Monday, August 06, 2018

The More Theater, the Less Church

A recent New York Times article is entitled "Where Churches Have Become Temples of Cheese, Fitness and Eroticism." It's on the declining Church in Canada. 

Buildings that once hosted churches are abandoned due to declining Jesus-following, and in many cases are being repurposed. There are "dozens of churches across Quebec that have been transformed — into university reading rooms, luxury condominiums, cheese emporiums and upmarket fitness centers."

Here are some photos.
a reading room

A restaurant

Church building becomes a cheese factory
Fitness center

And then there is the Théâtre Paradoxe. "It is now host to, among other events, Led Zeppelin cover bands, Zumba lessons and fetish parties...

At another event at the church, devoted to freewheeling dance, dozens of barefoot amateur dancers filled the space and undulated in a trance-like state in front of its former altar amid drums and chanting. Two men in tank tops clasped hands and twirled each other. A woman in blue juggled three white balls, putting one on her head.

While the church has welcomed a “Crucifix Halloween” party featuring barely dressed, leather-clad dancers gyrating in front of a lit-up cross, its director, Gérald St-Georges, a Roman Catholic, stressed that its main function was still sacred rather than profane."
Theatre Paradoxe
St-George says, “I don’t feel any taboo in transforming a church into a theater, as we are remaining true to the church’s mission of serving the community."

The transformation of a church into a theater. Or, perhaps better said, the declension, the deformation, of a church into a theater. 

A.W. Tozer looked at the Theatrical Church in dismay. Tozer wrote this in 1948:

"Thanks to our splendid Bible societies and to other effective agencies for the dissemination of the Word, there are today many millions of people who hold ‘right opinions,’ probably more than ever before in the history of the Church. Yet I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb. To great sections of the Church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the ‘program.’ This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us." (A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, Kindle Locations 46-51)

I have a theory. The more theater, the less church. 

The more staging, the less church. 

The more production, the less church. 

The more entertainment, the less church. 

The more audience, the less church. 

With this we see the evolutionary trajectory of many American churches, and their logical endpoint.


My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

I am writing...

How God Changes the Human Heart

Technology and Spiritual Formation

Linda and I will then co-write our book on Relationships