August 23, 2007
Thus Saith the Radio
Does Christian radio have more influence over your flock than you do?
Sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura,?sola radio? The following conversation is based on true events.
Church member: "Pastor, I'm very disturbed by something you said in your sermon yesterday."
Pastor: "I'm glad you came to talk with me about it. What's bothering you?"
Church member: "In the sermon you mentioned Erwin McManus."
Pastor: "That's right. I quoted something he said about church membership."
Church member: "Well, I'm very disturbed that you would reference someone like him in a sermon! McManus is part of the emerging church, and I have serious problems with their theology based on what I've heard on the radio."
Pastor: "You do know Erwin McManus is a Southern Baptist, and I'm pretty sure his theology is quite orthodox. In fact, our denomination invited him to speak at our convention two years ago."
Church member: "Yes, I know they did, and I'm very bothered by that as well. McManus is part of the emerging church, and the emerging church is involved in all kinds of heresy."
Pastor: "The label ?emerging church' is used to describe a lot of different things, and I know some emerging church leaders are pushing the envelope with their theology, but I don't think Erwin McManus is one of them. To tell you the truth, I've never really considered McManus part of that movement. I think his books are just packaged and marketed to that crowd. I don't think you have to worry about his theology. Have you ever read one of his books?"
Church member: "No, but I don't have to. I listen to Chuck Colson on the radio and he says the emerging church is dangerous. It's not something we should be messing around with, and the fact that you'd quote an emerging church pastor in your sermon is very alarming."
Pastor: Well, I'd encourage you to read up on what McManus teaches and believes, and if you find something problematic, let me know. I'd be happy to talk with you about it.
Church member: "I don't think you heard me. Colson said on the radio that the emerging church is full of heresy. It's dangerous. Why would I read one of those books?"
Pastor: "I haven't listened to Chuck Colson's program, but I can assure you in my study I've found nothing wrong with Erwin McManus, and neither have the leaders of our denomination."
Church member: "Yes, but Chuck Colson is on the radio. I'm just letting you know it really bothered me yesterday. I hope this isn't the start of a trend. I don't know what I would do if this church started becoming emerging."
I've recapped this conversation for you because it jives with something Brian McLaren wrote a few years ago. He said:
Sometimes I think that the most powerful and popular denomination in America is a stealth one. It's not the Baptists or the Catholics or the Methodists or the Assemblies of God. It's "radio-orthodoxy" - the set of beliefs promoted by religious broadcasting. Do you doubt the power of radio-orthodoxy? Just try contradicting it.
I've had my share of confrontations with Christians that adhere to radio-orthodoxy. I recognize they measure every sermon I preach against what is beamed through the airwaves. But I have yet to discover a pastoral way of handling their unquestioning faith in the disembodied voices they hear on the commute to work everyday.
I'm not calling for a revolt against Christian radio stations (although I don't listen to them personally). I recognize that many people are blessed and encouraged by the programming offered through the radio. However, the voices coming through the speakers seem to be monotone. Without multiple perspectives and thoughtful dialogue around important issues facing the church (social, political, missional, or familial) listeners are left to believe the Christian position is cut and dry, black and white. And those who dare to question this perspective, as I did with my disturbed church member, are given a verbal lashing that ends with "thus saith the radio!"
What is a radio-heretic to do?