once ate six dozen snicker-doodles (sugar-coated
cookies) in two days, with some help from my wife. The
first 15 or 20 tasted phenomenal. She's a good cook! But
then I went on auto-pilot and morphed into a binging
eating-machine. I barely tasted the last ones, though
they were every bit as sugary as the first. And I
learned something: the senses grow dull when they're
overloaded. (Something happens to your waistline, too,
but that's another story.)
experience of snicker-doodles, and my observation of
some ministries share some common features.
a world that bombards our senses at every turn, sensory
overload is not only a possibility but a common reality.
And our natural response is to shut down and become
oblivious to it all. We no longer hear planes overhead
or notice billboards.
we hear so much, see so much, and experience such
sensory stimulation, that we assume the Lord also relies
on the sensational experiences to which we are
accustomed. But sensation-full ministry must be
increasingly "over the top" to reach a generation jaded
by the merely spectacular.
there another way?
we have grossly underestimated simplicity - both its
appeal and its effectiveness. Simplicity will triumph
over complexity every time. Of course, simplicity
suits our highly agitated senses. But is it possible
that in the rush to create images and sound bites, noise
and fanfare, the spectacular and the stunning, that
we have subtly changed (or lost) our message?
preoccupation of our day with rapid images, loud sound,
and aggressive music, is creating a generation for whom
form has supplanted substance. Fireworks (indoor or
outdoor), pounding and pumping sounds, give-away gadgets
and other gimmicks have becomes substitutes for what is
ago, a wise pastor told me that "what you win people
with is what you win people to."
not against live animals walking the church isle on Palm
Sunday or angels trapezing into an auditorium on slender
wires for Christmas. I don't want to throw cold water on
clever object lessons or criticize creative video cuts.
After all, I've received my share of gifts and gimmicks.
(Yes, I paid $25 the other day for TWO food choppers, a
carving knife, a slicer that does impressive things to a
potato, and more.) But is this cultural phenomenon
shaping not just how we package the gospel, but the very
call to thoughtful simplicity and steady obedience
hardly resonates with our pursuit of sensational
ministry. Eugene Peterson once called the Christian life
"a long obedience in the same direction."
I noted the irony in a Christian song broadcast on the
radio. "In the secret, in the quiet place, in the
stillness you are there ..." This particular
arrangement raced along with urgency and boomed out
volume that made the words difficult to decipher. My
senses were bombarded and the message itself was ...
am I driving at? Simply the caution that the medium can
become the message. May the power of the gospel never be
undercut by the "sensational ministry" of our day. Three
snicker-doodles produces deeper appreciation than three
dozen, and pounding the senses does not guarantee
opening the doors of the heart.