Halo Church?

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Halo Church?

In my book “The Culturally Savvy Christian” (CSC) I define the CSC as serious about faith, savvy (gets it) about faith and culture and skilled in relating the two.

The Culturally Savvy Church should display the same characteristics-especially when it relates to programs aimed at our youth.

I was reminded of this by a NYT article on the X-Box game Halo III, which oddly enough has become a centerpiece for many church youth ministries.

The article says: “Across the country, hundreds of ministers and pastors desperate to reach young congregants have drawn concern and criticism through their use of an unusual recruiting tool: the immersive and violent video game Halo.

It then points out that the latest iteration of the immensely popular space epic, Halo 3, was released nearly two weeks ago by Microsoft and has already passed ($) 300 million in sales.

The NYT sees something ironic in Halo as an evangelistic tool: “First the percussive sounds of sniper fire and the thrill of the kill. Then the gospel of peace.”

One youth pastor justifies the use of Halo, saying– “Once they come for the games, Gregg Barbour, the youth minister of the church said, they will stay for his Christian message. “We want to make it hard for teenagers to go to hell,” Mr. Barbour wrote in a letter to parents at the church.”

My friend and culture-watcher John Seel is very concerned– The fear of irrelevance is palpable in the evangelical church. In many North American churches the consumer logic reigns — any means is justifiable to reach a target audience as long as it is followed by a simple gospel presentation. To reach an edgy audience, so the argument goes, one must employ edgy means. He goes on to say, Many readers of “The New York Times” will read this article and shake their heads and mutter, “Unbelievable.” I was one. Culture renewal begins in our churches. The problem is not the proverbial “them.” It’s us.

Marty O;Donnell, one of the creators of Halo and himself a Christian agrees– “Dick, I too read the article in the New York Times today and was disappointed and shook my head. Once again (I believe) the modern evangelical church has misinterpreted Christ’s injunction to be ‘fishers of men.’ Having Halo night at the local church building is about the same as having ultimate frizzbee night. I would prefer to see youth pastors and other Christians seeking people out wherever they happen to be rather than trying to get “kids into the building” so they can give them the good news. When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well it wasn’t some sort of “bait and switch”. The Church is the body of Christ not a building¢â‚¬¦”

So what do I think?

This story hints at a number of problems we face in today’s church:

1) As a consumeristic church–youth pastors are looking for hooks to keep kids coming–their job depends on generating big numbers at youth activities. This is a false measurement As we all know¢â‚¬¦when Jesus explained the gospel¢â‚¬¦ his crowds grew smaller not bigger.

2) When the gospel is reduced to “avoiding hell” achieved by making a sales pitch after the “main event,” we lose sight that Jesus is the main event and a complete, radical countercultural change is the result. Entertainment is part of our new life, but is not at the center of it.

3) The notion that “cultural relevance” is our primary concern is a mistaken one—Jesus called us to faithfulness not relevance, and though I will build bridges from popular culture to the gospel I will not yield to the temptation to make the culture define what is relevant. The words of Jesus are always relevant, regardless of the cultural trends of the day.

I think Youth pastors face a huge challenge–gamers play Halo because it offers sensatory excitement, a good versus evil storyline and a real sense of connection in community. If we love kids we will serve them in ways that address those needs more deeply than Halo can¢â‚¬¦

If “Halo Churches” are an inadequate response¢â‚¬¦we need alternatives¢â‚¬¦
And they should be generated by Culturally Savvy Christians who are serious about faith, savvy about faith and culture and skilled in relating the two¢â‚¬¦

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in October 12, 2007 by | No Comments »

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