Christianity,  Culture

Brothers, we are not movie-hawkers…


CNN’s Belief Blog reports that the marketing campaign for the new Superman movie includes a direct appeal to Christian movie-goers. A marketing firm is highlighting the Messianic themes of the film in order to attract the Christian market to “Man of Steel.” The firm has created an entire website filled with “Man of Steel” ministry resources including sermon outlines, video downloads, and digital images from the movie. They even hired a theologian to write sermon notes for pastors who want to make “Man of Steel” the subject matter of their Sunday morning sermon. The sermon intro calls for a viewing of the movie trailer during the sermon!

I am not sure how much commentary this actually requires. I hope there aren’t too many pastors who will be taken in by this. I couldn’t agree more with the line I saw in Jared Wilson’s twitter feed yesterday: “Pastors, your desperation to be relevant is easily manipulated.” Manipulation is exactly what is going on here, pastors, but the motivation is not the gospel. The marketers are not trying to help you to be relevant. On the contrary, their motive is to sell movie tickets, and these marketers have no problem whatsoever co-opting your pulpit for their profits.

Listen, I’m not against telling stories or using vivid illustrations in the pulpit. I’m not even opposed to a movie reference every now and again when appropriate. In fact, I began my sermon yesterday morning at my church with a long story about Forrest Gump. So I’m not railing against stories and illustrations in sermons. I am, however, railing against anything that displaces the centrality of the biblical text in preaching. Your preaching agenda ought to be set for you by the text of scripture, not by a Hollywood marketing firm trying to use you for profits.

The apostle Paul says it this way:

2 Corinthians 4:2 We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

2 Timothy 4:2-4 Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.

So preach the word, brothers.

That’s all I have to say about that.

19 Comments

  • Kerry James Allen

    Truth, brother. And don’t we all remember how Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ revived our nation and swept thousands into the kingdom.

  • Brandon Cox

    Denny, I get what you’re saying. But I would also urge caution in how we view what other churches do. We’re doing a series right now that uses movie titles as the message titles (which works well for a church plant meeting in a movie theater). Our goal is to draw people to the gospel. My text wasn’t the movie, it was 2 Timothy 1:6-8, but I used the graphics from the resource site you’re referring to. You issue a good caution, but another good caution is to never sneer at churches that use a particular means to draw the net without knowing the heart of the leadership of that church.

    • Denny Burk

      Hey, Brandon. Thanks for reading and thanks for the push-back. I wondered if someone might read what I wrote and take it the way you did. I tried to word things very carefully so as not to indict pastors who may have referred to the Superman movie yesterday or even have used some of the materials. I’m certain that its possible to access the storyline from the movie in a way that serves the text (like I tried to do with Forrest Gump yesterday). That’s not what I meant to object to.

      My objection would be to those who allow a marketing campaign to displace the centrality of the scripture in preaching. The thing that really got me was the sermon outline. I don’t think that pastors do well to take their sermons from marketing firms. That’s the part of this story that is astonishing to me.

  • Ian Shaw

    Glad my pastor recently when over what is a biblical message and what is not. If scripture/text isn’t the starting point, there should be red flags going up.

  • Brent Walker

    The slogan used by the ministry that put out the Superman sermon outlines is “the stuff you use to fill the Pews.”(found at the bottom of the outline). On top of very obviously promoting the movie, the outline I read seems to go along with the seeker-sensitive movement. I’m with you Denny – movie illustrations are OK, but the Bible must be central in any sermon. The goal in preparing a sermon cannot be to fill the pews or to promote a movie.

    • Mary Gray Moser

      Brent, keep talking like you talk! Take the movie, Broadside, which was hailed everywhere by Christians. There were things in that movie that were not biblical.

  • Dennis Salley, Jr.

    I felt exactly like a movie-hawker when I was “asked” to promote “Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and Courageous.” I can even get Bible studies and other promational materials to support any groups I may wish to start. Just saying…

  • John Thweatt

    I would have to say that after being at the SBC convention the easiest way for most pastors to empty the building is to wear Superman tights!
    Great thoughts. I would all seem to take care of itself if we just preached book by book, chapter by chapter, and verse by verse!!

  • Keith Kraska

    My problem with this is the movie itself. Without getting into detailed spoilers, Man of Steel is very grim, violent and disturbing. Its Superman neglects many lives. The parallels to Christ are contrived and, agreed, exploitative.

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