New Apostolic Church USA

The Great Competition

"Worshipping Christ in the Age of Spectacle" from the 2021 Spring Vision Newsletter

 This time that we live in has often been referred to as “the age of spectacle,” which seems very fitting given that our world offers us a feast of new multimedia on a consistent basis. Popular entertainment is now everywhere, and it never stops. Like no century before us, we are submerged into media. This digital, eye and image-focused reality poses significant challenges for parents, church leaders, pastors, youth leaders - anyone facing the inundation of media competing for the attention of the people that we love and are trying to serve. So how do we lead those who are easily distracted and influenced by the spectacle deeper into faith?

Let’s start by first defining the word “spectacle.” A spectacle is something that has been captured and published to hold our collective gaze for some particular purpose. It’s something that captures human attention - an instant when our eyes and brains fixate on an image, video, or event that has been projected at us. Examples include a brilliant photograph, an eye-catching billboard, a new music video, a viral sports clip, or a binge-worthy season on Netflix. This might all seem like harmless fun, until we realize this: every spectacle wants something from us - our attention, our affections, our outrage, our money. Most of all, they want our time. Every picture, every video, every viral tweet asks us for something in return, and competes for our limited gaze.

How does God respond to this world of spectacles, and how then should we respond as believers? It would be easy for us to retreat into a position that is anti-spectacle, to try our best to live a spectacle-free existence. And yet, that’s exactly the opposite of how God confronts our digital world. Instead, into this eye and image-focused world came the greatest spectacle ever recorded in history - the cross of Jesus Christ. Christ crucified is the hinge of history where all time collides. From this moment on, God intended that all human gaze would center itself on this climactic moment.

In his account of the cross, Luke shows us that Christ’s crucifixion was a physical spectacle for the crowds to see (Luke 23:48). This is reinforced in the third verse of Joseph Hart’s hymn titled, His Passion: “Nailed naked to the accursed wood, exposed to earth and heaven above, a spectacle of wounds and blood, a prodigy of injured love.” The cross is not merely a physical spectacle for the eye, however. After all, only the people who were gathered at the cross saw Christ crucified. Its greater glory is in serving as a spectacle for the ear.

Already in his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul makes the content of the apostles’ preaching clear when he says, …but we preach Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23). Today, too, we are privileged to hear the preaching of the cross. Through the Holy Spirit, we’re reminded of Christ’s overwhelming love for us shown through His selfless sacrifice on the cross for our sins. Do we still value these “wonderful words of life?”

The importance of the ear is further highlighted in Hebrews 2:1: Therefore, we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away from it. The many spectacles of the eye that we’re inundated with every day can cause us to lose interest in Christ. Over time, our attention neglects Christ, and we begin to drift away from Him. We would be wise to look at what God said to those who were present on the Mount of Transfiguration: This is my beloved Son… Hear Him (Mark 9:7). This is a call to serious listening, to giving ourselves wholly to the task of focusing our attention to Jesus.

The main concern, then, is over the battle that exists between the many worldly spectacles for our eyes and the eternal, life-giving spectacle for our ears. As believers, how should we respond?

  • First, we must be honest with our own susceptibilities to the world’s spectacles. No one is exempt from being susceptible. Proverbs 27:20 says that the eyes of man are never satisfied. Our own eyes are one of our greatest enemies. We need to lead our children, our church, our students, and our worship from this starting point of personal honesty and awareness. Screens will never satisfy us. We can only be fully satisfied in Jesus Christ.
  • Second, we need to apply the concept of fasting to the buffet of digital media. Do a digital detox for a day, a week, or a month. This is how we say to the world, “The endless cascade of digital spectacles are not my God, nor are they the source of my happiness and fulfillment. My true joy comes from God’s acceptance of me and from my union with Christ!”
  • The third point is geared toward church leaders. Leaders, keep leading the ears of those you lead into unseen glories. Keep preaching the gospel. Many churches have also been tempted here and there to appeal to the visual industry. Our goal as leaders should be to persuade hearts, through ears, to treasure unseen realities and glories.

In all of this, we proceed in faith, knowing that digital minimalism will never save us. Tossing our TV’s in the garbage will not save us. Smashing our gaming systems will not save us. A digital detox will not save us. All of these drastic actions might help, but our ultimate hope rests in Jesus Christ alone. We can’t afford to let the beauty of the cross get lost among the many spectacles of the digital world. As the greatest spectacle in history, the cross of Christ is worthy of our humble, undistracted focus and attention.

May our gaze remain fixed upon Jesus.

Latest NAC USA Announcement