Hook 'em to Jesus with Halo 3
by Anthony Bradley
Posted on Tuesday, October 9, 2007, at 12:32 pm
Of all the pathetic "bait and switch" approaches churches have used to attract males, using Halo 3 reaches new lows. The New York Times ran a story describing escalating uses of the Halo video game to attract boys and young men to church.
This is sad not because churches are using a violent video game. A video game based on Leviticus, Joshua, or Judges would be equally violent and gruesome. Tragically, this programmatic, outreach-oriented approach is out of a 1950's playbook on attracting men and boys to church buildings.
Bait and switch: find a common denominator and use it to hook'em! Youth pastor Gregg Barbour uses Halo because he believes God calls ministers to be "fishers of men." "Teens are our 'fish," he writes. "So we've become creative in baiting our hooks." What's next, "hook up" night?
The 1950's approach, akin to Oklahoma running a wishbone offense in 2007, is primarily concerned with getting more bodies into buildings. This method cannot be found in the Bible.
"Yeah, but it worked for me," some argue. So what?
Men and boys are not a "market," they bear the image of God and are called to follow Jesus. What if churches did something radical like loving and serving men and boys in their local neighborhoods, off the church property, bringing them into real discipleship by immersing them into communities of authentic and open masculine formation?
If churches were really serious about having boys and men join them they would stop singing love ballads to Jesus, repaint the pink and lavender walls, and preach to the transcendental questions looming in the minds of boys and men. Jesus does not use gimmicks he simply invites men into danger to heal, fight, suffer, and die for the Kingdom of God.
Anthony is associate professor of religious studies at The King's College in New York and a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.