Monday, June 29, 2009

how important is the packaging?

My kids were indignant. “Even Wall E,” they yelled from across the shop. They were conducting research for a school project. The topic is recyling, so the kids were going through the toy department, assessing first the extent of plastic packaging and second whether or not the packing was recyleable. Wall E failed on both counts.

My kids were disgusted. We’d seen the movie together and been inspired by the eco-friendly evangelism. As I concluded my film review: WALL-E is a sermon, and a better sermon you are not likely to hear. The earth is Godโ€™s good gift and should be treated as such. Humans actions have inevitable consequences. Yet, in repeated grace, humans are offered an olive branch. Best we learn from our mistakes, avoid being called a race of wallyโ€™s, rather than trust our planet to a determined robot, name of WALL-E.

A fine sermon, spoiled for my kids, by the packaging; the rhetoric, ruined by the wrapper.

My thoughts turned to Sunday. Morning worship would include a dedication of a child – the family new to the church, visitors sure to be present. I began to wonder how our ‘wrapper’ might be perceived.

It’s not about the packaging right? That’s a common mantra of the missional/emerging church. We’re sick of slick. We’re tired of excellence. It’s all about being authentic. Who cares about the packaging. Right?

Or should we be more honest. Is authentic actually a legitimation for being slack? If the medium is the message, then the packaging should never be ignored.

I consider all the interlocking parts that would make up the Sunday morning experience: warmth of church, newsletter, greeting at door, welcome in foyer, soundsystem, data projection, microphone technique, music, notices, after church coffee, Kidstime arrangements, warmth of creche on a freezing cold winter’s morning. All the people that give time, that serve.

I factored in the reality that in New Zealand, we’re in the midst of flu season. With over 40% of our local school away sick, this must surely, at some point, impact the church. Volunteers will become unavailable and this will simply put more pressure on all the interlocking parts.

It’s not about the packaging right? Just be authentic.

Holding the non-recyleable Wall E toy, looking at the disappointment in the eyes of my kids, I’m no longer as sure as I used to be.

Further links:
Film review of Wall E here.
Numerous film reviews here.

Posted by steve at 04:29 PM


  1. Hey Steve, completely agree about the “whole package” – could I add something else to your list of packaging – the state of the toilets: as a parent of small children, dirty toilets just gross me out. When we have guests at home, I always check the toilets are clean before they arrive… Doesn’t seem to be something which happens at church.

    Comment by KSW — June 29, 2009 @ 5:16 pm

  2. It’s interesting that the makers of wall-e didn’t intend the film to have an environmental message. They saw it as a film about loneliness, longing and relationship.

    Comment by cheryl — June 30, 2009 @ 10:53 am

  3. Hi Steve. I agree. I think you are onto something. The clean toilets, hot coffee, good sound system show we care about those who make the effort to enter the church; and care about those ‘enjoyable’ things for themselves (I don’t enjoy dirty toilets, bad coffee and ‘buzzing’ soundsystems). It is not just slick marketing but good hospitality and good – ‘old-fashioned’ word – stewardship. The packaging for the wall-e toy just means they don’t care. If our churches are a mess or just slick but shallow, it could be a sign we just don’t care either.


    Comment by Chris McLeod — June 30, 2009 @ 3:32 pm

  4. KSW – just off to check our toilets!

    Cheryl – I love it in a postmodern world that we still have contemporary creatives claiming authorial intent.

    Chris – framing it as hospitality for me evokes a very different vibe than seeker excellence,


    Comment by steve — June 30, 2009 @ 4:47 pm

  5. While we are at it: it would be nice if we could turn up the speaking volume one little notch.

    Comment by Ingrid — June 30, 2009 @ 6:59 pm

  6. touche Ingrid. I wax theoretical and you bring me to earth ๐Ÿ™‚

    I don’t actually have much to do with the sound at Opawa. I am led to believe that the further back people sit, the more they physically place themselves under the balcony and so the worst the sound is. I personally think this was a deliberate trick by the builders of the church to encourage people to move forward! ๐Ÿ™‚

    It means that physically, given that the speakers are at the front of the church, the sound needs to set to not deafen those at the front, yet be heard at the back. In other words, we continue a middle way that pleases noone :).

    So where people sit does dramatically affect their experience.

    The other option is shell out more $ on sound. We’ve just spend near $5,000 improving the data projector. Do you think it’s time for a special “sound” offering?


    Comment by steve — June 30, 2009 @ 9:39 pm

  7. I knew I had it coming. “Just move forward” and you are sooo right. But it is like asking a wallflower to turn into a waterlily and I don’t think it is going to happen anytime soon. Then again I should be able to do all things….. Anyway, somebody has to sit in the back.

    Comment by Ingrid — July 1, 2009 @ 6:27 pm

  8. a wonderful response, almost “lily-like” from a self-identifying “wallflower” ๐Ÿ™‚

    i’m not sure what else we can do. we could explore speakers under the balcony, but i can hear the cash registers ringing, let alone the impact on sound quality.

    when can we catch up for a coffee?


    Comment by steve — July 1, 2009 @ 6:33 pm

  9. i don’t think they were claiming authorial intent… in the interviews i read they were just bemused that others were telling them what their intent was, when it actually wasn’t. that’s a very different thing.

    Comment by cheryl — July 1, 2009 @ 11:13 pm

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