Tron Church: To Be or Not to Be

August 3, 2011

Before I say anything, I want to make sure that I am understood in this: my goal for this article is not primarily to criticize. Criticism ought never to be an end in itself.  It serves only as a means to a greater end.  I hope that my goal is clear by the end of this article.  Also, this is my opnion.  It may not reflect the opinions of all the writers for the Sci-Fi Christian.

I was given the following video and was asked to write on it.  I watched the video and had two major thoughts.  I will address my first though second and my second thought first (confused yet?  U Mad?).

You can check out the whole article here.

First, I was impressed by these people’s ability to create this set.  It really looked like Tron!  I’ve begged my wife to go on a vacation to the Grid, but she had to sit me down, crush my dreams, and tell me that it doesn’t exist.  It was like the whole Santa balloon was popped for me all over again.  I’ll continue to put LED Christmas light ropes on my car and throughout my house anyway.  She can’t stop me.

Second, I want to encourage you to consider if this is the sort of church you ought to go to.  What would make me say something like this?  I am aware that the Christian Church is very diverse, but is this too far?

Let me be blunt in saying that this is too far.

If you are like me, you may have watched this and thought to yourself, “There is something wrong here, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.”  It isn’t like we can point to one verse in the Bible that says that something is wrong with what this church is doing, but it seems that they may be missing the point.

This is a very big case of missing the point.

Let’s examine some points here to see if they may help transform that abstract feeling to a more concrete and thought-out opposition.

My biggest concern with a church like this is the method they use to get people to come to their church.  The “bait and switch” method is clearly illustrated.  They bait people with the idea of cool sets, smoke, and lights and then try to spring Jesus on them.  The smoke and lights have nothing to do with the Gospel nor are they centered on Christ.  Since anyone can enjoy the smoke and lights, anyone would be inclined to stay at this church, but the Church is to be a body of believers primarily.  The people that come for the lights and smoke aren’t automatically going to be interested in the Word of God. This requires a work of the Holy Spirit.  It seems that it would be easy for the leadership of the church to desire to attract more people by softening the Truth.

I am reminded of Matthew 7:21-23.  This passage is part of a sermon given by Jesus which teaches that some people who think they are saved really aren’t.

Am I saying that the people of this church are not saved?  No.  It is not for me to making a sweeping judgment like that.  I will say that they do not appear to have many comparable traits with the churches in the Bible.

What I am illustrating is this warning: since there is such a disastrous deception as false conversions (thinking you are saved when you are not), it is wise to be on close guard.  Be watchful over your soul.  I believe that a healthy thing to do for your soul is to make sure you are part of a church that teaches boldly the Word of God.  That way, you can be part of a church that is eager to watch over your soul alongside you as well.

The underlying approach to ministry here in this video seems to be a desire show the world that believers can be cool.  Who doesn’t want to be part of a cool group?  But the Bible says that the world hates the light (John 3:20).  Yes, there are those that in the name of “Christ” act like idiots, but I am not talking about them.  God is their judge, and He will vindicate His Name against them.  Realize this: Jesus Himself said that He was offensive (Matthew 11:6).  Many of the disciples, followers of Christ, and saints over the years have been killed for the sake of Christ.

Would they have been martyred for Tron Church?  Would they have considered the cost of their lives worthy?

Is this a better way?  Should the disciples have picked up on this new way of “doing church” back then?  Would the Church have been spared thousands of lives if Church History was altered to have this sort of method earlier?  Why didn’t the Lord Jesus Christ command us to do this earlier?  Would He have been more pleased by this?

I do not believe this is a better way.  We are not called to attract the world.  We are told to preach the good news of Jesus Christ.  We are told to command people everywhere to repent and believe in Jesus Christ.  There is no better way.

Yes, reach out to your community.  Yes, engage culture.  Yes, share the Gospel.  Yes, plead with people to repent and believe.

Teach the Word of God, but not at the cost of the Word of God.

Now, let me conclude with two concerns that you may have about my viewpoint and some advice and helpful resources.

First, some may say that it is good to bring these people in with whatever means necessary.  Didn’t Paul become all things to all people that he may win some (1 Corinthians 9:22)?  Paul didn’t compromise the Gospel.  Instead, he said that he become all things to all people for the sake of the Gospel.  Yes, he quoted the culture’s poetry in his sermon, but he didn’t decorate the catacombs that the church met in to illustrate the Odyssey in hopes the world would think he is fun.  Paul didn’t become all things to all people to change the image of the Church or to make the Gospel less offensive.  This is the same man that said, “And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God,” (1 Corinthians 2:3-5, ESV).  His appeal was nothing but the power of God.  Would Paul use the “bait and switch” method?  I would say no (2 Corinthians 4:2).

Second, some may say that I am being judgmental.  To that, I have to explain what judgment is and what it is not.  The Bible says that the use of the Word includes reproofing, correction, and training (2 Timothy 3:16).  It is impossible to reproof or correct without making a sort of judgment if something is right or wrong.  To say that we aren’t to cast judge is not to say that we deny that there is such a thing as right and wrong.  As Christians, we know that they are right and wrong. Consequently, we stand for what is right at all times, but in a case-by-case appropriate manner.

When we are commanded not to judge, it means that we are not to sit in our own version of the Judgment Seat that only belongs to Christ.  You don’t decide what right is and what wrong is.  The only authority we have is the Word.  The Word is the judge, and we administer what it says.  Furthermore, never are we to act as if we decide who is saved or not.  Rather, we go to the Word and examine what it says about the characteristics of a believer.  If someone is acting outside of the characteristics while saying he or she is a believer, we are to warn and plead with him or her to repent.  I am not making a judgment over this church in the article or the people that go to churches that are like it.  Rather, I am showing you with examples from the Bible why I am concerned.

Finally, here is a helpful resource.  The book, “9 Marks of a Healthy Church,” is a resource that may be an interest to you.  It goes through 9 biblical principles that every healthy church ought to have.  They also have a website that has some resources and even a page to do a “church search” for healthy churches in your area.

 

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29 comments on “Tron Church: To Be or Not to Be

  1. Indy256 Aug 3, 2011

    It reminds me of John 2:14-16. And if I remember correctly, Jesus was more than a little perturbed at the desecration of his house. Sure, the “Tron” thing is different in that they are trying to draw people in so they can lead them to God, but the purpose of church is not to entertain but to Teach and promote fellowship.

    • Thanks, “Indy,” for your feedback. Desecration is so important anywhere. I think that there are things in churches that Jesus would respond the same way because they are in the churches and even things that are lacking in churches. God help us by the guidance of His Spirit and Word to live biblically.

  2. Amen, amen and amen. *VERY* well-written article pointing out the problems/concerns both with these bait-and-switch churches and correctly explaining the difference between judging someone’s eternal state and discerning whether or not what a church, person, or group says in the name of God is consistent with what God has actually spoken in his Word.

    LifeChurch.tv has other issues … and some good points. The good: they brought us the immensely popular Bible App for the Android smartphone platform. A great tool. However, one emphasis they have is being an “online church” with the ability to log in and watch the services online, engage in chat rooms, write in prayers, etc… all during the service. I can understand a church live streaming its service…. but the very imersive feel that comes with lifechurch.tv is that it may be a replacement for some to visit the website and take part of the online worship service, rather than being a member in an actual congregation of believers.

    Sorry for that ramble.

    These bait-and-switch methods are sometimes defended in the name of our being “fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19) “You attract a fish with some bait, and then you hook ’em… so we should do the same within the context of being fishers of men” one may say. But is this a valid response? Is it a correct use of the command of our Lord to be fishers of men? Nay, I say. The fishing Jesus referred to involved no pole, no hook, and no bait. It involved a net. Casting a net… the net fell where it did, and then the fish underneath would be caught. No deception involved. Likewise, we should abstain from deception when it comes to our churches and presenting the gospel.

    • Thanks for your feedback, Ryan.

      I loved the point you made regarding the nets versus deception. Beautiful.

      The truth of the matter is that we can’t created anything more attractive or beautiful than Jesus Christ. Let’s proclaim Him boldly and accurately. Let’s minister as He did. The attraction to Christ ought to be Christ.

    • @Ryan — No deception involved! Indeed, we know who the deceiver is. Satan [or Lucifer] is The impostor, The imitator, The deceiver. And imitation is his main method. There are more layers of deception, it encapsulates false-truths inside greater false-truths and so on. We, from our earthly condition, have no means of detecting which false-truth is the top most and which the last at the bottom of this wrapping machine of lies [longest living lies are half-baked truths, right?].

      This is why Christ Jesus sent us The Holy Ghost to remain with us, within us, among us, until His Return. The Spirit of God interconnects us in a network-of-Truth and that goes beyond our understanding, same way as the net-of-lies goes on the opposite [deceiving] side.

      Thus, taming the energy of our egos down to the dust particles we currently are, let’s not badly judge the ‘founders’ of the Tron church because they don’t know what they are doing. They slip into modern idolatry same as churches of the past slipped into ancient idolatry, it’s common human nature…

      The bad news is that this approach is not of recent date and won’t stop here, because Lucifer wants [needs?] to play his final grand role: imposturing Jesus Christ [Matthew 24:15] shortly before time will end.

      What one can do, individually to begin with, is to find an idolatry metric, study the trend and learn the signs of the times… With rare exceptions, churches will be deceived, sooner or later. But believers won’t, because of the Separated Spirit.

  3. Thomas Goodnow Aug 4, 2011

    Good article, and I think you did put a name on the creature that seems to have arisen from the cultural goo. A couple things stood out to me in the video and your comments:
    – “It’s like Christmas and Easter rolled up into one.” Hmmm….. where does that leave Christmas and Easter? When the biggest event of the church year is a celebration of spiritual (?) themes in the movies, where does that leave advent and the nativity, or the cross and resurrection?
    – As you point out, the early church did not seem to imitate culture. A common talking point among skeptics is that the early church just copied pagan religion: that Jesus is just a warmed-over Mithras, that Easter is just a fertility-festival wannabe. Thankfully the early church didn’t give skeptics any actual ammunition like this, and these claims are easily debunked; will my great-grandchildren be able to say the same about our time?
    Thanks again

    • Thomas,
      Thank you for your feedback. I agree with the comment on Easter. My wife watched the video last night and you should have seen the look she gave me when he said that.

      Honestly, I’m not concerned about holidays. I am concerned about every week proclaiming Truth boldly and truthfully.

      Your last question is a good one to ask. I am thankful that we have the Holy Spirit. The Church will be perserved and the Word will not cease. Imagine if these things were left up to man… What a tragedy that would be! But God will keep His Church!

      Amen!

  4. Mike Poteet Aug 4, 2011

    Yes, “bait and switch” is exactly the problem. I have no doubt “Tron” or anything else in pop culture (well, almost anything else) could be used as an effective “point of contact” between the culture and the Gospel — as a means to an end. But this congregation itself seems to have made the means the end. (Maybe this is why some theologians, like Barth, are suspicious of “points of contact” altogether!)

    I also wondered whether this congregation spends an equal amount of time, energy, and money doing the kind of things Jesus expressly commanded us to do for “the least of these, my brothers and sisters.” I do hope so.

    • I like your “point of contact” ideas. In fact, that is one of the reasons I tend to write for this website. I like what they are doing here. Things like Sci-Fi can made a good point of contact. We are to engage culture. You nailed it on the head when you mentioned it being a means and not an end. Perhaps we are to engage culture to bring people to the Church (as a means to evangelize) instead of as a means to bring them to a church.

      I’ll need to chew and pray about this more.

      Thanks for writing!

      • Mike Poteet Aug 4, 2011

        Or, better still, we should be about bringing the church to them. Or, really, being the church for them. I think we sometimes get so wrapped up in questions of “How do we get them into the church building?” that we lose sight of “How can we better be the church out in the world?” Then, we can talk about “bringing people to the church” in terms of incorporating them into the life and work of the church.

        Thanks for the ongoing discussion!

  5. Well put, sir. Well put.

  6. Hi,

    Here in Brazil we have a church whose pulpit is a surfboard, and then, I ask myself: what are the distinguishing marks to recognize whether a organized community reflects a true visible and local church of Christ or not?

    John Calvin said: “Wherever we find the Word of God surely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, there, it is not to be doubted, is a church of God.” Considering this, can I say that this church whose pulpit is a surfboard is not a church of Christ? Since I was never there, I can’t judge on that, and probably it may be.

    But I can criticize this overall tendency of tranforming churchs into “markets” and “stages” (a theme of a brazilian doctorate thesis) in order to gain people to Christ. Instead of transforming our culture, the church seems to be transformed by it. Instead of developing its own sacred art style, especially the evangelical church in opposition to the roman catholic, it assimilates the styles of the world. And thinking about something said in the last book I’ve read, are roman catholics not right when they say that some evangelicals use the Grace of God to justify a behaviour which is simply disrespectful, irreverent, towards The God Almighty?

    I think your thoughts reflect what Rev. Kevin DeYoung also comments in his good book Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be, which I also recommend for you all.

    Great post, Brady.

    (Have you never considered writing a book?)

    Cristiano.

    • Cristiano,

      I want to address a few things here from your feedback.

      First, thank you for writing. I always look forward to your feedback.

      Second, I think that I used to have this idea that churches were perfect in other countries. Sadly, the issues we face here in the States are everywhere. But I know this: the True Church of God is not weak. She is strengthened and preserved by God Himself. Isn’t He good?!

      Third, I love how like-minded we are despite living in so far away. I haven’t read DeYoung’s book, but I’ve heard it was great.

      Fourth, churches are going to look so different with each culture. We ought to be missional. There isn’t a certain “look” that churches ought to have according to my belief, but we are to be wise and boldly preach Christ. He alone ought to be lifted up. I love what Driscoll has to say about missional churches: http://theresurgence.com/2011/07/25/four-points-of-the-movement.

      Fifth, I was really encouraged when you asked if I had thought about writing a book. Thanks! I am working on a fiction book, which is written in the same spirit of Pilgrim’s Progress. I describe it as Pilgrim’s Progress meets Fellowship of the Ring meets the Book of Romans meets Parables meets the 1980’s. There are even some LOST flavors in there.

      Thanks again! I love your feedback and I look forward to it each time I write!

      • About the “Second”: oh, He is Good, indeed! 🙂

        About the “Third”: yes, we are. 🙂

        About the “Fourth”: I totally agree.

        About the “Fifth”: wow! hahahahaha THAT’s a book!

  7. Mike Poteet Aug 4, 2011

    @Cristiano — If the pulpit is a surfboard but the service is recognizably ordered around the hearing of and response to the Word, I’d probably chalk that up to accomodation to the local culture. Sure, it’s a fine line; but preaching from a surfboard pulpit might even forge a new link between something the congregation sees in its daily life and their encounters with God. But if it’s done just to be a cute prop (a la Vacation Bible School decorations — do the churches around you do “VBS”?), I’d have reservations, myself.

    @Thomas — Excellent point about the pastor’s (probably unintentional, but still real) devaluing of Christmas and Easter.

    • Thanks, Mike. You make some good points. Churches will look different and they ought to. The Holy Spirit drive people to Christ, not use. We just proclaim. Agree?

    • The church (yes, for me they seem to be church) I was referring to is called Snowball Church, here in the city of São Paulo. I don’t whether they exist somewhere else or not.

      Considering that we don’t have beaches in São Paulo, my understanding is that it’s more a style than accommodation to a local culture.

      Follow the link if you want more information on them.

      • Mike Poteet Aug 4, 2011

        Huh, well, yes — if no beaches and hence no “surfer culture,” it does seem an odd choice! But, if it’s just style and the Gospel is truly preached, then… no harm done, I guess. The Bible doesn’t say anything about the kind of pulpit preachers must use (in fact, I think most preachers in Scripture didn’t have a pulpit at all!).

        This has been a very interesting topic and discussion all around — I’m impressed at the number of responses it has generated. Thanks, Brady, for the original article, and thanks to everyone else who has chimed in.

        • I’ve really enjoyed the feedback of everyone. Thank you for the encouragement.

          May we all remember our need of God. May He transform us that we will properly display His goodness.

      • Mike Poteet Aug 4, 2011

        I’m visiting their website now, and listening to the sermon. It seems like a sound Gospel message so far.

        Also, I note that the surfboard has significance as an heirloom from the congregation’s history, when they were meeting in borrowed or rented space from a maker of wet suits, etc. I think that’s legitimate, as long as it doesn’t become an idol. (And many of you have likely had experiences of worship furniture and other “adiaphora” becoming idols that get in the way of worship and mission!)

  8. i mostly agree, but what i would need to see is if they are preaching the Gospel or not before i make a judgment call. to me it doesnt have to be mutually exclusive. they can have the Tron set–as cheesy and trendy as i think it is–and still preach the Word and engage people with Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. just my two cents.

    • Life Church.tv tends to treat the Gospel as what Christ does to get people saved and leaves it at that. Sanctification tends to be boiled down to “do these three things that will make your life better”, rather than taking into account Paul’s question from Galatians, “Are you who have begun by the Spirit, are you NOW being perfected by the flesh?”

      So you can take or leave my opinion, Dave, but I’d say they pretty much fail the test you set up in your question. Listen to their podcasts and definitely ask that question…along with, “Is this about what I’m supposed to be doing, first and foremost, or is what I’m supposed to be doing talked about with the primary emphasis being what Christ has done for me, in my place?”

      • Dave G,

        You make some really good points. Thanks for your feedback. Again, I want to make sure know that we don’t want to crictize for no reason. There is a better way. Christ deserves more glory. That is our goal.

        but they do make a mean Bible App. 🙂

    • Dave J, thanks for your feeback.

      I love that we can be brothers and not agree on every point. We have Christ in common. And He is Everything. Period.

      I feel that there would still be some issues if they preach the Gospel clearly, but I would be silient with them. I think that Dave has some good insight on this.

      I do want to say this: I agree with Paul in Philippians 1:18. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

      God is able to use our feeble attempts through His Spirit.
      .

  9. Great article, Brady! I love the discussion it has generated!

    • Thanks, Matt. I’m loving the discussion too. We have some really cool feedbackers.

  10. Scott Lee Aug 5, 2011

    Thanks Brady. Good job.

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