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Saturday, April 25, 2009 

Bible Studying The Bat-Man


From my inbox comes a story in the Reporter highlighting a new study from Concordia Publishing House:

New CPH study looks at Batman film

God's Light in Gotham's Darkness is a new, downloadable Bible study from Concordia Publishing House that's based on the popular Batman film, "The Dark Knight."®

The six-session study connects and contrasts main themes from the movie with Scripture and Lutheran teachings. It is designed for use with a variety of ages, from senior high to young adult and beyond.
It is available for download only, from the CPH Web site, and includes notes for leaders, handouts for participants, and PowerPoint presentation slides. God's Light in Gotham's Darkness is about "discovering and discussing changeless truths concerning sin and our need for a Savior," according to CPH.

When I see stuff like this I’m always at a loss at where to begin and today is no different. I'm never sure if I should begin with things like the Reporter holding up for praise congregations that “think outside of the box” and rent space away from their church to hold functions to evangelism work so as to not offend the unchurched and be more “seeker sensitive.” I’m also never sure if I begin with the things like the Reporter’s praise of mission churches looking more like the coffee shop down in the local strip mall and their use of pop songs to reach out to those same “unchurched.” Thankfully, the Reporter is just reporting and not commenting. That helps me narrow it down a tad.

Yep, there are times I’m not sure where to begin because there is just so much here…

One of the things that I thought was cool about my pastor growing up was his ability to preach sermons from the big box movies that were in the theaters. I remember one sermon where he said “the Bible must be true because” Raiders of the Lost Ark” had Bible stuff in it. He would go on to say that Hollywood would never have used the Ark of the Covenant as a prop if the Ark didn’t really exist. Using that logic I’d say it’s safe to assume that George Lucas’ Sith run empire just hasn’t spread to this part of the galaxy.

The problem with starting from pop culture movies when designing devotional or evangelism materials for reaching out to the unchurched is that once you make the focus of a sermon or a Bible study a pop culture event, you will not be able go back to expository preaching or teaching without losing those that were attracted to a Bat-Man study for the sake of the coolness factor. You may mean well and good by getting ‘em in the door but sooner or later, if you are serious about catechizing the unchurched, you’ll need to switch the bait. In a time when numbers and head counting are all the rage those that live and die by spreadsheets and viability projections ain’t gonna be happy with any down tick in the forecast indicators. Trust me, you live by the spreadsheet you die by the spreadsheet. But here I am getting off topic again…

That pastor I referred to just a bit ago never was able to make any kind of transition back to something that resembled the preaching of Christ and Him Crucified. He continued to preach on Dr. Seuss’ books and Doors songs even after being challenged to talk more about Jesus. The same problem he faced is the one we face; once you make learning exciting by being cool and relevant it’s very difficult to change course.

And there’s the other problem… relevance.

If CPH was really trying to be cutting edge it wouldn’t be using a movie that is already in the Wal-Mart discount bin next to “The Breakfast Club 20th Anniversary Special Edition” and “Daredevil”! I mean, why not a “Blues Brothers” study? After all, if I remember correctly Jake and Elwood are after all are on a “mission from God.” Or are those movies not relevant enough? Are we only looking at last year’s hit movies or can we try to attract the film school crowd by doing a study on the Lutheran themes in Nosferatu? Does CPH not realize that many purpose driven churches already beat ‘em to the relevance finish line with “Kung Fu Panda” and “Slumdog Millionaire” as well as a “Dark Knight” series already?

Somebody needs to tell CPH that in order to be relevant you really need to be out front instead of playing catch up. That’s just marketing 101 folks.

For the record, when it comes to Christian publishing companies Concordia Publishing House is the best out there period, end… of… discussion. Their scholarly work such as the Concordia Commentary series and the recent Treasury of Daily Prayer (frequently quoted here at POTF) is the gold standard in depth studies and devotional resources. At the end of the day I think CPH is a great publishing house and I hope that this kind of Bat-Man study is just an anomaly.

I say I hope because there seems to be an awful lot ideas out there in the LCMS held up for praise for an out of the box thinking that goes out of its way to present itself as secular. I really hope…

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I got that in my email too but I couldn't bear to click the link. I deleted as fast as I could so I could forget about it. Maybe not the best method but good for my sanity ;)

I received that email too. CPH has a "contact the President" link on their main page. I used it to tell him that this thing was pretty silly.

I don't know which one is worse, CPH's Dark Knight Bible study or LHM/LLL's new men's network.

Red and Saxoniae, I’m starting to think that maybe I was too harsh in m y critique. I have an idea (uh oh) and as soon as I can catch my breath at work I’ll put it up. Maybe pop culture movies should be used to teach … stay tuned.

Nah. It's still goofy stuff.

Batman...Batman! Can somebody tell me what kind of a world we live in, where a man dressed up as a BAT gets all of my press?

This town needs an enema!

(blows whistle twice)

Dan, you have no idea how close I came to posting that "BatDave" picture I worked up.

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