“Sunday’s Coming”: An Analysis

If you are at all plugged-in to the evangelical twitterverse or blogosphere, you’ve likely been bombarded by links to the unavoidable video, “Sunday’s Coming,” produced by North Point Church. If you haven’t seen it, watch it here now.

The video, which launched a buzzword (“Contemporvant”), cleverly capitalizes on the recent fervor for evangelical self-parody (see the massive success of Stuff Christians Like, for e.g.) and conveniently resulted in exactly the sort of viral buzz promotion for North Point that its creators doubtless intended. That’s all well and good, but what are we to make of the whole thing?

I like what Bill Kinnon–an expert on church use of media technology–had to say in his blog post on the subject:

Rather than comedy, the above video from Andy Stanley’s North Point Church’s very well-equipped media department should really be seen as simply admitting the truth of something that won’t be changing anytime soon in that world. No doubt, some churches will even use it as a teaching tool for their teams who aspire to megachurch greatness.

In the past couple of days, Twitter has been filled with the “wink, wink, nudge, nudge, nod, nod” tweet response to this video (which went up on the 5th of May).

The “isn’t it great we can make fun of ourselves” response of many made me want to pick up my laptop and toss it across the room (into a stack of pillows so it wouldn’t be damaged, of course.)

People mistakenly want to call this “satire.” But the definition of satire is the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices.

Do any of you really think the North Point media team meant to expose the “stupidity or vices” of their Christotainment Sunday morning services which no doubt follow the very pattern shown in the video?

Hardly.

Now onwards and upwards with more and better video, graphics, cameras, lighting, presenters, music and preachertainers – until Christotainment Excellence™ is achieved and the appropriate rewards handed out.

That’s the curious thing about the “Sunday’s Coming” video: It is using “hip, cool, and media-savvy” language  to make a statement about how silly our evangelical church attempts to be “hip, cool, and media-savvy” have been. Is that the ultimate irony North Point is seeking to embody? Are they making a meta statement ABOUT meta-statement self-parody videos? I doubt it.

If I had seen this video before writing my book, I would certainly have included a brief discussion of it, for it presents an interesting case-in-point in the whole “hipster Christianity” rigmarole. Clearly the video hit home with many evangelicals, because it so aptly captured the decidedly un-cool/formulaic/lame nature of the average evangelical “wannabe cool” church today. Evangelicals laughed and passed it around in droves because they could collectively identity and purge their shame of having been associated with such ridiculousness. It allowed people to point a critical finger at something both familiar and “other,” while simultaneously allowing them to derive a satisfied sense of “we have moved on from that now” elitist amusement.

“Hipster Christianity” is similarly self-aware and “we are beyond that” elitist, reacting against the evangelical tendencies to try so hard to be cool. They are NATURALLY cool, they will argue, denying “hipster Christian” labels at all cost because to be implicated as such is to be called out as just the most recent manifestation of evangelical Christianity’s long and sordid search for cultural relevance or “cool.”

So in the case of “Sunday’s Coming,” it’s not the subject matter of the video that represents hipster Christianity (quite the opposite actually), but rather the way in which the video was consumed, processed and (possibly) passed along by young Christians (mostly evangelicals) desperate to distance themselves from stodgy megachurch/mainstream Christianity (though many Christian hipsters simply ignored the video or scoffed at it from the outset).

It seems to me that despite what North Point had in mind when they made the video, it has probably been received in a number of different ways, such as:

  • People saw the video, were amused at how true it was, and passed it along to others who would get a kick out of it.
  • People responded to it favorably because finally someone captured the insipid ridiculousness (and helped all of us collectively put the final nail in the coffin) of “That Type of Christianity.”
  • People (like Bill Kinnon), saw it as a bit of doublespeak for a well-equipped church media ministry to make a parody of well-equipped church media ministries, and saw it as no sort of revolutionary moment in progressive church self-critique.
  • People just thought the video was dumb, or just another Christian ripoff of something secular people are already doing.

How do you react to the video?

12 responses to ““Sunday’s Coming”: An Analysis

  1. Brett, you are touching on an unnoticed aspect of North American evangelical Christianity related to our love affair with consumerism: The seductive idea that if we can just be cool enough, people will naturally convert.

    I collected links to a few different reactions to the video a few days ago, but when I read this post, I had to add it to my collection!

    http://www.blogoneanother.com/2010/05/north-point-church-video-goes-viral-touches-a-nerve.html

    • Thanks Jon! I enjoyed reading your blog post and the collection of various reactions… very interesting indeed.

  2. Bill Kinnon is spot on, as usual. This video presents a kind of critical / introspective thinking that is focused in the frontal cortex. Ironically, the frontal cortex plays a key role in skepticism and sound judgment.

    I just blogged a Danish study which showed that uncritical religious belief tends to shut down the frontal cortex, allowing hypnotic-like suggestion to override critical awareness. I would suggest that these kinds of church models (institutional, Constantinian, lay-clergy, professional, stage-centric, entertainment-centric, mega, etc.) cloud our awareness in much the same manner – replacing healthy, all-body participative gathering with relative passivity, not unlike an audience which allows a stage hypnotist to cloud their cognitive faculties.

  3. Brett,
    Thanks for the shoutout. You’ve added much to the conversation on this (as has Jon Reid).

    And JLG, my friend, you are too kind. Your post on the Danish study is a must read.

  4. C and D. Not everything about the modern church is bad or requires exposing, but the video does not recognize the redeeming qualities of the “Sunday morning” experience. I like Jon Acuff’s SCL descriptions of Christian culture because he does redeem those qualities that are worth celebrating. If all we can do is make fun of ourselves, how in the world are we showing the beauty of what Jesus has given us?? Plus, while the “Academy Award” video is brilliant, the “Sunday’s Coming” video just looked like another cheap imitation of someone else’s creativity.

  5. Simply not funny. I didn’t even crack a smile. It actually left me a feeling a bit sad .

  6. Pingback: Circle and Tangent » Blog Archive » Through The Tubes 5/28

  7. Pingback: “Sunday’s Coming” Video «

  8. nick warkentien

    Having seen this video in context of it’s original purpose (an intro to a talk at NP’s DRIVE Conference), I love it! – It addressed and even created a tension about churches being to entertaining with no purpose. The talk that followed was all about why we do what we do, and the fact that there is so much more to it than this.

    • Nick, thank you for providing context! I asked the NP video folks in my blog post, but never heard back. They wrote on their own blog that it was for a conference but never answered the question. Maybe they’re just consummate artists that way. Anyway, thanks again!

  9. I’m a little late to this — I seem to be months behind on the viral videos as a rule… but I found this video to be spot on about the entertainment megachurch movement — this was BEFORE I knew Northpoint was actually involved in the making of it. Learning they were involved makes them seem like a split-personality, as they poke fun of themselves for the distinctives they cherish so much. Very very odd.

  10. I actually thought this video was a parody of the church I just started attending! I’ve ALWAYS been leery of the glitz of megachurches, as well as lack of concern for doctrine; but I feel I’ve been proven wrong. I’m so impressed with the ministries and teaching — as well as the fruit of their ministry, that I decided to make it my church home.

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