More Cowbell VI!


A few months ago, I realized I hadn’t done a More Cowbell Award in a year. For those who don’t remember “The Award No One Wants to Win,” I instituted it a few years back to poke fun at some of the outright lunacy and kitsch that shows up from time to time in the American Church.

I’ve not awarded a More Cowbell in ages because some parody sites like Lark News have cropped up in recent years, I've got a fever...stealing the thunder.

So, it comes as a surprise that I stumbled across a New York Times article that could’ve doubled for a Lark New posting. The more I read, the more I had to keep pinching myself to see if I was dreaming. This. Could. Not. Be. True.

Or could it?

Long ago, churches used to concern themselves with ensuring a young man wins a halo and takes his place among the ranks of saints.

Today, churches concern themselves with ensuring a young man wins at Halo 3 and takes his place among the ranks of survivors.

And here’s the intro from the Grey Lady’s article “Thou Shalt Not Kill, Except in a Popular Videogame at Church

First the percussive sounds of sniper fire and the thrill of the kill. Then the gospel of peace.

Across the country, hundreds of ministers and pastors desperate to reach young congregants have drawn concern and criticism through their use of an unusual recruiting tool: the immersive and violent videogame Halo.

The latest iteration of the immensely popular space epic, Halo 3, was released nearly two weeks ago by Microsoft and has already passed $300 million in sales.

Those buying it must be 17 years old, given it is rated M for mature audiences. But that has not prevented leaders at churches and youth centers across Protestant denominations, including evangelical churches that have cautioned against violent entertainment, from holding heavily attended Halo nights and stocking their centers with multiple game consoles so dozens of teenagers can flock around big-screen televisions and shoot it out.

The alliance of popular culture and evangelism is challenging churches much as bingo games did in the 1960s. And the question fits into a rich debate about how far churches should go to reach young people.

Far from being defensive, church leaders who support Halo — despite its “thou shalt kill credo — celebrate it as a modern and sometimes singularly effective tool. It is crucial, they say, to reach the elusive audience of boys and young men.

There you have it: the natural outcome of “Wild at Heart”-style men’s ministry.

Honestly, I’m speechless. Read the whole article and I think you will be, too.

Doesn’t that read like a Lark News or The Onion article? Seriously. We Christians don’t need the parodies anymore, we ARE the parodies! I usually yuck it up on a More Cowbell post, but heck, I’m finding it hard to be funny right now.

Why did I want to go to youth group when I was a teen? Because I wanted to know more about Jesus. And even if there were a few kids in the youth group who didn’t give two hoots about Jesus, they at least showed up to be with their friends.

Now, it seems that not only is Jesus not all that attractive on His own, but today’s teens aren’t all that interested in hanging out with their friends, either—unless their friends can offer up some Rated M videogame. (The point of the game being, eerily enough, to kill “invaders” from a religious group called “The Covenant.” Hmmm…)

So now you’ve got youth ministers saying, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

You know, for once, I’m speechless. Nothing I can say from here on will add to the conversation.

So I award this More Cowbell to

Ministries That Think Anything Goes

As Long As That Anything Puts Butts in Seats.

I’m just waiting till some men’s ministry hires strippers to dance on poles on either side of the altar. That’ll draw ’em in like flies!

Actually, I won’t be waiting. I’ll be down in my fallout shelter, checking the supplies…

10 thoughts on “More Cowbell VI!

  1. Dave Block

    What a shame.

    God used my church’s youth ministry to bring me to Christ as a teen, and I spent about a decade volunteering in my current church’s senior high youth ministry, a couple years as leader and then with a great youth pastor. But I think the typical approach to youth groups is all wrong — it’s like a teen version of a seeker-sensitive church service. We entertain the youth, offer them a Christianized version of their subculture, and then hope they’ll listen when the youth pastor gives a salvation message.

  2. Mine is such a church. I’m not happy about it. I’m glad that when my 14-year-old son goes to these tournaments, he ends up playing a football video game. (He’s tried it, I know, because he’s told me “I’m no good at Halo.”)

    I am happy about that. Blowing people away is not a skill I want him to learn.

    Especially not at church.

  3. Suzanne

    This hit such a nerve with me. I so despise this mindset that we Christians have to convince everybody that we are just as cool as they are . We get people into our churches by being people that believe in God and His promises, and show the love of God in the way we live. My husband is in church work, I am not, and the hardest thing for me to come to terms with over the years is how little difference I see between the church community and the so-called secular world. It’s as though modern day American Christians believe that being seen as nerdy or uncool is the worst possible fate that could befall them. When did church morph into an adult version of middle school? Why would people come to us when they see nothing that is an alternative to what they already have but more of the same old, same old, with the name of God attached? I fear a men’s ministry with “Christian” strippers is not all that far off….

  4. jwise

    The most disturbing statement for me was when the pastor said that he wants to make it hard for teens to go to hell…. and he’s doing that by bringing them in to play Halo.

    This reminds me of Jesus’ statement… they’re slamming the door to the Kingdom shut in the face of all these kids.. and they’ll never know.

  5. eliyah

    What do you expect when the church system has taught for centuries that ‘the law has been done away with”?

    This ‘Dispensational’ thinking/teaching has been used by the Man of Lawlessness to bring the church to this point in time…..this is the fruit of the ‘law has been done away with and we are under grace now”.

    Yeshua/Jesus is still the same yesterday, today, and forever and His words are still true today….”I have not come to abolish the law but to FULLFILL (that word is one of the most misunderstood words in christendom today….it means to MAKE REAL, to bring the type and shadow into the FLESH, to be seen, touched, experienced…..NOT TO BE DONE AWAY WITH)!!!

    What do you expect when most in Christendom have no clue as to what Holiness is? Very simply… is the distinction between the clean and the unclean, the common from the Holy. If most people were asked the question “What is the opposite of Holy?”, they would respond “Unholy”. The truth is that the answer is COMMON.

    Both young people and adults in the church could benefit from this understaning. The crystal, silver, and china are the HOLY vessels in the Father’s House, these are the nobel vessels. The ignoble are the common ….from whence we get the word COMMODE…..the one common vessel that everyone in the house uses.
    Do you see the distinction?

    Those who have chosen the narrow path, to die to self and be conformed into the image of Jesus these are the NOBEL vessels hidden in the Father’s quiver only to be brought out on SPECIAL OCCASIONS. These are those who only do what they see Him doing and speak what they hear Him speaking..

    The others …..welp they are playing HALO…..and these are those of the outer court that continue to come up with more kinds of methods and programs to attract the ignoble and enslave them to THEIR KINGDOMS.


  6. There is an easy solution: Just pretend the people you’re blowing away in Halo are the same people who encourage Christian kids to play such games.

    Makes for a great stress reliever.

  7. Dan,

    I sit with pride this morning, realizing that somehow, for once, I read your mail first. I put a post together regarding this topic on Monday. I have mixed emotions. My kids and I play a few video games, but I am not sure I would use them as an “outreach”. The article quotes a youth guy that talks about church “recruitment”, I truly thought we were about redeeming and transforming through a story about a God/man who walked on the planet long ago, but may be I am confused.

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