In a recent study from the Barna Group it was noted that practicing Christians are essentially watching the same TV shows as non-Christians:
The same shows are popular among practicing Christians as are popular among the general population. Their tastes most closely resemble the Elders (older generation), according to their top-five list: NCIS (25%), The Big Bang Theory (23%), CSI (20%), Dancing with the Stars (16%) and Duck Dynasty (15%) are the shows practicing Christians watch regularly (What Americans Are Watching in 2014, barna.org).
In this same study, it revealed that Christians, on average, tend to watch more TV than non-Christians. Not only are Christians consuming much of the same entertainment via the TV, they’re taking in more of it on a regular basis. Do we really wonder what’s shaping our lives and the next generation?
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life- is not of the Father but is of the world.” 1 John 2:15-16
In just a few minutes of watching previews of The Big Bang Theory and Dancing with the Stars, I saw a decent amount of skin, very provocative dancing, heard profanity mixed with the uplifting of anti-Biblical values and more emphasis about sex outside of marriage than I did viewing entertainment this entire past year. I can only ask myself this question, “Why do Christians watch many of these shows?”
For the missional-minded Christians, we might say that we are watching these shows in order to stay “in step” with our non-Christian friends. It gives us credibility and allows us to share in conversations that the “real” world is having. We would compare ourselves to Paul as he would engage the world of his time using the then cultural topics. However, I’m guessing that most Christians are not taking in the world’s entertainment for mission purposes.
Over the past 15 years, I’ve been fairly active within various ministries to our communities. This has included going to a local prison and ministering to men and women who are definitely at a low point in their lives. One of the reoccurring complaints I heard about Christians was that “they’re just like everyone else. They are no different from non-Christians.”
Have you ever heard of the “duck test?” It goes something like this:
If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.
Let’s face it. From the world’s perspective they look at most Christians and can’t see a significant difference from non-Christians. They look like a non-Christian, they act like a non-Christian, and they live like a non-Christian, they are probably a non-Christian.
Yet, it gets worse. For many of us, we are saying we are Christians while living as non-Christians. Much like the pharisees of Christ’s day, we are hypocrites that are causing others to stumble over us. This is not our calling. God has saved us for a much greater purpose:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Titus 2:11-14
The above verse embodies well the totality of a Christian’s higher calling in Christ. Yes, we are to be “in the world – not of it.” Yet, God did not leave us here to become one with the world. He left us here to engage it and to point others to Him through living our lives in a manner that displays His honor and glory through Jesus Christ.
In Christ, we are…
– set apart, a Holy people
– counter-cultural in our thoughts, words and actions
– light and salt
– lovers of righteousness
– haters of evil
– made holy and becoming holy
– focused on Jesus and His return
– zealous for good works to honor and point others to Him
– temples of the Holy Spirit
As a Christian husband and father, God has placed me in a position of great influence. How I live each day will impact my wife and kids. My life will also impact my workplace and the community. What I take in on a regular basis will define who I am and how I live. This includes the entertainment I take in and every form of media or text my eyes and mind absorb on a daily basis.
God made it clear in His Word that our hearts and minds need to be consumed with Him and not the things of this world. What we take in on a regular basis will shape us into the people we are. God has given us explicit directives to stay focused on Him and His truth.
– To love Him most and teach our children about Him “along the way” (Deut. 6:4-7).
– To meditate on His Word day and night (Joshua 1:8).
– To store His Word in our hearts (Psalm 119:11).
– To trust in Him alone and acknowledge Him in all our ways (Proverbs 3:5-6).
– To obey His commands and live for Him (Matthew 6:21-23).
– To set our minds on heavenly things and not on the stuff of this world (Col. 3:2).
– To not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:2).
– To be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:16).
For all the dads out there, you can set the pace for your family. From an entertainment standpoint, we have a saying in our household that goes for any age, “If it is wrong before God, it’s wrong before us.” Also, there are plenty of good filtering systems that wipe out the garbage from most movies out there. We’ve personally used some of these newer features. However, what these filters can’t do is inject God-given wisdom into the film. That has to come from us.
One last thought on this topic deals with the idea of stewardship. Paul encouraged the early church of his day to “redeem the time,” in order to make every moment count for Christ (Ephesians 5:15-16). How we spend out time and what we spend it on truly defines who we are. As a Christian, husband and father, I only have so many minutes in a day to serve God and my family. A number of years ago I began asking this one question, “If I’m not taking care of the most important things in life, why am I so busy with everything else?” At some point, if we want our priorities to define our lives, we must relentlessly build our lives upon them. What matters most to God needs to matter most to us.
Practically speaking, this necessitates action that compels discipline around the preeminent priorities. If something doesn’t have a vertical, i.e. Kingdom-building element and/or associated with my life priorities, family being a big one, I need to critically evaluate the need to have it in my life. This is not to say rest, exercise and occasional entertainment is not necessary. However, it needs to fit within a schedule that promotes and enhances the larger mission to glorify God through my life. While we will all have different schedules, our priorities as Christians will share a significant common theme around our mission to glory God in and through a life that is devoted to Jesus Christ.