In the coming weeks there will be a new Superman movie released by Warner Bros, and I will be the first to admit up front that because I am a lover of fantasy and sci-fi I was excited to catch the movie when it comes out (although being a father of three kiddos I’ll likely see it in the home theatre and not the iMax).
However, I had actually quite forgotten about the upcoming movie release until this afternoon when I received an interesting (if not disturbing) email from StudyLight.org. I subscribe to StudyLight’s email feed so that I can receive Charles Spurgeon’s ‘Morning and Evening’ devotions sent to my email everyday. But this email was nothing even closely related to Spurgeon, devotionals, or Scripture for that matter. Instead it was an email promoting the upcoming Superman movie.
“What is this?” I wondered. The email subject line was entitled: MAN OF STEEL – Free Pastor Screenings and Resources. Okay, you probably know that by this time I was already in a state of confusion. Were these guys promoting resources to help the church correct any misnomers about Scripture that the movie contains? Has there been some public uproar about the movie and its religious overtones that I have missed?
As I dug deeper, it became obvious that the promotion was not only for the movie itself, but for pastoral resources designed to engage congregants using the themes and plot of the Superman movie. In other words, using the movie as the central text and make parallel inferences from scripture to show how Jesus was a “superman.”
To that point, there are even sermon outlines! “Superman’s mythical origins are rooted in the timeless reality of a spiritual superhero who also lived a modest life until extraordinary times required a supernatural response.”
As if Christ was waiting in the wings until things got so bad that as a grown up man he had to do something about it! Thank you Lord for thinking up a Plan B!
But it doesn’t stop there, there are also free resources! From the website: “Welcome to the Pastor Resource Site for the upcoming film, “Man of Steel”. Here you’ll find everything you need to educate and uplift your congregation: Including Free Videos, Sermon Outlines and Images.”
Pastors are being encouraged to use the movie not simply as an analogy, but as the text and background against which entire sermon series will be based – and of course ‘Ministry Resources’ Inc. is ready to provide pastors with trailers, pictures, and all kinds of cool add ons to attract maximum attendance!
Who is Ministry Resources? I’m glad you asked. Once you dig deeper, you’ll find that they are actually a privately held business that caters to the Catholic Church. But it is their slogan that really best explains who they are and their driving motivation: The Stuff You Use – To Fill the Pews!
These days it seems that many churches will do whatever it takes to “get butts in the seats”- and that often means looking more and more like the world. In fact, evangelical leaders are attending and speaking at so-called Christian-leadership conferences with men like best selling author Malcolm Gladwell who see this same thing…and celebrate it. Listen to what Gladwell said in a recent pannel discussion about intelligent design and the evangelical church:
This is part of an ongoing transformation. We will not continue to have this kind of divide between Evangelicals and the rest of society. I just went to an interesting evangelical conference, and throughout, rock bands were playing. The rock-’n’-roll culture within the evangelical world is indistinguishable in terms of the sound of the music from the rock culture that came out of a very different, irreligious secular tradition, except that the words are about Jesus–love and all that. They’re not resisting outside culture, they’re embracing it and kind of making it their own. I think intelligent design and Christian rock are similar. It’s about taking up form from the outside and trying to Christianize it. Does the debate over evolution matter? Isn’t it really a nondebate?
The church is becoming more and more like the world – and the world sees it and celebrates it! If there ever was a time for a generation of leaders in the church who will fight for Sola Scriptura, now is that time.
Of course this is nothing new. Listen to what Paul said to Timothy in a letter written near the end of his life:
…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:2-4, ESV)
2000 years ago Paul knew there would soon be people who didn’t want to sit under the authority of preaching, or study and submit to scripture. When you sit under the authority of true expository preaching where the Word of God is proclaimed the result will be exposed sin – that’s what these people-pleasing pastors and para-church ministries are afraid of, and its what human beings flee from naturally (John 3:19-21).
Any pastor who thinks using Man of Steel Ministry Resources is a good Sunday morning strategy must have no concept of how high the stakes are, or very little confidence in the power of God’s Word and God’s Spirit. As they entertain their congregants with material pumped out from Hollywood’s sewers, lives are kept in bondage, and people’s souls are neglected. In short, the gospel of Jesus Christ is kept hidden despite the fact that life and death are in the balance. Changed lives, changed hearts, and love for God and others (in short: personal and societal transformation and salvation) only comes through the Word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.
StudyLight.org seems to be neglecting the advice of the man whose devotions they send me every morning:
I would rather speak five words out of this book than 50,000 words of the philosophers. If we want revivals, we must revive our reverence for the Word of God. If we want conversions, we must put more of God’s Word into our sermons. – C.H. Spurgeon