Now, Religion in the News, a report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s item is from Charismanews.com, December 2, 2003, with the headline, “Late Night TV Inspires Church’s Wednesday Services—‘This is not your grandmother’s Wednesday night Bible study class,’ could be the slogan for a Church of God in Cleveland, Tennessee. A congregation with an innovative midweek service in a Tampa, Florida, area. Inspired by God and late night TV host, David Letterman, Wednesday Night Live [WNL] with Pastor Rodney is hosted by Rodney McKinley, associate pastor at Abundant Life Ministries in Largo.
“ ‘If we’re honest, most Wednesday night church services need a shot in the arm,’ McKinley, 37, told Charisma News Service, ‘I call this “sermon with a twist.”’ Instead of three points and a prayer, McKinley opens WNL at 7:00 p.m. with a monologue and some light-hearted banter with his co-host, followed by a top-ten list with some religious connection. For example, ‘Reasons Why God Made Eve.’
“They then welcome the guests, costumed characters straight out of the Bible. ‘The Bible may never look the same again,”’ the Tampa Tribune observed. The program features a backdrop scene of Tampa’s downtown skyline, a desk for McKinley, a couch for his visitors, plus a live band that provides musical interludes. Giving the sense of a live TV production, a cameraman films all the action.
“WNL, started as a four-week experiment in June, is a big hit, tripling attendance from 50 parishioners to about 150 and about 35 people have received Jesus and rededicated their lives to Christ. ‘It’s not just church folks who are coming,’ McKinley said. ‘They’re bringing their neighbors, friends, and co-workers. No matter how much fun we have, Jesus is still the center of the show. We never end it without giving someone the opportunity to receive Christ.’”
Tom: Dave, is that the job of the church? To entertain people?
Dave: Where do you find this stuff Tom?
Tom: Hey, Dave, this is right out there. This is from Charisma News. So this is something that’s going on. Now I know you’ve never seen the David Letterman Show, but you get the gist of it here—this is a late night talk show, and we are mimicking entertainment, the world, what the world wants.
Dave: I’ve never watched the David Letterman Show. You know, sometimes when I’m flying in an airplane, after they’ve shown the feature movie, then they put on some of this stuff, and I think I would recognize him. Yeah, he sits at a desk and people…
Tom: But there—this wouldn’t have to be Letterman, although he has a “shtick,” call it, in which he goes down the top-ten list, and usually they’re funny, and so on. But, Dave, this is entertainment. How does it relate to the gospel? Not only that, but this is consumerism. This is marketing. This is—“let’s bring in the people through whatever devices we can to attract them to entertain them.”
Now before you say something—I don’t know if it was on this program or not, but one of the things that I just thought was terrific that you said—you said, “You know Tom, do you know what ‘musing’ is?”
And I said, “Well, musing—that’s like thinking. You’re thinking, you’re musing over something.”
And then you said, “Do you know what a-musing is?”
And it’s “against thinking.” It’s “against musing.” And that’s part of the problem. I mean, we like to be entertained and amused, but with regard to the gospel—with regard to Christ—are we teaching people to not think? To just be entertained and amused?
Dave: I’m afraid so, Tom. Let’s pause for a moment and think. The Bible is God’s Word. He did not give it to us to have a band in the background and to have some kind of entertaining routine in order to jazz it up. And “it’s so boring. What God said has to be made more palatable, more entertaining for us.” That is an insult to God.
Furthermore, what you just brought up, it goes against what the Bible is for. Psalm 1: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” We are supposed to muse: “Think on these things,” the scripture says. We’re supposed to think carefully, solemnly.
I think of the words of Paul to Titus. He said, “In all things…” and Tom, this is a prayer that I pray for myself, and probably every listener would do well to consider it very carefully—but he says, “In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works.” And then he says, “In doctrine, showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.” Now you couldn’t fit that in to this format.
Tom: Not at all.
Dave: It’s just absolutely contrary to what the Bible teaches, to what the Bible is about—well, Tom, it’s shocking, but this is what is happening today.
Tom: Dave, we’ve been talking in past programs, and we did a live program a couple weeks ago in which we dealt with a marketing approach to promoting Christianity. A marketing approach to reach the lost souls—and consumerism. And I’ve been thinking as we’ve been going over this that it just relates to the church picking up on the world and so on and so forth.
But I just got a paper from my daughter. She had me read an article that they were given. She’s a freshman in college, and the professor who wrote this article was talking about students, and they don’t want to think anymore. They don’t want to get in and have discourse over issues and so on. He has to begin—he calls it jumpstarting his class. He has to begin with a joke or some kind of snappy deal to kind of get their attention, and then he can’t correct them, because the administration says, “Oh no, no, no, come on, these are consumers. You have to handle them correctly.” It’s affecting how he grades the students, because if he gives—if he’s too tough, nobody will take the class. If nobody takes the class, he’s out of a job. The university itself has a problem with trying to attract students and so on. It’s a consumer mentality, and this is what this is a part of.
Dave: And, Tom, we don’t have any time, but much of it goes back to psychology. This is the whole idea. Massage people around, massage their ego, make them feel good about themselves, and so forth. Tom, I sometimes read some of the writers from 300, 400, 500 years ago, and I’m telling you, I marvel at these men. Even though I don’t agree with some of them, like John Owen, a Calvinist. But to write the thousands, millions, of words I guess, that they have written and without a computer—and the depth of what they are talking about. These people knew how to think, and we are robbing our children in public school, and we’re robbing the church and in the process we are robbing men of a proper relationship with God.
Tom: Dave, somebody else said it. We’re amusing them to death.