First, something I've been meaning to say for awhile. You do understand that my blog is about anything I may be thinking about on any given day, right?
Today, I was thinking about 007. Specifically the new film Casino Royale.
This film has struck a cord with movie-goers and critics alike:
Entertainment Weekly- Owen Gleiberman
Relaunches the series by doing something I wouldn't have thought possible: It turns Bond into a human being again -- a gruffly charming yet volatile chap who may be the swank king stud of the Western world, but who still has room for rage, fear, vulnerability, love.
San Francisco Chronicle - Mick LaSalle
Casino Royale is fresh, actually fresh.
LA Weekly - Scott Foundas
What's appealing about Bond is precisely its unhip classicism -- its promise of clean, crisp excitement delivered without the interference of whiplash-inducing camera pyrotechnics, attention-deficient editing patterns, gratuitous color tinting and/or ear-splitting rock ballads.
Slate- Dana Stevens
Martin Campbell (who also directed Pierce Brosnan's first outing as Bond in "Goldeneye"), has chosen to give us a Bond who's both metaphorically and literally stripped bare. Let me take this opportunity to thank him for both.
So what does this have to do with worship? It actually has more to do with what people respond to (or don't) in a worship service. A James Bond movie has been released depicting an authentic, believable British Special Agent. This special agent uses a regular gun (not a gun made out of a shoe), a regular car (not an amphibious cannon-capable roadster), and the audiences are responding to him. What I've heard is this; when people leave the theatre, they like the guy because he is a real person.
It was much the same reaction with Batman Begins. People got tired of all the over the top theatrics, special effects, and explosions. The audiences wanted something more basic; more believable. They found it in Batman Begins.
So my question is this. Why do some churches still beat the same drum of trying to put on a production and turn the worship service into a variety show hour?
It has been said that worship leaders try so hard to put on a top-notch rock concert during a worship service, with mediocre talent and meager funds. My comparison with Casino Royale takes it one step further. Here is a major motion picture company capable of putting out the latest and greatest cheese-fest Bond movie, along with the best special effects show you could possibly imagine, and yet they don't. They deliberately sacrifice the glitz and the light show, in exchange for a stripped down, bare bones 007. The result? A box office hit.
Again, they CAN put on the over-the-top Bond movie, but don't.
Most worship leaders CAN'T be Bono (or Michael W. Smith or Amy Grant or Passion or Maranatha or Hillsong) but TRY to, and fail miserably. And not just on one Sunday, but EVERY Sunday. The worst thing about it is that they actually believe they are connecting with the congregation... every Sunday.
Sadly, it has been my experience that this comparison will not resound with those individuals who need to hear it the most; worship leaders. They will continue in their attempts to entertain rather than lead worship. The will continually fail to make a distinction between worship and entertainment. They will continue to remain blind and deaf to the changes in the cultural make-up. They will continue battling over arguments of tradition vs. contemporary worship, and the silly congregants will continue to be either repulsed or mesmerized by the fact that drums are being played in the worship service. As this silliness continues to fester, those who are desperate for authentic worship sit starving on the side-lines, leave, or never darken the doors of a church.
I mean, why rent a DVD of Octopussy, when you have Casino Royale?
It's not always the case, but this is one of those rare occasions when the church needs to pay attention to what Hollywood is telling us. People in today's culture are seeking authenticity, not special effects.