As you probably know, I am rather fascinated by both how Christians have adopted their own consumer culture and the various attmepts to ensure that Christianity is "relevant" to the current generations. Lately I've been wondering how long it can possibly be until those two worlds collide and "secular" consumer industries start marketing things to the church in order to help them in their quest to be more relevant. It looks like that day is already here.
Yesterday, in my quest to get one more Oscar nominated film under my belt before Sunday, I went to a matinee at the local AMC theater. I usually frequent independent theaters (we have some amazing ones here in the Twin Cities) so I always forget that the chain theaters mean at least 20 minutes of commercials, previews, and various theater promotions. Due to that forgetfulness, I arrived early and had to sit through all that promotion. But in the midst of all the clips telling me to go get a Coke in the lobby or join the National Guard, there was one that I hadn't seen before. There was a promotion in the middle of all of this encouraging me to "grow [my] church at the movie theater." Apparently AMC theaters now have an established program of recruiting people to host church services in their theaters as a strategic growth strategy for new and multi-site churches.
The other reason this caught my attention is because awhile back there was some media coverage about a new church meeting in a local theater. It received the typical charming oddity human interest story spin of "Who'd have thought?" Now I know who: AMC theaters and Fathom. That's who thought.
I want to make it perfectly clear that I have no problem with the idea of renting a theater for church and am making no statement on the churches that meet there or their beliefs. It may be a very cost effective option for them that fits into the model of what they want their church to be. Although, I personally would have a very had time focusing on the sermon if the smell of popcorn was wafting in the air. But then again, I'm kind of addicted to popcorn and have a bad habit of not eating enough breakfast prior to leaving for church on Sunday morning. :) If this model works for someone, that's great. I just wanted to mention it because I had been wondering how long the church could seek to find it's place in American culture until American culture realized the opportunity that existed in marketing to the church. I thought this was a very interesting example of that. If you are as curious as I was, you can check out more information at http://www.fathomtheatrechurch.com/