The book “Amusing ourselves to death” by Neil Postman was written over twenty years ago today. His book challenges the technological shift that started with the telegraph and the photograph leading to the television. These shifts in communication mediums have fundamentally changes the means of public discourse in this country. Where people once invested themselves in writing they now spend on images. Due to this change in technology, the rules for communication have changed. Postman believes we now live in a world where we are represented by all the lights and sounds of Las Vegas.
Postman wrote this book in 1985 and died in 2003. Though his book has arguably more to say to us today, I don’t think Postman could have fathomed where technology would lead us. We live in a day where everything has some form of entertainment value attached to it. So what does this mean for the church.
The majority of churches today has bought into the belief that we need to have the tools of entertainment as a part of the church service. Everyone has lights, sound, video, and possibly dramas and other mixed mediums for the service. All of the words to the songs that are sung are plastered on multiple screens as well as the bible verses being preached about during the sermon. The thought 10 and 20 years ago was-if you have these elements as a part of church people will want to come. This thought came out of the seeker sensitive movement. This idea hasn’t worked- people still aren’t coming through the doors of the church.
I have heard over and over again from young people that they desire to have an authentic experience when they go to church. The question I am left with after reading Postman’s book is whether or not that is possible when we frame our content in the messages and mediums of entertainment. I understand that this is not the intentional message that every church is sending out, but I am afraid it is happening none the less. Too many churches are trying to pitch Jesus as a product.
What would church look like if we didn’t have all of the lights, screens and smoke in some cases? Would more people find a refreshing understanding of the world around them and the life that Jesus offers if we would separate him from the images of television? Church done this way wouldn’t be about the flash of the production but instead would be only about the message of Jesus and the relationships within the community of the church.
With technology making it more difficult to have relationships face to face as God intended, wouldn’t church serve people better if we weren’t dressing it up? The power of the gospel lies in the message, not the medium. If we put the screens away long enough, people might just have the time and space to see who we really are- authentically.