The pulpit of the culture is Hollywood.
It is sometimes subversive, sneaking its morality into the lips of the heroes. Other times it is overt, as the actors take on the role of modern-day prophets, touting their beliefs on Twitter and Facebook and interview shows.
The culture has an effective pulpit. It preaches in commercials. It preaches in ads. It preaches in news programs. It tells stories every week in our favorite shows (preaching in the subtext of the protagonists' actions). It guides our minds in film.
The culture spends billions of dollars to preach.
And we spend billions of dollars to hear it.
What, then, should be the response of the Church? Certainly some of what the culture says we would support. But not all. Never all.
So, what do we do? Make counter-cultural films? Start a Christian news network? Blog? Write fiction from a Christian worldview?
I think not.
The pulpit of the culture is indeed powerful. Yet the Church has something much greater: Incarnational Preaching of the Word of God.
On the face of it, this simply doesn't make sense. Films are more entertaining. TV shows have a bigger budget than your local church. Commercials often make us cry more than our pastor's sermons.
So how can incarnational preaching compete?
The Avengers is fun.
The Hunger Games is challenging.
Game of Thrones features attractive people.
Fox News is culturally relevant.
Yet, preaching wins. Preaching is more powerful. Preaching has a greater impact. Preaching is more effective at transforming hearts, minds and souls.
It's true that the Hollywood-pulpit has more money, prettier faces, and better distribution. But preaching has the living and active Word of God. Preaching is empowered by the Spirit of the Living God. Preaching carries with it a promise to always have an effect.
The preacher who preaches from the text will have a bigger impact in the lives of the congregation than Guardians of the Galaxy, Frozen, and Modern Family.
The pulpit of the Church, that is - preaching, is more powerful than the pulpit of the culture - Hollywood.
This reality will, of course, confound the culture.
This isn't to say that Hollywood is not effective. It is very effective. And I think we Christians often feel like we need to compete by making similar ideological films and shows that communicate our worldview.
But this is condescending. This is trading in a tactical nuke for a rocket launcher. It's a downgrade.
Nothing, nothing, nothing will transform lives more than the Word of God. And nothing, nothing, nothing unleashes the Word of God more than preaching it. (And preaching it live, in person, face to face, in the presence of the congregation.)
So does that mean we should abandon all Christian film making and pursuits in the arts? Absolutely not. But it should free content creators from feeling they need to leverage their stories to change people. Instead, they can tell deeper stories, where the worldview is embedding in the scenes, and dripping from the subtext. The message moment doesn't need to be pressed. Better products can emerge.
On the surface, the Church-pulpit is rather unimpressive. A man with an old book talking for an hour.
On the surface, the culture-pulpit is utterly incredible. Actors, sets, design, CGI, explosions, drama, and a soundtrack!
And yet, for all these centuries... from the days of Noah, through the prophets, to now, preaching endures. It will endure, until the glorious appearance of The One Who Dwells in Unapproachable Light.