I’m sure many of you have heard of the Hillsong NY debacle. I’m not going to post the video but it’s a rendition of New York, New York featuring dancing girls, Sponge Bob, Elmo, Olaf, Elvis, and the famous Naked Cowboy from New York, although it’s not the real Naked Cowboy, I’ve heard it was the youth pastor. This was part of a competition between the different Hillsong Campuses hosting this same conference. In the UK there was an appearance of womanizer Austin Powers (an American creation BTW) for the same conference. You may think it’s all in good fun, good just-a-little-bit-dirty fun. Did I mention it was a women’s conference? What kind of imagery should we put on the stage at a women’s conference, oh I know, a perverted womanizer with bad teeth and a naked cowboy. Seriously… I just don’t have words sometimes… I don’t even want to know what they have planned for the men’s conference. So if you didn’t pick up on it yet I think what they did was at the very least in very bad taste and disrespectful.
I think so much of the church is blind to what kind of impression these antics give to those outside of the church. These antics are defended vehemently by some church leaders because they say it draws in the unsaved and unchurched. There is a lot of evidence that it actually doesn’t. In a Facebook discussion I was reading about Hillsong NY an unchurched fellow chimed in and the church should listen to what he said:
“If your Jesus is so great then why would you rather have a dancing naked cowboy on stage instead of him?” Thats what people are asking when they see this s**t. While you church people fight over things like “Is it ok to have a dancing cowboy on stage at church” us non-church going people sit back and laugh at you. Even unchurched people used to respect pastors and churches but this s**t is why you’ve lost us right here. YOU don’t even take it serious, so why should we? As someone who has worked in sales before I’ve found that the more glitz and glam that’s involved the less worthy of attention the really product is…
From a non-church going persons perspective this is what I see. I’ve seen so many churches make complete fools of themselves with gimicky marketing, stunts, over the top, edgy performances and the like while the world looks at them and laughs. In the eyes of non-church people (of which I am one) gimmicks like these remind me of every other cheap advertisement I see everyday trying to be better than the last guy in an attempt to grab my eyes for a minute. To the people inside the church im sure it feels like value is being added and that you’re “cutting edge” but to those of us outside like myself it looks like a cheap curcus and I want to just scream “Get to the point already! What’s your business?!?! What have you got?!?! Why should I listen to you?!?! I’m not impressed because the VMA’s do it better!?! The Voice does it better! Beyoncé does it better! What have YOU got that they don’t?!?! If you don’t have anything else then leave me alone and let me watch someone who does it better.”
I was disappointed in the response by several Christians. One woman dismissed this unchurched person (the person they say they are so desperately trying to reach) and defended the antics that this unchurched person said is one of the things that pushes him away from the church:
…this was part of a fun “wave competition” between Hillsong campuses that is meant to be silly and representative of the city in which it’s located. This was not a form of worship or even an attempt at representing the Gospel. Just meant to be silly.
This response was encouraged by several “Amens”. But this is exactly what this unchurched person is saying the problem is. The silliness and absurd antics that churches put on like this make us a joke to the rest of the culture. I think there are aspects of culture that are fine to integrate into our services, or that we will integrate without even thinking about it. The language we use can be cultural. The style of music may have some cultural influence. What time of day we have service, whether we sit, stand, how long the service is, the decor of the church, etc… But we shouldn’t be going to great lengths to bring cultural icons and worldly things into our services even if it’s “just for fun”.
Going back to this “wave competition” to the different campuses in different countries why would a church choose purely worldly things to represent them. Why not compete with the other countries by trying prove who has/had the best church fathers, evangelists and revival leaders? Oh probably because nobody in the church knows who any of those guys are!! But everybody knows the Naked Cowboy, Austin Powers, Elmo, Sponge Bob, Olaf, and Elvis!!
Now lets think about something. These stunts are defended as ice breakers to attract unchurched people and make them feel comfortable in church. Why wouldn’t an unchurched person feel comfortable in church? THE SAME REASON THERE ARE TIMES I DON’T FEEL COMFORTABLE IN CHURCH! MY SIN!! Bringing people into church entertaining them, making them feel comfortable, then telling them “we have this better way”, “come to Jesus and you can enjoy life like we enjoy life” is not sharing the gospel with them.
Sorry this whole thing has just been a big rant but it made my head want to explode when Christians would defend these antics in the face of someone who is unchurched that is saying this is not what they want!!
I have written other things similar to this topic, check this out for more information: