why mission should be more like South Park

This morning I listened to the fascinating address given by Ben Myers to the 29th Synod of the Queensland Uniting Church. You can find the audio here (it’s the link to the Norman and Mary Millar lecture).

Myers began by considering the cosmic significance of Christ’s resurrection. Then he moved — via Bonhoeffer — to describe the church’s mission in aesthetic (rather than political) terms.

His thought travelled in a similar orbit to Scot McKnight’s recent formulation:

The church is a movie trailer for the kingdom of God. The church is to be a “thin place” where God is breaking through. That is, God’s mission is to make the church a thin place, a movie trailer, of what God is doing in this world.

I found it quite compelling. Although, I’d love to hear more about working out the details in practice.

At one point, Myers memorably spoke of the church’s task as “ambushing our world with transfiguration”.

And that made me think of South Park.

Apparently, there’s a new documentary about the process of making the irreverent cartoon.

It’s called 6 Days to Air — and that pretty much sums up how South Park manages to stay up to date with current events. The ‘thrown-together’-ness of South Park is its genius.

A carefully planned and deliberate approach to mission definitely has its place. It can keep us faithful and stop us being merely reactive. But it can also make us sluggish.

So while it’s not always ‘transfiguration’ the makers of South Park ambush us with from week to week, I suspect we could learn a things or two from them about the advantages of a more ‘thrown-together’ strategy.

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2 comments

  1. I’ve been thinking about this with regards to the teaching in our churches.
    Your average Christian generally has exactly 0 seconds to respond to events in our world, hopefully in a thoughtful, loving, christian, theologically informed way. And they need to do this with little to no theological training.

    I have four years formal theological training, and I get paid to be the guy who thinks Christianly. Yet the idea of responding to world events in our weekly teaching scares the pants off of me, and many other christian teachers I reckon.

    How much do you think our education and formation makes us like this. I’m thinking our model is, spend four years doing a PhD which is carefully researched, hopefully right, that no-one will read.

    What would it be like if we had to do, say, an issues paper at college every week, expecting that sometimes we would get it wrong, but gradually getting better?

    Thoughts?

    Ps. Thanks for the permission to speak like Cartman at church.

    1. Hi Mike. Interesting!

      Like you, responding so quickly freaks me out (I was in a spin earlier this semester when my scheduled talk on Jesus’ teaching about sex and marriage — which I called ‘What Would Jesus Say To Lady GaGa?’ — coincided with Gay Pride week on campus).

      I do think there’s something important about the way our current model of theological education sees us taking quite a long time to build and practice and hone the skills to attend carefully to God’s word and draw wider conclusions.

      Perhaps it’s about developing our muscles so that they’re ready for action when we really need them — on the Train Hard Fight Easy principle? We obviously miss that when we think we need to spend 4 years developing the 100% response that no one ever reads every time there’s an issue to respond to. But maybe it’s an after college training thing?

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