet, this week, in hundreds of churches across North America, thousands of person-hours and millions of dollars will have been spent to tell a story that bears little resemblance to the event that changed history.
But, at least Fellowship Church ended their service with Silent Night - because, as we all know, child birth and animal shelter are always quiet, n'est-ce pas?
UPDATE: The guys @ the BHT reminded me of Ross Douthat's column (which I read via the NYT Google Chrome app on the weekend).
...the once-a-year churchgoers crowding the pews beside them are a reminder of how many Americans regard religion as just another form of midwinter entertainment, wedged in between “The Nutcracker” and “Miracle on 34th Street.” [emphasis added]
Or perhaps comparing Tron in 3D with Ed Young's 3D dogs.
It was before sunrise on November the 1st. All Saints Day. A rather appropriate day for my birthday. At least, so I've always thought.
I was sitting in a McDonald's in a Northern Chicago 'burb. Dave Fitch had brought me there for a very early-morning birthday breakfast. It's where he spends many of his before-sunrise mornings. Working on his writing. Drinking McD's coffee. Chatting with a bunch a guys about hockey, and Max's need for new skates and asking "who has Bob's sports section."
He got up to chat with the guys while I was fiddling with my Sony PCM-M10 audio recorder - trying to get it ready so I could shoot a brief comment of Fitch talking about something or other missional. The camera was ready to go.
"Are you Brad Kinnon?"
I looked up to see this nicely dressed guy, in a stylishly long leather jacket, black turtle neck and black jeans. His aviator shades were in his hair. He was looking at me in a rather discomfiting manner.
"Ahh, actually it's Bill. Bill Kinnon."
"Right, right. You're that blogger guy, kinnon dot tv, right."
I'm sure I saw a microexpression of disgust and then anger momentarily animate his smiling face. But perhaps I've read too much Paul Ekman or watched too many episodes of Lie to Me.
He and his McDonald's coffee sat down across from me, uninvited, in Dave's seat.
Dave could be heard in the near distance talking about the Blackhawks' defeat of the Leafs and how, if Hamilton had a team, perhaps they'd be Stanley Cup contenders. And if the Hamilton Ti-Cats made the Canadian Football League playoffs, he was going to spend Thanksgiving in Canada watching the Grey Cup.
Thinking this could be interesting (leather-coat guy, rather than Fitch), I hit record on the little Sony. What follows is a transcription of sorts.
He didn't offer his hand as he said, "I'm L.S Clivenot. But people call me Jim. I'm the Creative Visioncaster and Media Guru of Bestis MegaChurch, Evah, Indianna."
"I'm surprised you don't know us. We're one of the biggest MegaChurchs in Indianna. Evah's a suburb of Gary. We're on Bestis Street."
"I'm a Canadian. Perhaps I'm not as tuned into the latest and greatest megachurches."
"Well, that would seem obvious from the few times I've read your blog." There was that disgust microexpression again. "You just don't seem to get the powerful impact megachurchs have on this great nation of ours. "
He was right about that. "Well, I..."
But this was a monologue, not a dialogue.
"We've just opened our new 100 million dollar facility. It will blow your mind. We've taken megachurch design to a whole new level. I was here in Chi-town this weekend bragg...ahh, telling a bunch of megachurch creatives about it."
"Yes, well..." At least I tried to interact.
"We didn't waste money on a better-than-Broadway stage. Too smart, too cutting edge for that. We put in a state-of-the-art 3D projection system and huge screen. Every one of our 5,000 reclining seats has a perfect 3D view of that screen."
"Better than 'Wow', man. We built one of the finest soundstages ever - right behind the huge screen. With multiple studios, small green-screen ones, a big one for major productions. All shot with 3D cameras. Like I said. It will blow your mind."
"Ever seat has it's own case with the finest 3D ground-optics glasses in those cases. Of course, we have RFID tags on each pair. Anyone tries to steal 'em and the alarms go off."
"That sounds kind of..."
"...smart. You're right. And the really cool thing is we got one of the top movie trailer voice-over guys to do our every-service opening. [He became Mr. Voice-over Guy right in front of me.] 'WELCOME TO BESTIS MEGACHURCH, EVAH, INDIANNA. PLEASE PUT ON YOUR 3D GLASSES FOR THE BESTIS EXPERIENCE.' And then he goes on to tell them to put the glasses back in the case when the experience ends."
"..love it. Do they ever. When the pastor picks up his bible at the beginning of the service and shakes it at them, they almost all duck. Of course, he only picks up the Bible once. We wouldn't want to scare people too much, now would we."
"You mean the Pastor preaches from a soundstage?"
"Of course. Why wouldn't he? We can put him in any environment he wants. Last week he preached from the surface of Jupiter. Out of this world, man! And then, at the end of every service, the Pastor walks out in front of the screen to wrap things up. Oh. And he reminds people to put their 3D glasses back in the cases."
"No buts, man. Just butts in every chair. And the cool thing, it's gonna make satellite churches really easy to setup. And if the Pastor only wants to do one service... we have three... we just playback a pre-record. As long as he still comes out from behind the curtain, ahh, the screen - no one knows it wasn't live."
"And you won't believe our Holiday Season Event this year. Me and my team have created a whole new Narnia story. We call it, Narnia & the Evil Penguins."
"NARNIA & THE EVIL PENGUINS!??"
"With Voyage of the Dawntreader coming out, we figured what better way to capitalize on it and get people into our Holiday Season Events. We've set it in the Chicago Zoo. That's the biggest and best zoo around. It's kind of the story of Aslan's birth - he's born the King of the Zoos. His mother is Mari, the Lioness. The Joseph part is played by Tony the Tiger. A little corporate sponsorship to defray some of the costs, you know."
"But what about Lewis' storytelling..."
"Yah, right. I saw an illegal torrent of Dawntreader, man. Eustace is the hero. He's the one who saves everybody in the end. A little creative license never hurt anyone."
"You've got to be..."
"...excited. You bet. It's going to be great. The penguins are lead by Harrad, the Warrior Penguin. He thinks he's the King of the Zoos. The penguins scheme to kill baby Aslan after they hear of his birth from the three magicians. We're using a flame-eater, a sword-swallower and a third guy dressed up as a clown."
"Penguins?" I was still in shock.
"It's great. We've even worked in Lyle Lovett's Penguins song. It'll be a real crowd pleaser. Harrad's wife sings it. She's a chinchilla in this story. And then we have this kids' choir who are supposedly touring the zoo when the Angel Clarence shows up and does that whole 'behold' thing. The kids go running to the Lion cage."
"It's a zoo, man. But trust me, it all makes sense. So. When the kids get to the cage, Mari stands and begins to sing the perfect song."
"And let me guess, the perfect song is..."
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow. It's so beautiful man. Mari is played by this gorgeous Mezzo-Soprano, who looks fabulous in lion-skin."
"The kids choir joins her on Somewhere and it'll send chills up your spine. And while they're all singing - Warrior Penguin King Harrad and his Penguin horde attack. What's so cool is we got that dwar...ahh, little guy who was in Prince Caspian to play Harrad, Peter Dinklage."
"He was great in The Station Agent. But how could you possibly afford him for your production?" I finally got two sentences in, back to back.
"We flew him in for a day. On the wideshots you can't tell it isn't him. And we go to playback for his closeups. You could never do this with a stage production. Trust me."
I didn't know what to interject as he continued, "...so, the Penguin horde is on the attack but as they approach they hear Mari's song."
"Another song? After Somewhere?"
"No, no. She's still singing Somewhere. It's a powerful tune. And it touches Harrad's heart. He realizes the evil of his ways. When I wrote his monologue, it even made me cry, man."
"I'm sure I'd cry, as well." He couldn't read my microexpression as he stared right through me, picturing his wondrous prose.
"And the ending is fabulous. Baby Aslan morphs into this full grown lion. He grabs a guitar and leads the entire cast in that killer Sting song, If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free. He even hoists Harrad onto his shoulders at one point. We had a few tech challenges their, I'm telling you."
"But, the cage..."
"Oh, right. When Aslan morphs to full grown, the cage opens magically. It's part of the whole 'goodness frees you' theme of the Holiday Event. We get the Angel Clarence to explain that at one point."
"And the whole production stage piece ends with Aslan's amazing guitar solo as the entire cast comes out in front of the screen and leads the audience in the closing song."
"Let me guess. Silent Night, right?"
"Man, you really are stuck in a traditional mindset, aren't you. It's no wonder you don't get megachurches. Of course not."
"The Pastor's a real Train fan. And he plays the ukelele. I rewrote the lyrics to Hey, Soul Sister. Called it Hey, Soul Lover. Absolutely Killer! Brings the house down. Guaranteed. [And he began to sing] Hey, Soul Lover, Ain't that Aslan's mother on the..."
At that very point Fitch reappeared at the table, further proving there is a God. Fitch's expression wasn't micro. He wanted his seat back.
Clivenot stopped singing as he looked up at Fitch. He immediately got Dave's look after ignoring all of mine. "I guess I'm in your seat. Sorry, man. Hey. Aren't you Jarred Fitch. I heard that Moody Radio thing you did with Scot McKnight on..."
But Fitch cut him off. In his best, unintended Jack Nicholson impersonation, "I'm really sorry, man. My name's not Jarred and I've got a lot of work to do here."
"At McDonald's?" Clivenot responded. Fitch just looked at him and that was enough to send Clivenot on his way.
He looked back over his shoulder, as he headed for the door. "Hey, Brad, " he called loudly, "I don't want to read about this conversation on your blog, ok."
As some of you are aware, Imbi has been producing a documentary on church leadership - a multi-year project. It is stuck, right now, in the editing stage - for which I am wholly to blame.
One of the final interviews for the doc (we have a few left to get) was earlier in November with Chris Wright.
One of the questions Imbi asked him was what he thought leadership training needed to look like in the 21st Century. His response hit us both between the eyes.
"I wouldn't start out with training leaders, I'd start out with making disciples." (Imbi's question begins @ 3:40 in this video.)
Yesterday, Scot McKnight pointed his faithful readers (of which I am one) at his response to the Slant 33 asked question, "What three books do you recommend on the subject of leadership development and why?"
I loved his response. Here's an excerpt,
...I want to put my idea on the line and see where it leads us. We have one leader, and his name is Jesus. I want to bang this home with a quotation from Jesus from Matthew 23, where he seems to be staring at the glow of leadership in the eyes of his disciples, and he does nothing short of deconstructing the glow:
But you are not to be called “Rabbi,” for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth “father,” for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Instead of seeing myself as a leader, I see myself as a follower. Instead of plotting how to lead, I plot how to follow Jesus with others. Instead of seeing myself at the helm of some boat—and mine is small compared to many others—I see myself in the boat, with Jesus at the helm.
Now at the beginning of Scot's response he identifies what, for me, appears to be cognitive dissonance on his part.
I have a confession to offer: I neither look forward to reading nor do I even like leadership books. I’ve read a few, like Seth Godin’s Tribes and Nancy Beach’s Gifted to Lead. And, yes, I’ve read a few others, but I don’t like them and don’t get much out of them, and I say this as one whose pastor, Bill Hybels, is a leadership guru.
I would strongly suggest that Hybels is more than a leadership guru. He is probably one of the greatest proponents of CEO-style leadership in the Church - with influence on thousands of churches around the world. His Global Leadership Summit "exists to transform Christian Leaders around the world with an injection of vision, skill development, and inspiration for the sake of the local church." The GLS homepage proudly points to the Fast Company article about the event.
Fast Company says this about WC,
Evangelical Christianity proudly has no pope, and given its predilection for splintering, it can hardly be considered a single church. But if evangelicalism does have a global power center, it would have to be Willow Creek, thanks largely to the summit. According to cable-TV pioneer and venture philanthropist Bob Buford, who played a key role in the summit's development, "Willow Creek is the most influential Protestant church in the world -- one might even say the most influential church in the world save for the Vatican."
Fast Company describes the people who speak at the event,
The summit taps speakers from a wide range of fields: experienced executives like Welch and W.L. Gore CEO Terri Kelly; management theorists such as Collins and Marcus Buckingham (First, Break All the Rules); politicians including Tony Blair and Jimmy Carter; cultural leaders turned do-gooders like Bono and Four Weddings and a Funeral screenwriter Richard Curtis; and sports figures such as Tennessee Lady Vols basketball coach Pat Summitt.
A number of years ago, when I held the director of communications role in a megachurch, I was intimately involved in promoting and staging a simulcast of this event. I write this with a degree of understanding.
The GLS is not promoting leadership in the manner of that which Scot describes in his response at Slant33. Willow Creek promotes a CEO-leadership style that I believe is actually antithetical to what Scot articulates from Scripture.
The church is not a business. Nor do I believe that it should it be run as a one. It is not a top-down organization, yet that is actually what Willow Creek both models and promotes.
Scot nails it, in my not humble opinion, when he says this,
...leadership too often places the pastor or some person in the front and having others be guided (and following) that person, and that, I dare say, distorts the entire gospel. Jesus was willing to say that his followers didn’t have a rabbi of their own, didn’t have a human father in a position of ultimate authority, and they didn’t have an instructor who was their teacher. They had one rabbi and one instructor, and his name was Jesus, and he was Messiah. They had one father, and he was Creator of all. They were to see themselves as brothers, not leaders. That’s straight from the lips of Jesus. [Emphasis Added]
Which appears to put Scot at odds with his pastor, Bill Hybels. Or am I missing something?
Let me finish by returning to Chris Wright when he says, "I wouldn't start out with training leaders, I'd start out with making disciples."
How did Jesus make disciples - he lived with them for three years, through thick and thin, through their thick headedness and their moments of great clarity, through their closeness and their rejection of him. He didn't set up a training school for leaders, or preach from an elevated pulpit or bring in Roman business and political leaders to advise his disciples how to lead.
Jesus lived in the midst of his disciples and the impact of that still resonates. Globally.
UPDATE: Please read Doc Toddhere and Alan Knoxhere.
UPDATE 2: My Toronto buddy, Darryl Dash responds with his post, Imagine There's No Leader - and Dave Fitch has a very good comment there. There's great conversation in the comments below, but you simply must read this one from Brad "FuturistGuy" Sargent.
ASIDE: Though not on exactly the same bent as this post, Chaplain Mike's "Disney-ization of Faith" fits well with this discussion. Particularly when he writes,
I could write a long book about all the examples of this across our land, from the many ways we market Jesus in books, music, and media, to the kistchy excess of the televangelists and the corporate “excellence” of the megachurches, to iconic monuments like the Crystal Cathedral. So much of it represents the “Magic Kingdom” mentality.
In the cartoon world of contemporary American evangelicalism, it’s all about bigger, better, and simpler. Help folks think their dreams can come true. Create “moments” for people in the congregation that they will never forget, that will “bless” families in safe and sanitized settings. Remove the messiness and reality of day to day life. Instead, put a sentimental, heart-tugging version of life up on the screen and make people feel it. Embrace the possibilities.
Perhaps it's just me, but this seems to REVEAL so much about the state of the evangelical church in the West.
Willow Creek, like many megachurches, looks less like a traditional steeple-and-people structure than a spiritual mini mall. It has a food court, a coffee shop that's clearly a Starbucks knockoff (complete with your choice of tall, grande, and venti), and a slate of ministries, events, and services comprehensive enough for a Christ-centered cruise ship. All of this telegraphs the message that the church is trying to meet present-day wants and needs. And it reflects the pragmatism that infuses the leadership summit, which Hybels says is meant "to mess with people's minds a little." [Some emphasis added]
And this quote is simply icing on the WC cake,
...Willow summit balances the secular yin with the Christ-centered yang.
If you've been reading my feeble posts this fall, you may have noticed that I haven't engaged in many of the conversations I've started. Nor have I blogged as much as I would like to. The reason is a little mundane. It hurts to type.
In late August, both legs went out from under me as I slipped, stepping onto the wet deck of our lakefront at the cottage. I'd come down off the small hill above the deck, rather than use the stairs at the other end of the lakefront.
I landed on part of that rise rather than on the deck itself. Unfortunately, my tailbone managed to connect with the one prominent rock on that path - and was fractured in the process - my tailbone, that is. The rock is just fine.
If that wasn't enough, it would seem that the fall may have also caused whiplash - and my spine hurts at both ends. The pinched nerves in my neck make it painful to type. The fractured coccyx made it hard to sit. (The tailbone is improving nicely. The neck, not so much.)
So. If you feel I've been remiss in responding to your more than pithy comments, please forgive me. My restraint is pain imposed.
I confess that I have grown tired of those folk who want to tell us how the church has gotten just about everything wrong for the past seventeen hundred years - and somehow they are the ones who now see clearly.
It's as if they think the Holy Spirit has been on an extended vacation.