Saturday, April 26, 2014

The problem with America is... advertising?

I found this article on Challies today. It's a little too long in my estimation, and although I don't know if I would recommend reading it all or not, he has a very insightful observation about Rob Bell: the man is an advertiser.
 

Introduction  

 

All Alastair's point was is that Bell is an advertiser not a theologian, it wasn't his mission to go bigger. But still, he should have. He should have gone on and said something like: Bell is the perfect example of what has happened to America--we're all advertisers now. Our politicians make squishy and chocolate filled promises not arguments. (In fact there are precious few of them that actually are making policies based on reason, most of them write laws for their friends and sell it on the basis of feelings. Look no further than President Obama, the supreme champion of our modern system, who has perfected the art of advertisement campaigning.) Our children can't think though an argument because they have been conditioned their whole lives to work within the bounds of advertisement, not reason. Those who confront others and point out sloppy thinking are counted as very negative people, and on the other hand merely stating an obvious movie plot hole makes you a genius because our skills of critical thinking have atrophied in the face of advertisement culture that any show of it is like magic. The Lego Movie or Mr. Nobody are perfect in this regard: they speak out of both sides of their mouth, advertisements without a center that therefore capture every view-point.


Thesis


And now we come to the point of this post. Predictably, this being the permeating principle of our culture has meant that the church has soaked up advertising to the exclusion of Scriptures. We are something much more like the Mr. Jesus fellowship of advertisement than the body of Christ.
Witness the fact that Bayside of Granite Bay pitches itself as the "church for people who don't like church." Or how we evangelize no longer by approaching people on the basis of Scripture but instead on the basis of giving a personal testimony about the effectiveness of our product, Mr. Jesus. The shorter, pep-talk sermons principally revolve around making us feel good about the choice we made to use Mr. Jesus, and from the pulpit we are far more likely to hear an appeal to "try Mr. Jesus for free or your money back" than we are to hear about the real gospel. You know, the one that says non-believers are dead in their sins and stand condemned before a Holy God, but He has paid the penalty and resurrected to save us. Never-mind that crusty old Puritan stuff, just hurry up here to the front, people are standing by to take your order today! We have less and less Bible class and more and more appealing to felt needs such as Financial Peace, or Marriage Counseling, with the predictable result that we have more divorces and more money concerns.
I'll give one more example, and it's the saddest: in Bible class we were talking about 1 Cor 15:19 (If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable) and someone actually said, "Even if Christianity isn't true, I'd still do it because it's the best way to live, it gives you the happiest life." The poor man had been so conditioned by advertising that when the Bible actually said the direct opposite he couldn't hear it.
The culture of Advertising has done this to us. Accepting it's premise of success! has sent a tornado through our churches.



Antithesis

 

(In any academic work today you have the essay written out as thesis, anti-thesis, and synthesis, so I suppose it's time for the anti-thesis.)
That we must advertise or face irrelevancy is a virtually undisputed premise. The mainline liberal protestants have shown us that if we want to grow we need to do it by attracting people. Witness the success of the emergent village... er no nevermind, that won't work.
Ahem. That we should embrace advertising is a given considering there is a Biblical precedent for it. Witness what Mr. Jesus said in the parable of the sower when He mentioned the four kinds of seeds and the one kind of soil... Oh. Right. Well, as it is written in Isaiah 30:9-11 
"For they are a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the LORD;who say to the seers, “Do not see,” and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions,leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.”
Uh... uh... the...oh okay, I realized my problem here, I'm not advertising it right. Let me try again.

Antithesis Revisited 

 

Are you aware that 90% of young people are leaving the church after high-school, and leaving forever? Are you aware that when surveyed many report that they find the moldy ancient councils and creeds 'unreadable?' Have you considered that the divorce rate in the church is greater than it is in the world? Do you realize your church is one generation away from total extinction? At Mr. Jesus fellowship we do. We are concerned. Which is why we are different. At Mr. Jesus community fellowship we serve a big God. We're thriving by staying relevant in our culture through a program of re-capturing the wonder of love. Because the fact is, you matter. You matter to God. A magnificent God. You are important to Him. Come be a part of a community where we're having a conversation of mystery. Of spirituality. In this safe place you are free to explore with us a new vision of a heavenly Father, a father who is with us, and for us. So come to Mr Jesus Fellowship and join us.


Synthesis 

 

Let the dead bury the dead. For me and my house we will hold to the sufficiency of Scripture. As it says:
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

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