Wednesday, July 8, 2009

#88 Jumbotrons


When your church building is the size of Old Navy, how else are you supposed to see what's going on down front?


But big screens are not limited to warehouse churches. Smaller-scale churches within evangelical culture now have projector screens so lyrics to the songs can be displayed via PowerPoint.


As churches work to "appeal" to a "younger demographic," the hymnal is going the way of the landline. In these churches a worship team leads the congregation in some extended anthems to Jesus in which the word "I" is used a lot. A PowerPoint display helps you know which words to mouth even if it can't help you with the tune.


Jumbotrons are also necessary at churches that have multiple campuses. (A multi-campus church is one that owns many buildings and the pastor's message is telecasted as people assemble to watch. When you gather in a building with other church members to see your pastor speaking on a screen from a remote location, there is a .0042% chance you would ever be granted a meeting with him in person.)


Bucolic and otherwise "inspirational" backgrounds are brandished on the screen(s) between worship songs. Oftentimes the background will display one word that is presumably intended to inspire the congregation.





These screens are also necessary for the videos that are sure to be displayed. Videos are gaining popularity within Christian culture. A church video is often produced by the church's creative team who works closely with the worship leader and features lots of smash-cuts and white flashes set to Christian music that sounds like Nickelback. (Although they want it to sound like Coldplay.) The purpose of a church video is usually to tell an inspirational story or to get you "pumped up" for worship.


In some instances churches will hold a service for "traditional" worship (always the early service) and the ensuing services will be "contemporary." This is to please members of the congregation on both sides of the generational gap. The nuances of these two services will be discussed further in a future post.

38 comments:

Sar said...

Which brings to mind something else we Christians like... Mixing our yous and thees, but never completely ditching the king's english or whatever that is. Adding a lovely sense of occasion, to quote Bridget Jones Diary.

Rye said...

In my church, we used to just have a home movie-style screen with an overhead projector displaying hymnals on it. But it was too hard to read with all the hands-in-the-air praising going on.

The jumbotron also seems to excite the groupie in us all.

Simone said...

Ooh, Ryan, my school's attached church had a white screen with hymn words projected with an overhead projector also. My regular church, not Catholic like my school, didn't have that. While I thought it was a quite a technological advancement and that beat struggling to find the songs in the hymn book, I scoffed that the Catholics could afford that because they were money hungry like my mother told me.

Amy said...

Once again I have a hard time figuring out where you're coming from. Some sentences read as merely factual, while others are cynical, sarcastic, or critical. Pick a side; as is, it's not fun to read.

Example of fact: "Jumbotrons are also necessary at churches that have multiple campuses."
well yeah, duh.

Example of What I'm not sure: "As churches work to "appeal" to a "younger demographic," the hymnal is going the way of the landline."
Why the quotation marks? Is there something wrong with a church appealing to a younger demographic, or would you prefer for Christianity die out along with the baby-boomers?
While I think the generation gap is probably a factor, I suspect that churches also may be leaning toward saving money on hymnals.

It's a good example of why I don't get where you're coming from: in my understanding, Christian Culture does not quickly or easily embrace new technology or environmental concerns. But churches that choose to invest in one or two jumbotrons instead of 3,000 printed hymnals are doing both. A more interesting and thoughtful post would have called out the seeming contradiction of that, and either tried to reconcile it or explain the current split and fragmentation of the Culture.

But it's a lot easier to just be vaguely critical of everything along the churchy spectrum, huh.
That's why I think I'm giving up on your blahg now. I really wanted it to be funny or thought-provoking, but it's just too lukewarm. I would that you were hot or cold.

But before I go, I'd like to suggest a couple changes to your introduction. First, "This is a scientific approach to highlight and explain stuff Christians like." No it's not, it's completely random. There are people who DO take a scientific approach to studying different religious demographics; their research is prized by authors, politicians, and marketers. You mislead us to suggest that you are one of them.
Also, "When I look at Christian culture I feel glad that I'm not in the middle of it anymore..."
Oh, yes you are! You give yourself away pretty often. :-)

stephy said...

But Amy, my blog is completely scientifically based! How could you have any sort of problem with the things I'm saying? :)

Christopher Orczy said...

Very funny. I have never visited such a church, but I don't think I would like it much. I recently suggested that we do away with powwrpoint, lights etc. No electricity! How nice would that be? To go into church and it be quiet, contemplative, with space to think and pray. I wonder if that would catch on.....

Rye said...

Amy,

You have some articulate points but I think you've missed the tone and humor of this blog completely. Stuff Christian Culture Likes may be cheeky at times, but it's coming from a preacher's kid who finds a lot of irony in the themes of church culture vs. secular culture. It's funny for anyone who questions the business of Christianity (WWJD merchandise?) and the culture that propels that business forward without regard for why people (hopefully) come to worship in the first place. What is Christ-like about a jumbotron? Nothing. It's just silly to think that a jumbotron, say, might be a tool used for both a worship service and an Insane Clown Posse concert.

Popular Science, this blog is not. If you like (and trust) the writings of people that DO take a scientific approach to studying different religious demographics, then read their blog(s). This all might go down easier if you know that the opinions expressed here have not been produced from beakers. 8+)

massminuteman said...

To go into church and it be quiet, contemplative, with space to think and pray. I wonder if that would catch on.....

But that would be spiritual, not Church-y.

E. Louise said...

This is spot-on.

Ann said...

I like this post. It's not the technology itself that's the problem, it's how the technology is used. I don't mind powerpoint slides, but video pastors are really sad to me. I have to admit that I'm going to be making slides next year for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. There will be no naturey slides, for sure...no waterfalls or sunsets.

Anna said...

Thee before Thou accept after Thine.

Amy, stop sticking up for your church. If you are a true follower of Christ then none of this should matter. The only thing that should matter to you is your relationship with Christ, which doesn't require Jumbotrons. You have nothing to prove and nothing to lose.

Sam Norton said...

Thank you very much for changing your RSS feed!
John Bell (of Iona community) has some very interesting things to say about the anti-fellowship nature of Powerpoint etc here - in amongst lots of other good comments about worship.

Billy said...

I don't understand your love affair with Pastor Steven Furtick, have you ever met him? Listen to him preach? Even as an evangelical Christian I have laughed at myself while reading your blog. But here lately I have begun to quickly lose interest. Godspeed with you and your blog.

Simone said...

I can't believe someone took the "scientific approach" claim literally! Maybe since creationists skew the idea of what science really is and how scientific theories are tested, your claim may be confusing to some.

Billy said...

Simone: Science backs up the Creationalist theory as much, if not more than the Evolutionist theory. But I would rather not hijack this post. Maybe that could be another blog for Steph. OK, so I lied a little, I did check your blog again :).

stephy said...

I can't endorse what Billy said about creationalism vs. evolution, but I do recommend everyone listen to his pastor's sermons: http://stevenfurtick.com

Meagan said...

First of all, didn't anyone have the job of transparencies?!? I was very proud to be the transparency girl. I had the switch down like a professional. Song end...switch...new song!


Secondly, if you're offended by anything on this blog just go away and let the rest of us enjoy in peace! I personally can relate to most everything on here and find it HILARIOUS.

stormface said...

Maybe this is a California specific thing, but the wannabe megachurches I have been to always have as a backdrop to the praise song lyrics a guy with his arms outstretched on top of a hill near the ocean. I think the ocean is crucial.

Monica said...

I cannot WAIT for a post about youtube/podcast sermons! For some reason, they seem to go hand in hand with the jumbotron.

Steve said...

I find it unfortunate that hymnals are, as you say, going the way of the landline, and that knowledge of singable worship songs is being left to a committee. When worship gets boring, I like poring through the hymnal and finding interesting hymns from our tradition. And 99 times out of 100, those 300 year old hymns are much better than the modern praise songs that center, as you say, on "I." The old hymn writers--Wesley, Watts, Doddridge, et al, had a sense or grandeur that is utterly missing in these horrid modern creations.

Still Breathing said...

Steve, The old hymns are the ones that have stood the test of time - we only use a small fraction of Wesley's hymns because most are not worth singing.

Stephy, I like the 0.0042% but remembers 85% of statistics are made up.

The use of a screen has enabled us to introduce new songs (some written by church members) without waiting for a new book or booklet. However it is important to keep a balance of old and new in every service.

Too many songs are about "I". Worship is a corporate experience so, at the very least, should be about "we". However I'm currently reading Ancient - Future Worship by Robert E. Webber and he makes the point that in the early church worship is to tell God's story not ours.

Ralph's ralph said...

I read recently, in some creditable source, that it's been scientifically proven that jumbotrons have increased dry humping particularly behind the jumbotrons.

Still Breathing said...

Ralph's ralph, you need to give a percentage to make it scientific.

"Jumbotrons have increased dry humping by 55% with 95% of the increase being behind the jumbotrons" would have been fine. You just make the numbers up but don't go over 99.8% (+ & - 3 standard deviations) or a statistician will get suspicious as this is too unlikely.

Ashes09 said...

Anyone who sniffs at the 'I's and 'me's in contemporary worship must get pretty offended by the Psalms - the Lord is MY shepherd, I shall not want, I am fearfully and wonderfully made, I lift MY hands in worship, MY hope is in you, do not let ME be put to shame, blessed be MY rock, I will sing a new song, etc. I can't see a different ratio (does anyone actually count these things?) but I guess you only ever see what you want to. A more scientific approach might have found a lot of God references in the worship songs...or noticed something about church culture that didn't make Christians look shallow.

Ralph's Ralph said...

Still Breathing, it sounds like you read the same study that I did. Yes, I should have added those quantitative stats. They also proved that there's a direct correlation between dry humping and jumbotrons. I wasn't surprised by the research.

themethatisme said...

I've never understood worship at all.
These gargantuan alleged appurtenances are simply the new 'my Gods bigger than yours' penis-envy.

Thank you for cheering my day.

Still Breathing said...

themethatisme - I think you may be right but don't muddle a rock concert with realk heartfelt worship.

Ashes09 - I take your point about the Psalms but I still think there is too much emphasis on the individual rather than the collective within church life at the moment.

Ben said...

I just think it's funny you Americans call them Jumbotrons. We call them projectors in Australia. We like to call things by less interesting names.

Meagan I had the job as transparency kid. I remember the pressure of trying to get it right. And then when you couldn't find the transparency of one of the chosen songs you freaked out and thought the sky was going to fall down. It got worse when the senior pastor thought the same thing. Oh well.
You'd hope our elders would have some perspective. Unfortunately I've noticed that many of those who seem the most spiritual have the least amount of perspective.

...oh well.

jaigner said...

Sar,

Yes. That is absolutely correct. Remember that "As the Deer" song we all used to sing...well...I never sang it because I couldn't bear to let the worst poetry in the history of the world pass through my lips.

http://jaaigner.blogspot.com/

MisterCaustic said...

Are y'all excited 'bout JEEEEEEEEEEEEESUS?!

Pedro said...

The one with the word "Grow" over the pic of grass - that could be straight from the Room 23 video (LOST).

stephy said...

Christians love Lost! And 24.

Chris said...

Wow! This blog is totally worth it for the comments. Keep it up, you guys are totally channeling the spirit!

jill said...

Don't forget the sunsets on the PowerPoint slides!

torcik said...

Now I know Catholics are not Christians-They don't have Jumbo trons in their churches......Wait a minute....Maybe jesus wasn't a Christian either, he didn.t have one

Anonymous said...

The jumbotron/megachurch situation is not completely dissimilar to the bell ringing in Catholic churches so people who couldn't really see the altar would know what was going on there anyway.

Lida said...

Rather than pointing out various things of Christian culture (including some that I'm not sure are even non-biblical), is it possible for you to focus more on Christ?

I'm assuming you do follow Jesus, so please don't just dismiss me. I have read a few of your posts, and now, I have gathered a few things *not* to do, but have no more of an idea of *what TO do* than before I read anything you wrote. I'm sorry if this offends you, but could you please be more constructive than destructive?

stephy said...

Hi Lida!
I don't know what *to* do either. All I know is that Christian culture today is not what Jesus had in mind. I find Christian culture to be destructive instead of constructive, and I'd like people to think about why they follow along without questioning it.