A pastor surrounded by jumbotrons is mad that people treat church like a "big production"
J.D. Greear, whose church employs 22 techies, can't believe people act like church is a "religious show"
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Pastor J.D. Greear had a powerful message for members of his North Carolina-based Summit Church last week: Stop treating church “like it's a religious show” and a “big production” by walking in late or leaving early or streaming it online when you don’t have to.
Honestly, it's one of the things that irritates me about you guys that cruise in 10 minutes late or leave 5 minutes before we dismiss! It's not that I'm mad that you're missing part of the service. It's that you treat church like it's a religious show instead of a welcoming family that you're a part of.
When people say that the church is unfriendly, and it feels like a big production, you're the problem! And don't even get me started on you guys that are still sitting at home in your pajamas streaming online when, health-wise, you can and should be back in church, okay?
If you've got health issues, I get it, that's fine. If you're traveling, I understand. But some of you are still sitting at home right now on your couch because you've reduced church to a program you watch, and that is not church at all.
Or at least that would have been a powerful message if his church wasn’t literally designed to deliver a massive production.
A quick glance at the church’s staff lists an astonishing 22 people who work specifically in the “production” department. There are videos all about how the church has an estimated $500,000 worth of equipment to put on a live show.
So, yes, megachurches like his are meant to be a religious show. That’s why the audio of the sermons are always available, and the video always looks professional, and why every sermon is the same basic length, and why there are multiple jumbotrons behind the pulpit, and why you can see a goddamn drum set right there on stage.
The disconnect between the pastor’s words and their context went viral over the weekend after Greear (or—wait for it—his production team) posted a clip of the former Southern Baptist Convention president chastising his church while speaking from a pulpit that resembles the stage at a modern rock concert.
The tweet was later deleted but not before others shared the clip with a zoom-out revealing the backdrop.
It’s not just the hypocrisy of a performer condemning the crowd for treating church like a performance. It’s the audacity of a preacher demanding that his clients consume the product only in the way he feels is appropriate. (Taylor Swift will never tell you how or when to enjoy her music. You do you.)
If Greear really cared about church members working on his schedule, then latecomers wouldn’t be able to get in and live-streaming would only be available for those who request it for personal reasons. But of course that’s not going to happen because the goal of these churches is to broadcast the service to as many people as possible. (As one commenter pointed out: “Don’t want church treated like a production? Don’t create a production.”)
Hell, given how rapidly Americans are abandoning organized religion, Greear should consider himself lucky that anyone is watching him at all.
It should also go without saying that if Greear wanted people to show up on time and stay for the duration, then his church would provide services that gave people a better reason to want to be there the entire time.
After the clip went viral, Greear attempted to downplay the criticism by saying, “This was a bit of family talk and is unhelpful out of context.”
You can see the context in the full sermon. None of it changes the meaning of what he said. And it’s not “a bit of family talk” when it’s live-streamed to an audience of thousands.
What guys like him refuse to admit is that they need church to be a production because the message alone wouldn’t be compelling. Few people have any interest in listening to preachers rant about sin every week. More of them might tune in if there’s music and lighting and coffee and other ways to distract from the drivel.
Then there’s the matter of substance. What’s more important: Someone who shows up to church late but really wanted to hear the sermon, or someone who arrives early but mentally checks out when the sermon begins because he’s just there out of obligation?
If people are fighting traffic and quickly downing breakfast at home so they can voluntarily show up to church, Greear ought to be giving them a medal, not a lecture.
If he doesn’t like people showing up late, just wait till they stop showing up at all. It’s a lot easier, and way more fun, than attending a church where a pastor yells at you for not being devout enough.
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