Thursday, October 30, 2008

TV and the Great Commission

I've recently been listening to some of the Matthias Media "EQUIP Women" 2004 conference CDs. Wendy Potts made many good points in her talk "Making the most of opportunities". The CD inspired me to trust God and look for opportunities to connect with people who don't know Him. As CDs on evangelism go, it was good and worth recommending.

One thing, however, was of concern to me. In a section of the talk about finding things to work on in your life, Wendy said "I need to work on watching more junk TV". She went on to explain that watching TV shows like Sex and the City might provide opportunities for spiritual conversation. As I thought more about this (with our TV stowed safely in the cupboard), two things came to mind.

Firstly, are we supposed to enjoy watching these shows? If we don't enjoy them, how can we connect with others on the basis of these things? I find it impossible to enjoy TV shows that make comedy out of vile things. Since marriage, sexual immorality has become increasingly horrifying. When I read facts about it in the context of someone's life (such as in a newspaper or biography) I feel a kind of horrified sadness. How can something so wonderful and pure be turned into something so impure and destructive? Should this not grieve us?

Secondly, the purpose of evangelism is to bring disciples into the church. The Great Commission commands us to disciple the nations in all God has commanded. Numerous times, God commands us to flee and to hate what is evil. I don't suppose TV shows are excluded. While Wendy may be able to watch these things without sin, there would be many immature Christians in her audience. It is easy for new Christians to be crippled when they continue with viewing habits that legitimise sin. They often have a desperate need to be renewed in their minds, and portraying junk TV as a positive part of life is surely unhelpful.

I recognise, as I write these things, that many godly people I love watch a whole lot of junk TV and have a many justifications for it. I clearly disagree with the what-you-watch-doesn't-matter folks, and am grieved to hear of what others enjoy. I've tried to be careful not to rant in this post, however, and hope I've conveyed love for my brothers and sisters who disagree. I can't comment on TV better than John Piper does in Don't Waste Your Life:

TV still reigns as the great life-waster. The main problem with TV is not how much smut is available, though that is a problem. Just the ads are enough to sow fertile seeds of greed and lust, no matter what program you're watching. The greater problem is banality. A mind fed daily on TV dinimishes. Your mind was made to know and love God.
The Great Commission is about teaching people to know and love God. I really don't see how Sex and the City will help.


  1. Oh, my word! There is NO good reason to watch "Sex In The City." I've seen bits of that show and it is just gross.

    Not a tool for evangelizing, IMO.


  2. Totally agreed, Sherrin. The "Sex in the City" type of thinking seems to me to tie in with the modern idea that to be more like the world is to win them to Christ- wrong!

    I believe if we love believer and unbeliever alike, we won't have to stoop to the worldly level to win the lost. People are often attracted more by the differences in others, than the likenesses- people find the differences fascinating. Let's keep our conversation away from the gutter-talk of Sex in the City, and seek to elevate our conversation to nobler levels.

  3. There is NO WAY I would endorse "Sex and the City" as a tool for evangelism...this woman would be better off just getting to know the unsaved people in her community/neighborhood, etc. My oh my....That show is awful from what I understand and from the commercials I have seen of it. I do watch TV and find that there are certainly not many I like. My husband and I enjoy Cold Case as we both like mysteries. But again: as an evangelism tool??? Wow.

  4. I have a lot of growing to do with evangelism, but I agree with those who've said that getting to know people and loving them for who they are is the best way! Wendy emphasised this on the CD as well, and I'm sure she does a real lot of it.

    I'm happy to relate to people who do all kinds of things that I hate. I'd even be happy to have people in my home who swear a lot or take God's name in vain. However, I am not happy to bring those things into my home through TV, which is essentially "entertainment". If being confronted with those things is part of loving real people, sure it is worth it. I don't think it is right to be entertained by evil, but it is right to be confronted with evil in the process of spending time with people. I think you are right Claire - people are not interested in how "like" them we are. They are interested in why we treasure Jesus, and the more ways we can show that the better.

  5. I'm not going to be popular for this but I’m going to disagree Sherrin. Firstly I wholeheartedly agree (and respect) that it's up to you and your conscious what you decide to watch on TV etc.

    Second I think you've mistaken cultural conservatism for theological conservatism. It's possible to be theologically conservative and culturally liberal. (This point is well argued by Mark Driscoll in his book Radical Reformission).

    In terms of evangelism it's important to understand the culture in which we live to speak meaningfully to be understood. Movies like Sex in the City provide a window to help us understand how those outside of our conservative culture think about sexuality. In doing so we seek to have a more nuanced understanding of our culture rather than simply dismissing it outright and being “appalled”.

    When we see sin it should sadden, yes, but not horrify or surprise for our culture is not Christian. My fear is that so often we share with people the gospel plus conservative culture rather than the gospel alone.

  6. Hi Mike,

    what I'm aiming for here (as in the whole of my life) is a life shaped by the Bible's ethos, priorities, wisdom and direct commands. I in no way attempt to identify with conservatism as a goal in itself.

    I am a very poor evangelist, and so have no credit in myself upon which to argue. My view is based solely on the fact that I think the Bible gives us our tools for evangelism: the gospel, the word of God, the Holy Spirit, spending time with people as Jesus did, genuinely caring about their lives and thoughts, and boldness in sharing Christ.

    Arguing that it is also a good idea to forsake application of the Bible's commands and ethos to TV and how we spend our time is in effect to argue that the tools the Bible clearly gives us are not powerful enough. We need others. You are effectively arguing that "the gospel alone" is what we should present at the same time as arguing that "the gospel alone" is not enough.

    I am also not sure how we can ever present "the gospel alone". The gospel calls people to a life of discipleship. This new life on the inside will (or should) transform every part of their lives.

    These are (as I perceive it) our fundamental points of difference. I'd be very interested in hearing more about your perspective on how we can in fact present "the gospel alone".