Monday, September 21, 2009

    From the "You Gotta Be Kidding Me" Dept.

    What's that tank doing up above? Hanging out in some church's youth room. A church in Ohio has giant models of war craft and military symbols installed in their children/youth space to attract kids and perhaps play on the theme of "spiritual warfare." Setting aside the unlikelihood of children making the metaphorical leap from real tanks and guns to "spiritual warfare," do I even need to say why theologically this is so very, very wrong? I'll let this commenter from the Church Relevance blog do it for me:

    This sickens and saddens me that weapons and the military (things that control and kill) are being turned into things of worship. Sorry to be the one that thinks this is wrong after all the “gee isn’t this cool” comments, but please really, what message is this sending to the kids and the community? Not the same as the one Jesus asked [us] to share.
    Then there's this one:

    Maybe one of the tremendous things that has gotten lost in the push for relevancy and “cool media” has been the theological reflection that goes into our structures and presentations. It is highly dangerous, theologically, to push out such a strong militaristic theme…especially to deeply impressionable children. We are left to wonder about how long the conversation was about the theological implications of creating this kind of space. Now I’m not suggesting we need to go back to the medieval times of gothic architecture, but I do believe our church spaces deserve honest, and careful reflection. I think we’ve lost that in our push for capturing the cool.

    See more images and discussion here. Your thoughts?
    -- Brian


    KaGe said...

    OK, first off I have lots of family that's in various military I'm not opposed to the tank/plane images. Yeah, I think they look cool...which they do.

    I don't really buy into the idea that through massive movie props the youth are going to gain a deeper understanding of spiritual fact from my personal experience, when youth are indoctrinated into the Spiritual Warfare ideal that's so heavy handed with military simulation imagery, it's only spawned extremely crass/unintelligent/narrow-minded disciples that are more willing to throw a Bible at someone than actually open a Bible to someone.

    But what's actually most appalling to me is the sheer fact that they I'm assuming they didn't get this company to work for free and in fact spent a sickening amount of money on a "Come to us for church" program instead of investing the funds to bring the church to the people. Somehow I think that if they would have invested that money into their community, they would have able to "Win people to Christ" (as their website says) a lot better than with their uber cool war zone.

    Another telling sign of where the church's priorities lie comes from their own teen ministry description:
    "Teen Ministry: This is the evangelistic arm of Cornerstone Harvest. These highly motivated individuals reach out to the youth of our church and city through anointed ministry and many special events and outreaches planned throughout the year. Innovative methods are employed in making the gospel clear and relevant to the everyday life of a teen. Young people are ministered to through uplifting recreation, fellowship, and practical, biblical teaching which empowers them to "Win their World" for Christ and to fulfill their destiny in the Lord."

    Basically, "Look how cool we can make Jesus look!!! OMG! OMG!!!"

    Cornerstone Harvest Church: -237 points for selling Jesus; +.5 for having a killer youth room; -97 for not putting any information of your church's beliefs on your website.

    cheezewhizandmustard said...

    This frightens me on so many levels.

    Brian said...

    KaGe - You make some great points. Makes you wonder about their priorities.

    Jay Miklovic said...

    why do we as youth ministers feel this unspoken pressure to make Jesus cool? This is a serious question.

    Jesus pretty much promises that people will not find Him cool... why do we fight against that.

    This tank thing annoys me as well, only because it seems to undermine very important biblical teaching about spiritual warfare.

    stuart delony said...

    We should also post pictures of the KKK in our youth rooms to remind us of how we should lynch sin in our lives!

    Or maybe... I'll just go ahead and stop here.

    Brian said...

    Cheese, thanks for sharing your two cents.

    Jay,I couldn't agree more. Trying to make Jesus "cool" almost certainly means making him so culturally relevant that he ceases to have anything radical to say (and of course, being cool likely means he is no longer COUNTER-cultural).

    Stuart, you just can't help yourself sometimes, can you? :)

    Jay Miklovic said...

    Brian- Always feels good to have someone agree with you. There is certainly a danger in 'making Jesus Cool' there is a danger in 'making' Jesus ANYTHING but Jesus.

    Stuart... very funny... I was thinking of hanging some inquisition pictures around the room along side the KKK propaganda to encourage getting setting people 'on fire' for the Lord.

    brianmetz said...

    So we are equating the KKK with the US military? I realize that US Military policy isn't popular or biblical, but is it fair to equate it with the KKK? I agree that the military props are a bit excessive as well as expensive. However, Paul and Jesus had ample opportunities to speak against the Roman military and they did not. In fact Jesus even uses the excessive demands of a Roman soldier and says go another mile to show them grace.
    "This sickens and saddens me that weapons and the military (things that control and kill) are being turned into things of worship." - I think that this statement is a bit of a push. How are they "things of worship"? Because they are in the church building? So would that include the bug spray we keep in our church's kitchen as an object of worship? I guess because it is a prop it classifies as an object of worship, really? I thought God was our object of worship (semantics, maybe).

    Making War against sin - killing sin is "spiritual warfare" but something that isn't taught much in most youth groups. Namely because it's not popular to talk about our sin and mortifying it or PC. If it takes a fake tank to help make a point about killing sin than I am for it. Oh and the Bible uses tons of war stories. Maybe we need to not teach those to our kids either. Are we upset because they are using modern war machines as illustrations? How come we are not upset with all of the church nursery walls painted with the Noah's Ark mural? You know most of humanity, at that time, died, right?

    I think what might be lost in all this judging is that this youth ministry are missionaries in their particular culture and therefore they must discern how to use church funds to "win" that culture to Jesus. How can we sit in authority over a situation in which we really don't know all the details. How do we know that this church isn't spending more on "bringing the church" to the people? And how do we know that all of this stage dressing doesn't open opportunities to talk to kids about what really matters - namely a relationship to Jesus?


    brianmetz said...

    Lima, Oh is also home to the Lima Tank Plant. Where they manufacture tanks. Seems cultural to me.

    Jay Miklovic said...

    brianmetz - i will agree with most of your comment, though the KKK refs were purely tongue and cheek, I cannot speak for Stuart, but I would never make the intentional connection between the KKK and our military.

    One part of your comment troubles me however.

    "youth minist[ers] are missionaries in their particular culture and therefore they must discern how to use church funds to "win" that culture to Jesus."

    The youth minister's job is to communicate truth to young people, and to shepherd them in the way that leads to life everlasting. We need to spend a lot more time on the truth, and a lot less time on how we package it. To often we give kids junk in a really nice box so to speak.

    Our job is not to 'win' anything. The winning attitude has produced events like Acquire the Fire Battlecry where 50000 kids stream to an altar but come back to their seats unchanged... yet given false assurance of a salvation they never received. But bless God it was a great victory - no, it was emotional manipulation.

    I am sorry brianmetz, I am just ranting this is not personal, I imagine you and I have much in common, and I did agree with almost your entire post.

    (also, I recognize some kids do get changed at these events... but many if not most others get a false assurance which case hardens them against ever truly coming to Christ.)

    brianmetz said...

    @Jay Miklovic,

    I used "win" because that was the wording from someone else. I am with you. I too believe that our job is to teach truth. It's getting kids to show up to hear truth that I struggle with. I don't think props communicate anything really. It's all about relationships. The props only grease the tracks on the relationship tank, so to speak. This is a larger discussion about philosophy of ministry that I am currently struggling with. The truth is Jesus isn't attractive to lost kids. Because, well he's Jesus. What lost kid is lining up for bible study because he wants to? Yet at the same time I hear what you are saying. I mean I have heard some one say what you "win" them with is what you "win" them to. How do we balance attraction and Gospel truth that transforms lives. This is coming from a guy who has 4 students in his senior high ministry.

    So much to say...

    Jay Miklovic said...

    brianmetz -

    duh, my bad, I totally missed the simple fact that you were using the terminology from the blog itself.

    what you say in your last comment is really at the crux of the matter.

    How do we balance attraction and Gospel truth that transforms lives.

    I have struggled much with that as well. However, I think the answer is in the scriptures and fairly clear. In Matthew 4 we see the start of Christ's ministry and the shape it will take. He goes into the land preaching repentance (nobody is attracted to that) and healing and serving. Jesus was never all preach, and He was never all serve, it was always both and.

    So to the pragmatic, we always serve a dinner, we always seek to help with whatever issues kids have, we always seek to serve them with a listening ear... and so on. At the same time we always preach the Gospel both the refreshing and uplifting side as well as the difficult side.

    Finally, I would never look down on someone even if they only had 1 youth in their Sr. High ministry, in fact I have a lot more respect for the pastors who week in and week out pour their life and truth into a small flock even though they have not seen growth, than I do for the person who has a touch of gold and gets more and more numbers. Ministry is emotionally easy when things go good numerically, it takes a real man and real courage when things are slower.

    Man I talk a lot when it gets late.

    Brian said...

    Hey, thought I'd jump back in on this conversation quickly. I know one issue here that is a sticky widget is the debate over whether or not the military and military imagery are incompatible with the Christian message. I have family in the military, and I know good pastors who serve as pastors in the military so I personally understand the debate. I hope that if one argues that Jesus never spoke against the Roman military, you would stick to that same point of view when one considers that Jesus never spoke out against same sex attraction or women as pastors or a whole host of other things that the Church takes issue with these days. I'd also suggest that Jesus did speak against the military as it was park of the Empire of Rome which he certainly found atithetical to the dream of God. Finally, Jesus and the gospel writers could never dream of a military as we have today. The Roman Empire could only stretch its armies and it's destructiveness so far. Our military quite literally has the power to destroy the entire world.

    raisingebenezer said...

    "The truth is Jesus isn't attractive to lost kids. Because, well he's Jesus."

    I think Jesus is attractive to lost kids but it's crap like this in our churches that isn't.

    Jay Miklovic said...

    Jesus is attractive to lost kids in the same way that Jesus was attractive to the multitudes. However upon meeting Christ and hearing His demands, the initial attraction fades quickly. Jesus is clear on this when He asserts that the people followed because there stomachs were filled... not because of who He is.

    "Crap like this..." WILL attract kids whether we like it or not. The question is whether we are allowed to forgo God's means of attracting kids, in order to achieve God's ends of them encountering Christ.

    I would contend the means must be biblical and the ends will take care of themselves.