Have you ever ordered something off of one of those home shopping channels only to find that the product didn’t live up to the hype? As a kid I remember saving box tops to send in for “great” and “wonderful” items that always showed up and deflated my excitement like a day old birthday balloon. Since the advent of advertising people have become accustom to the letdown that comes from the product that had so much promise before purchase.
Take a look at the Big Macs above. On the left is the advertised product while beside it is what you actually get. There are special food paints and products manufactured specifically to dress up the advertised product while very little time, care, and effort are put into the product that millions of people actually receive. My guess is that food ads are as doctored as the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. Think about that. The Big Mac is treated like a rock star at photo shoots with special lights, make-up, dressers, and more. Plus there are people dedicating time to “enhance” the photos (I can just imagine someone making sure the burger didn’t look too thick or thin, enhanced the sesame seeds to sparkle and draw the eyes in). But no where close to half that much effort is put into the substance of what actually matters.
I can’t help but draw a comparison to the church today. We spend so much time doctoring up what we are trying to feed people with that we forget about the actual substance behind it. Now don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy thoughtfully planned and executed production. I enjoy the lights, the slick designs, the professional music. And lets face it there is nothing we can do to doctor up the message that would outdo the actual message. Please don’t confuse the analogy above, i am not stating that the saving grace of God is in any way inferior to anything. It is just that we put so much time and effort into preparing it in ways to be “seeker sensitive” to not offend people new in our churches that we forget how powerful the Holy Spirit actually is. The problem is we think people expect slick and professional and grand. And why wouldn’t we think at that look at our culture. Look at the two Big Macs above. But didn’t the Jewish people of the Old Testament expect the same thing. They were looking for this grand King to come in and lead with grandeur, gold, glitz, and authority. But what they really got was something way better than they could have ever imagined in a lowly servant.
We can dress church up all we want to make it as appealing as possible to as many people as possible but we need to remember the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. God works in spite of humanity’s attempt to make God work. Amidst the lights and sound systems we need to remember to step aside and think about what we are really sharing not what we are doing to try and make it more appealing.