Monday, March 16, 2009

The Gospel Blimp

“The Medium is the Message”, huh? While Marshall McLuhan’s 1968 book title may have sounded like a bunch of Sixties freak-speak, the Jesus and the Apostles understood this idea from the beginning. When God spoke the Gospel to Man, what was His medium of choice? "The Word became flesh and dwelt a while among us." The medium and the message were one and the same, Jesus living in the flesh!

Never content to leave well enough alone, Christendom has continually added enhancements to God's Medium of “Word Incarnate”, with the inevitable effect of trivializing the Gospel of God. The Imperial Gospel had its day, and the Industrial Gospel had its way. Now the Consumer Gospel is upon us.

Behold, The Gospel Blimp. Way back in 1960, Joseph Bayly (president of stodgy, corny David C. Cook, publisher of Sunday School quarterlies) published The Gospel Blimp, a prophetic and hilarious satirical parable on the subject. It was made into very a popular Christian film in 1967. For all the good it did. Check out the trailer here.

The story begins with a group of people trying to determine how to reach their next door neighbors for Christ. One evening while sitting out on the patio, they notice that the "Naughty Neighbors" pause from their card playing and beer drinking long enough to look up as an airplane passes low overhead. This gives our budding evangelists a great idea: Why not employ a 'gospel blimp' to fly over the town proclaiming the Word of God for all to see? This is gonna be big. REALLY big!!

The remainder of the parable chronicles this 'ministry' effort. The undertaking consumes enormous amounts of time and resources, and requires a mighty public relations effort. And none of it includes sharing the Gospel with the "Naughty Neighbors" who were the inspiration for the idea.

Bayly's parable drives home the point that the emphasis on infrastructure, facilities and public relations effectively neutralizes the gospel itself. The amazing thing is that Bayly wrote this in 1960! I can just hear him saying "I told you so."

"Let the Word of god dwell richly in YOU." Let the Word become flesh in your life, and humble yourself to dwell among your neighbors.

(Thank you Larry Farlow of Reformation Ramblings for paragraphs 4 & 5, which I mainly swiped from your fine blog!)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Watch you do WHAT??

Bizarre Messages! "Watch Me Live My Life" proclaims the imbossed rubber wristband. Now, what is the guy beside you on the bus going to think you mean by that?

I found this little item advertised on the margin of my Facebook page. It looks like a bit of Christianese lost in translation. I know what it's supposed to say...but what does it actually say to people?

I know what I think...what do YOU think?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Christianity versus Jesus

Could it be that Jesus just isn't good enough for the Christian world as a whole? Thank you Brant Hansen of Palm Beach FL for not prosecuting the Monks of unChurch Abbey for stealing this article off your website. And shortening it. And altering it. I knew he'd is what he wrote, more or less:

Dan Kimball wrote a great book called "They Like Jesus, But Not the Church". Or I suspect it’s a great book, but I haven’t read it. I don't think I need to, I get it: People outside the church think Christians are judgmental, simplistic, etc. etc. But Jesus? He's challenging and revolutionary; fascinating and insightful; mind-blowing and mysterious.

After working in both mainstream and Christian radio, I think I'm ready to write my own book based on many encounters: "They Like Church, But Not Jesus". Based on my observation, Jesus is simply not the most influential guy around church. He ticks Christians off.

I've been corrected many times by Christians – after I quoted Jesus verbatim! On the air it goes like this:

"You know, listeners, all the commandments can be summed up with ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and mind, and soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.’ Jesus said that, and..."

Ring-ring! Ring-ring! "Hello, welcome to the Morning Show. You’re on the air!"

"You forgot something: You have to Evangelize.", Jesus stands corrected.

Ring-ring! Ring-ring! “Hello, welcome to the Morning Show. You’re on the air!"

“Brant, it doesn’t matter how much we love and coddle sinners if we fail to stand against the tide of cultural decay in America.”

Well. Strike two for old Jesus.

Ring-ring! Ring-ring! “Hello, welcome to the Morning Show. You’re on the air!"

"Well, it's not quite that simple. You see, because that was the Law, and now we’re under grace..."

Rats. Three strikes and Jesus is outta there.

You see, we actually talk about Jesus quite a bit on the show. In fact – and I've been around a bit, including doing mornings at the single most-listened-to contemporary Christian music station in the country – I've never heard a show that talks more about Jesus himself. I think we're doing something kind of experimental. If you're in Christian radio, and you’re reading this, and you're doing the same thing – that's cool. I just don't get out enough.

So, more Jesus...but less Christian. How can that be? I'll connect the dots for you: The things Jesus said, the way of life he gave us, his themes and priorites -- they're simply don't seem very...Christian.

If we were to sprinkle in some more "hey-I'm-on-your-team-here" insider terms, or talk about how America is under attack by (you name it) or just stick to quoting Paul, even -- problem solved. Now that's Christian! But all that Jesus talk? Mmm – not so much.

I know you think I may be exaggerating, but I'm not. Not in the least. Today, I read the part where Jesus told us that when we're praying, we shouldn't babble on "like the pagans do". I got three very Christian emails of protest, citing scripture to rebut Jesus. No big deal, but – just so you know – it happens all the time. Real conversations, with learned Christians, and real objections to stuff Jesus said. People do love the Bible, but this Jesus guy just rubs them raw.

Jesus makes for great radio, but not great “Christian Radio”. But I want to convey how remarkable Jesus is. How smart he is. How he understands our nature. How infuriating he can be to those in power. I want to subvert a culture that turns the church into an incredibly expensive and remarkably harmless spectator sport. I want people to understand the revolutionary love of Jesus.

It’s an interesting paradox of my job: If I focus a lot on Jesus, I upset a lot of Christians.

This article is shamelessly swiped from Brant Hansen, nationally syndicated morning show host. Visit his blog site, Letters From Kamp Krusty, where it appears under the title “Can Jesus and Christian Radio Coexist?” There you can read it in original form, the way it was before I cut it down by half and made it sound as if I wrote it. But don’t tell him I stole it and altered it!