Joel Osteen

In which the author considers the types of videos he shares from YouTube

For a moment, just a fleeting second, on Tuesday, I had a pang of conscience. I post a lot of videos here that I loosely categorise as “Christians doing stupid stuff and posting it on the Internet”… I was wondering why it is I post such videos. The other sites that do it seem to do it because they don’t like Christianity very much. But that’s not me. I love Christianity. I love the church. I love broken and stupid people trying to serve God with their gifts. And yet. I watch a video like this:

And I think “I just need to post that” – I didn’t post that video on Tuesday, and I only post it now, because it illustrates a point. Stripped of context that video is really dumb. In context, it’s an instructional video for a holiday kids club (judging by the title) that I assume has been uploaded to YouTube to cut down on pointless time in leaders meetings. A nobel aim. One that should be applauded (there are “private video” settings on YouTube though – which are probably more suitable for this sort of thing).

There are Christian videos online, and there are videos from “Christian Culture”… and there are those that just brilliantly highlight what is wrong with some of the parasites that have attached themselves to Christian culture…

Others just contain laughably bad theology.

So, I felt a little guilty about laughing at brothers and sisters in Christ. I thought “people laughed at Noah when he was building an ark, just because something looks stupid doesn’t mean it is.”

Then. I read this post on the Dilbert Blog by Scott Adams called the mockability test. And it kind of summed up why I think we need to call out Christians when they do ridiculous stuff. And lets face it. If God hadn’t directly said to Noah “build an ark I’m going to flood this place” – it would have been pretty ridiculous to build a massive ark and start collecting pairs of animals (I might be looking at you, creation museum builders).

Here’s a snapshot from the Dilbert article:

“I have a theory that some sort of mockability test would work like a lie detector in situations where confirmation bias is obscuring an underlying truth. In other words, if you believed that hard work often leads to success, and yet I could easily make jokes about it, that would be a contradiction, or a failure of the mockability test. And it would tell you that confirmation bias was clouding your perceptions. To put it in simpler terms, if a humorist can easily mock a given proposition, then the proposition is probably false, even if your own confirmation bias tells you otherwise.”

What I really want, when I post these videos, is for any of my readers who are interested in seeing the gospel being spread to their neighbours to take stock – and make sure that everybody in any of their flocks, spheres of influence, or family, avoids doing stuff that makes Christians a laughing stock.

The cards are stacked against us as it is with our counter-cultural gospel without us building extra obstacles onto our culture. You know the type of obstacle I’m talking about. The type that makes it look like being a Christian requires twirling flags around and speaking in tongues, or being completely off your face (though I’d put those people in the “calling out heretics” category not in the “hey this is slightly wacky” category), or just looking like an idiot. And I want non-Christian readers to go “yeah, those people are on the fringe of Christianity and converting doesn’t mean I have to have a lobotomy”…

So that’s why I’m going to keep posting videos of Christians doing dumb stuff on the internet. Because family members do dumb stuff all the time – and it’s loving to call them out on it in the hope that they’ll stop. It’s tough love.

What do you think? Should we be mocking videos of Christians, or people calling themselves Christians, doing stupid stuff? Are there reasons I haven’t considered for, or against, my argument?

Ten steps to planting a megachurch

I have no plans to plant a megachurch. Imagine the administration hassles. But I am an armchair megachurch planter. And here are my ten steps based on my observations. I have studied (some might say rigorously) five different megachurches at various stages of the developmental process – form megachurch megastar Joel Osteen to the New Calvinism’s Mark Driscoll. Lest you be concerned, the essential steps to growing your megachurch (based on my observations and my list), don’t seem to require any mention of Jesus.

  1. Be improbably good looking and well presented. Lets face it. If you’re not good looking there’s no chance the TV stations are going to want to interview you about anything. If you’re not blessed with natural good looks you can always get surgery. Self improvement is the first step down the road to success. You need to be good looking so that you can plaster your face all over the covers of your books and your church website. It doesn’t matter what doctrinal bent you come from. As the pictures below demonstrate (yes, they are all pastors – can you name them?).

  2. Marry an improbably good looking woman so that you can talk about your “hot wife” – This is also important because all the single guys will listen to you wondering how you managed to, to quote an Australian beer ad, punch above your weight. Here are the wives of the improbably good looking guys above. This is also really important when it comes to preaching the annual series on sex that all Megachurches must have in order to stay edgy, relevant and controversial.

  3. If you’re not a good looking guy with an equally (or slightly better looking) wife then you should resign yourself to just running an ordinary church. If you are good looking then here are the rest of the steps…

  4. Pick a suburb or sub culture – also known as an audience, target market or mission field. Contextualise like crazy. If your sub-culture is a group of inner-city gothic vegetarians then dress like they do – but eat meat to show that this is an issue of preference and conscience. To be a megachurch you either need to be in the subculture but not of the subculture, or you need to present that to which the subculture aspires to…
  5. Come up with a name for your church – Here you have three choices – you can choose an edgy buzzword, a relatively obscure Biblical reference, or a buzzword based on a relatively obscure Biblical reference. This choice should be made subject to the availability of the web domain. I would call mine “Buzzword Church”. Here are the names of our five case study churches.
    • Mars Hill Church
    • The Village Church
    • Elevation Church
    • Lakewood Church
    • Hillsong
  6. Come up with position titles – This one isn’t that hard. You’re either Pastor (your name) or some sort of edgy non-Biblical name that makes people feel comfortable. If you go down the pastor line you also need to distinguish yourself from your colleagues with a reference to your particular role.
  7. Pick some venues – Did someone say multisite? Your sites need to be far enough apart that there are clear suburban boundaries so that you can selectively allocate new families to the appropriate multisite location (or campus) just like the public schooling system – but close enough that there isn’t a change in demographic.
  8. Hire a marketing team – you’ll need a graphic designer (Image Pastor), a publicist (Media Pastor), a web developer (IT Pastor), a marketing manager (Evangelism Pastor) and a social media strategist (Community Pastor). Just to start with.
  9. Build a functional and edgy website – there are two design aesthetics you can choose from that cover every possible sub culture. Grungy or Minimalist with a feature image/sliding gallery (preferably featuring a picture of someone raising their hands). This choice is largely cosmetic – you can even combine them. What matters is your ability to “convert” in the web marketing sense – you need to turn casual visitors into podcast subscribers. Once you’ve built a substantial base of podcasters you can hit the lucrative conference circuit. There you get to hang out with a bunch of other improbably good looking “Lead Pastors” from your theological persuasion.

  10. You can gain megachurch style points by having your own personal website too. You get extra points if your own website outranks your church website when searching for your name, but lose points if the .com version of your name belongs to someone else (I’m looking at you Mark Driscoll, and you Brian Houston).

  11. Set up a publishing/recording company – You need to share your thoughts with the whole world. This sort of notoriety is good for your brand at home and abroad. A publishing arm will help get your initial tomes off the ground, and hopefully get money coming through the doors in the long term. If your writing is sensational enough it will generate a buzz.  A recording arm will encourage talented musicians to join your church – having the added bonus of improving the quality of service. This will also help to justify your outlay on the best AV equipment available. God hates bad sound. And podcast video needs to be as clear as possible if your missional agenda is to gain traction in the global market place.
  12. Stir up controversy – Part of being a successful Megachurch planter is creating the buzz that comes with being a megachurch. To achieve this you need to pick some touchy issues to be passionately outspoken about. You can recant about these later (or become more passionate). The point is to get your name blogged about lots. The ridiculously good looking people above have the following impressive results when you google them
    • “Mark Driscoll”: 313,000
    • “Joel Osteen”: 722,000
    • “Steven Furtick”: 45,300
    • “Brian Houston”: 121,000
    • “Matt Chandler”: 367,000

If at first you don’t succeed – Pull up stumps, blame God (or the Devil), reassess your marketing strategy and go back to step 3. Unless you decide that you aren’t actually really, really, ridiculously good looking. But even then there’s hope. You just have to wait until you’re old and austere.

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