Clear Def


If you’re being honest, you still don’t know what to make of Fox Television’s “Glee”. I’m not saying that you don’t like it; the ratings say you probably do. I’m not saying that you love it, although age typically indicates if you do. I’m saying that whether you like it or not, you probably don’t understand what it’s supposed to be.

I’m saying this because I’ve watched television all my life and I don’t know since the program fluctuates so wildly. Any one of it’s 36 episodes careens through the best and worst ground covered by High School Musical, Dangerous Liaisons, and Party Ben.

Centering on the students and staff of a high school glee club that seems to perform at an abnormally large number of professionally produced competitions, Glee makes you laugh as you sing, cry as you dance, and experience a broad palette of the emotional spectrum in just over 41 minutes.

Glee has flaws that typically kill mid-week programs; thin caricatures, recycled plotlines, and performances that take place in a world so artificial they make Scrubs look like a documentary, however it’s considerable success apears to stem from it’s ability to emotionally connect with a broad range of viewers while defying TV’s most acerbic critics.

While critically acclaimed shows are often guilty of putting little into their weekly offerings, Glee crams entire seasons of activity into a week the way Jack Bauer experienced a lifetime’s worth of Die Hard every 15 minutes.

From week to week Glee takes on hot button topics and classic songs, while deftly casting it’s sympathetic spell over an audience who need drama the way Ke$ha needs male attention.

It would be a mistake to believe that Glee doesn’t know exactly what it’s doing, or how to define itself. I suspect they’ve defined themselves as the show you can’t put in a box. And that my friend is one of the prime reasons for it’s runaway success.

When Glee chooses to define itself by placing firm borders on it’s subject matter and tone, or actually chooses a side in an argument (anti-bullying isn’t an argument because no one believes bullying is good.) it will start hemorrhaging viewers faster than the 7th season of 7th Heaven.

Not defining yourself allows others to define you as they see you… or need you to be. It’s almost like they’ve stolen a page from the Non-Denominational, Evangelical, Community Church Playbook.

Not defining exactly who you are or what you believe allows you to access a broad pool of potential consumers, and what the typical suburban NDEC does best is attract consumers. It does this by presenting the best Sunday service possible, in conjunction with the loosest definition of “Christianity” available. The mantra being: “People who give up 75 minutes of their freetime this week, want to enjoy going to church.”

This probably isn’t a bad strategy if your goal is to increase attendance and access a larger pool of pocketbooks. While it’s the fastest way to “grow” numerically and gain “capital funding”, it can also get ugly as quickly as it gets big.

The ugliness usually appears when a segment of congregants gets excited about doing something new. This new thing is rarely sinful, the problem is that it pulls the church away from the direction that the leadership pointed it… A direction that isn’t clearly defined.

The ugliness spreads like envy at cheercamp as soon as church leadership steps in to explain why “that isn’t gonna happen here”. The problem with crushing someones dreams isn’t so much that we look like fascist commandants, it’s that we don’t actually have a bigger, bolder, Godly dream to call them to. This is why they set out to craft their own dream in the first place.

… because the spirit led soul isn’t satisfied with least common denominators.

The ugly goes nuclear when people start leaving the church and talking… because they always talk. They talk about how the church doesn’t care about “issues” or that the “leadership is ungodly” and while they may be right, they’re wrong about why they’re angry.

The anger is about no longer wanting what they signed up for. See getting what they wanted is what brought them into the undefined church the first time. The undefined church sets out chairs for people who want to consume a hapless God who asks little and expects even less.

A funny thing about God is that he isn’t hapless, and can’t be consumed as least common denominator because he’s the all consuming Greatest Common Denominator. He consumes our fallen humanity, creating within us a Godly hunger for righteousness, the righteousness that becomes our definition.

You’re probably sick of watching people live the cycle of jumping from church to church not realizing the role they play in the process, but are you tired of calling people to nothing and getting frustrated with them when God does? Because that’s happening too.

I’d suggest that a great strategy for combating this is to clearly define what your ministry believes, how it plans to live that out, and what you’ll let go of to accomplish that. This not only lets people know what they are in for when they join you, but it keeps you focused on calling them to the Godly vision that the Lord gave you and your leadership team when you sought his heart for the unique mission he’s called you to lead…

Because if you didn’t do that before you started serving, you’re offering a least common denominator Christianity that’s going to cleverly pull at emotions and engage in debates while never calling anyone to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You’ll be like a great episode of Glee, creative, emotive, accessible, self-righteous, and ultimately empty.

7 Responses to “Clear Def”

  1. Cailie Clark March 3, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

    Good post! You are a very good writer.
    My pastor always talks about how people want him to start more programs and do this and that, but he says how Athey’s goal is simplicity. To be like the Acts 2:42 church and to keep the Word and Jesus at the center!
    Glee is already running out of plot it seems. I pretty much just watch to see the songs they sing :)

    • Jon March 3, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

      Brett is super legit right?

  2. Andy Schreiber March 3, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    Well said.

    Best line of the day: “The spirit led soul isn’t satisfied with least common denominators.”

    • Jon March 3, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

      I totally had to learn that the hard way…

  3. Sharon O March 3, 2011 at 4:45 pm #

    I always enjoy your writing. Press on and keep challenging us.

  4. Mollie March 4, 2011 at 9:11 pm #

    Are you saying I can’t like GLEE?

    • Jon March 4, 2011 at 10:21 pm #

      You can love it… Just don’t expect it to treat you right.

Leave a Reply:

XHTML: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>