The success of the miniseries was far reaching. Christians and sinners alike watched the show and for the first time, Moses was a hot topic around the workplace water cooler. Jesus was trending on Twitter even if it was "#hotjesus." The Bible was being talked about. It was a miracle in itself. So many Christians talk about how they don't know how to witness and they don't know what to say. Many Christians talk about how they don't know how to start conversations about the Lord. Here before our very eyes, in fact the eyes of millions, was one of the greatest tools to jump start a conversation about Christ and the Bible. You would think the church would be doing somersaults. You would think the church would be applauding the effort of Hollywood producers. You would think the church would try to take advantage of this opportunity. Maybe I shouldn't paint this with the broad brush I'm about to use, but excuse as I do it anyway. The predominant feedback I've heard from good church going Christians is how they just couldn't stand to watch it for "x" number of reasons. Some felt they were contributing to false doctrine by watching it. Others lauded the lack of detail in the stories. Some slammed the series because it included things that they had never seen in the Bible or wasn't expressly written in Hebrew or Greek or whatever King James Version Bible they have on their nightstand. We found out a lot about ourselves this last month. Sadly what we found out wasn't all good. In fact, if we want the answer to the burning question of decline in Christianity and the exodus of young people, many of the responses to the miniseries gives us the answers we claim we desire.
Now before you label me a heretic, (you probably already have but read anyway), let's cover some bases. I watched the whole thing. I watched all five nights. All ten hours. Tweeted the whole time. Carefully paying attention the whole time. Guess what I saw? Some inaccuracies. Yep. I saw them. I looked at my wife and responded when Abraham saw a lamb instead of a ram at the sacrifice of Isaac. I saw it. I kept watching. I saw it as Sarah made a beeline to find Abraham to possibly stop him from killing Isaac. I know it doesn't say that happened in the Bible. I kept watching. I saw that the producers put Pharaoh and Moses as half brothers. I knew it didn't say that in the Bible. I kept watching. I saw that Pharaoh didn't drown in the Red Sea and I kept watching. I saw that the producers skipped over Samson's fun he had with Delilah about the secret of his strength and I kept watching. I saw that Samuel went and found David to anoint him king instead of having Jesse call for him after having already called all of his other sons. And I kept watching. I saw that David picked up rocks from the battlefield instead of the brook to kill Goliath and I kept watching. I saw as the guards didn't die that through Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendego in the fiery furnace and I kept watching. I saw the extra historical scenes that the producers put in while dealing with the condition of the Jews under Herod the Great's rule and I kept watching. I watched as John the Baptist was happily beheaded by Herod Antipas instead of begrudgingly as scripture describes it and I kept watching it. I watched as Mary Magdalene hung out with the disciples everywhere they went and I kept watching. I watched as Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead without saying "Lazarus come forth!" I kept watching. I watched as the producers called "Saul" "Paul" from the beginning even before conversion and wouldn't you know it . . . I kept watching.
Now I may have left out a few things here and there, and by the way if you kept a more in-depth record, then you're definitely you I'm talking about here. I kept watching the whole thing for several reasons. One, I actually read the fine print that came on before every episode. That fine print said that the stories depicted were basically recast with an attempt to maintain the spirit of the story. The only blip that I saw that may have messed up the spirit of the story was the resurrection of Lazarus. Even then, I don't know that the spirit of the story was messed up as much as I just wanted to see it done the correct way. Secondly, I kept watching because I realized what this was. It was a reproduction from Hollywood that was trying to appeal to a mass audience and drum up interest. It worked! Third, I kept watching for my own enjoyment. Despite some of the inconsistencies and details, I loved watching the Red Sea part with Moses. I cried and felt my heart leap when the Son of God appeared in the fire with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendego. I wanted to shout as Mary looked at one of the wise men and declared, "His name is Jesus. His name is Jesus." I was moved at the scene with Jesus and Peter as Peter declared his allegiance to Christ no matter what. I cried at Christ's crucifixion. My heart leaped when He arose. I was thrilled with the Day of Pentecost portrayal. I loved watching the boldness and zeal of Peter. Seeing Christ speaking the final words of Revelation to a visibly moved John, sent chills up my spine. Yeah, I kept watching it and I'm darn glad I did.
But there exists that attitude today in the church that if something doesn't depict a Biblical event or story exactly the way we believe, we're skeptical at best and shun it completely at worst. Our hearts are closed. Our minds are closed. We search for preachers and churches that preach like we like and what we like and churches that offer what we want and do as we wish. We'll trip over revelation in our witch hunt for perceived truth. News flash! Did you know the Bible didn't say Mary Magdalene wasn't in the boat with the disciples? Didn't say she was. Didn't say she wasn't. John's Gospel says that women followed Christ everywhere ministering to Him. And by the way it was Mary Magdalene that Jesus decided to visit first at His resurrection, not the male disciples. Did you know the Bible doesn't 100% spell out the Pharaoh drowned in the Red Sea. It strongly suggests it, but doesn't exactly say it. If he didn't, does it change what God did for Israel. They walked in the Red Sea slaves. They came out sons and daughters. Pharaoh living or dying has no effect. Most of the things I've heard people upset about are things the Bible is unclear about anyway. Give it a rest!
You see we've become so holy, that we're too holy for a Bible miniseries. If we're too holy for a Bible miniseries, then we must be too holy for sinners. Wait . . . wait. Maybe that's why Christianity is declining in America. Could it be that we'd rather fight each other than hell? Could it be that we'd rather seek the lazy associated with the church than win the lost outside of the church? Could it be we'd rather fight over doctrines and theology than unite under the blood stained banner of grace and truth? I like the Apostle Paul's approach when faced with questionable presentations. Unfortunately many who refused to watch the Bible miniseries probably has an issue with Paul. In Acts 17, Paul happens upon individuals worshiping an idol to an "Unknown God." Have you ever read this? Paul doesn't start bashing them for their idol worship. He uses their own medium of understanding to preach Jesus. He leaves out some details. He doesn't explain the Jewish roots. He makes the message compatible to where these Greeks were. And guess what, they listened and responded. I believe we've got to quit getting ourselves all tied up and fired up about every little thing that doesn't suit our viewpoint. I just listed many of the things I noticed that I found possibly inaccurate or not listed in scripture. I would have rather there had been a ram instead of a lamb at Isaac's sacrifice. I would have rather Jesus yelled, "Lazarus, come forth," at the resurrection of Lazarus. But beyond that and other examples, I was one of more than 14 million people who watched a rerun of the program instead of American Idol on a Wednesday night. I watched on Twitter as people declared their interest in the Bible fresh and new. I watched and read as individuals were moved by what they saw. Others claimed they pulled their Bible out for the first time. People were talking about it at restaurants. What I saw the Bible miniseries did was open up Mars Hill for the church. For five weeks, America was captivated by the Bible. And for five weeks, many in the church refused to participate in the discussion and movement because of a lamb instead of a ram. Folks claimed too many details were left out. I question how many details they wanted. It's a book with 66 other books in it. The Passion of Christ was over 2 hours long and detailed one event over a four day period. How were the producers supposed to include every detail of a book that spans thousands of years? You could do a 10 hour miniseries on the book of Genesis by itself!
We must learn to open our hearts and minds again. We've lost a whole generation from our churches. We're in the process of losing the next one. We can keep trying to protect what we've always had and keep putting our kids on the altars of tradition, style, and preference if we want. But it's not an accident or a coincidence that the moral values and compass of our country is failing in a time where the church is declining. So goes Christianity; so goes the country. We must learn to take advantage of opportunities that are presented to us to share the Gospel, win the lost, disciple others, reach out and minister to the masses. We've got to quit getting so hung up on our church cultures and interpretations. The same people who boycotted the Bible miniseries will go listen to a man's own interpretation of a scripture the very same Sunday. The same people who couldn't stomach the Bible will find some kind of religious meaning in Star Wars or Lord of the Rings and be alright with it. And most who would stand against the miniseries would claim the stories to be inaccurate with the actual Bible, but if they were honest they would admit they haven't read their's very often and know only what they know because of what a man or woman has told them or taught them in a church setting. If we're not careful, the church will be guilty of the cardinal sin of the Pharisees in Jesus' day; that is, we will begin putting up our "fence laws" or added laws and rules to go along with the Bible. In the mid 1900's and forward, our "fence laws" were legalism through outward appearance and the abstaining of all things fun. It appears now the "fence laws" are developing as a legalistic mindset and abstaining for all things that don't remind us of the services of the mid 1900's.
So you don't have to like the Bible miniseries. You can boycott it. You can rail against those who liked it. You can pretend it makes you more holy because you abstained. You can sign your religious card for having separated yourself from its evil ensnarement. Meanwhile, you should also know you missed an opportunity to converse with almost 20 million Americans, many who are lost. Meanwhile, you should know you missed an opportunity to have your own faith deepened by the 100% accurate portrayals the miniseries nailed. Meanwhile, you should know that you confused the heck out of the sinner who can't figure out why you want to talk about Jesus and Biblical values but find yourself too good or holy to watch something about Him and the Bible you believe in when it's shown. The problem with the church is that we've been the church so long we've forgotten what it was like when we were lost. We've forgotten how it felt when we were scared and nervous about church services. We've forgotten what it felt like to visit a new church. We've forgotten what it felt like to feel like you were going to hell every day. We've become so comfortable in our chairs and pews and culture that we'd rather fight about the church program not being offered for church people instead of lose sleep over the fact that no one is getting saved in our church and our children and grandchildren have no interest in the church. You can keep quoting the scripture of raising them up and they'll return, but don't forget the Bible says that if you raise them up "right" they'll return. I'm guessing the Bible means "right" by what it says and not "right" by what we think.
So whatever your decision was about the Bible miniseries, I hope you're proud of it. If you watched it, I hope you enjoyed it despite any inaccuracies that you noticed for yourself. If you boycotted it, I hope you feel satisfied that you withstood the Evil One's attempt to wreck your faith and cast you to hell. Above all, I just hope the church will learn to stand in unity under the Missional mandate of Christ and do what the church is called and created to do . . . not spread doctrine, not trump theology, not major on a style, not make exceptions into rules, but to win the lost, disciple the converts, reach out to the broken, blind, and oppressed, and do unto the least of these. If we can focus on those things, maybe we wouldn't be so marginalized and confusing to an outside world we're quickly losing relevance with.