Less Sizzle, More Meat

Someone shared a humorous story on social media. Their elderly grandmother was visiting for a few days. She awoke during the night and went to the kitchen for a drink of water. On the way she saw his laptop open on the floor. Granny thought it was a scale. So, out of curiosity she stood on it. The next morning they discovered she weighed $950.

Some people haven’t figured out the technology thing, one of the icons of the new world. Churches too. By now most of us have realized the advantages of being connected and bringing the innovations of our times into the church office, classrooms, and worship center. We must remember, however, that all the gadgetry isn’t the new thing God is doing. It’s a good reminder that the new thing he is doing is in us.

The Apostle Paul had a stay over in Athens. He encountered a group of people there unlike the tradition bound folks of his heritage. The Athenians loved new stuff. At the market they asked, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting” (Acts 17:19, ESV). In what seems like a parenthetical note, Luke identified them further as those who “…would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21b, ESV). Obviously they weren’t Baptists.

So, yes, there are techno-geeks in the world today somewhat akin to the inquisitive, eager sophisticates of Athens. It is especially real now as so many people are drawn by the church descriptive, “it’s not your grandmother’s church”. It’s a typical strategy for reaching millennials and the younger cohorts, a “wow factor” that registers high on their cyber scale. Pushing the envelop with technology? Check.

Let me introduce you to our young neighbors. They’re newly wed professional, college grad, first time home owner, twenty somethings trying to get a grip on life. They’ve not been church people, but believe faith is an element to be included in their life list as they plan a family. So, they’re visiting around. After one church visit they were especially impressed by the music, the high-tech church profile, screens, lighting, message notes communicated on their smart phones, registration kiosks, coffee shop, and the contemporary touches in the whole process. In their executive summary of that visit, however, they concluded: “It was a lot of sizzle and little meat.” They expected something profound but basically received glitz and glamour.

We are a culture conditioned by the brevity of connections and the flash of technical innovation. When younger people visit church they love being able to send “?4U” to the stage and get an answer or follow the sermon notes on their own personal device. The “sizzle” my neighbors referenced is the attractive draw of presentation, the flavor and aroma of what is coming. But, if there is no meat, what’s the use?

The eager audience at Athens knew Paul was preaching Jesus Christ and the resurrection (see Acts 17:18, ESV). They gave him a hearing not because they wanted truth, but because they were open-minded first century seekers who loved the novelty of something new. They just liked the latest idea or philosophical twist.

There’s a world of people made in that mold right now. And, that’s a temptation for churches today, to hide biblical truth behind a cloud of impressive brand markers, sight and sound pizzazz, cool language, and over-the-top presentation. It’s often awesome and epic. But, without the meat, that is the spiritual truth, it’s just sizzle.

It doesn’t weigh anything, and isn’t worth much either.

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