TV sitcoms are being put to use by churches as material for Bible studies and grist for spirituality in general, reports the New York Times Magazine (Aug. 12).
In the effort to be relevant to unchurched seekers as well as the faithful, churches are increasingly borrowing from the popular culture and media. The Simpsons is the subject of a new book and is finding praise among Christians who find that the animated sitcom poses unabashed religious questions to its viewers. The trend is most evident in churches “using episodes of the ‘Andy Griffith Show,’ ‘I Love Lucy’ and ‘The Brady Bunch’ to teach the word of God,” writes Sam Smith.
Churches that teach by viewing sitcoms now number in the thousands, and it is not unusual for churches to increase their attendance figures at Bible studies using this technique. The approach seems to have started at a church Bible study in Alabama where the “Andy Griffith Show” was used to illustrate that week’s lesson. Word about the new Bible study aid spread to area churches and then nationally through the web site www.barneyfife.com.
Critics see teaching by the sitcoms as just another way the churches are being infiltrated by secular and worldly values and techniques. Stephen Skelton of the Nashville-based Entertainment Ministry says the so-called “media ministry movement” is presenting “prime time parables” that relate to a generation raised on a media-dominated environment.