Commercialization? Church Puts On Lavish Production

  1. Dec. 9, 2007

    A Florida megachurch has garnered national attention with its annual Christmas pageant. The First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale's production is filled with extensive pyrotechnics, live stock and a bevy of actors.

    "We're having to compete against many theatrical things around the country, whether it's MTV or the Rockettes or any show you might see on Broadway," said the Rev. Mike Jefferies of the First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale. "We have made a conscious decision to pull out all the stops."
    The play rivals some Las Vegas-style productions, and Broadway producers choreographed the show.
    In fact, more than 600 actors dance through the aisles during the play. The church's pageant is a lot more extravagant than the more traditional productions many have become accustomed to, where bed sheets act as shepherd costumes and tinfoil serves as an angel's halo.

    According to the church's senior pastor and show's executive producer, Larry Thompson, the production pales in comparison to the actual events.
    "I really believe it is such a great story. I'm sure we couldn't actually compete with what really happened 2,000 years ago," he said on "Good Morning America Weekend Edition" today.
    The pageant has used the same story outline since it began in 1984, but organizers have spruced up its special effects and production values during the years. For example, the play now uses live camels to escort the three kings during their nativity scene ride.
    Thompson said ticket prices range for free for the poor to between $5 and $35 for others. He added that 20 percent of the tickets are giveaways.
    And while the first act deals more with the fun and spectacle of modern-day Christmas, Thompson said the second act focuses on the history of Jesus and his life.
    ''I think Jesus would come to the show [and say], 'Authentically you got it right,'" Thompson said.
    Some visitors said they truly enjoy the vast production, but others believe the $1.3 million price tag of the pageant would be better spent on charity.

    "A million dollars could feed a lot of folks," said the Rev. Bill Talen, who is against the consumerism of Christmas. "I mean, we have hunger now in the United States."

    Talen said the bright lights of the production might outshine the point it's trying to get across.

    "I don't think of faith as something you pay money for and then sit in the audience to be entertained. That's consumerism," Talen said.


    Um . . . this falls under the same category as the Ten Commandments Diamond: they have good intentions, but they're completely missing the point.
  2. I think it's okay. You have to have some resources to run a church. Traditionally the church has been a big money machine.
  3. There are several megachurches in metro Atlanta (where I'm from), and I always find their excess particularly vulgar. With all the money it takes to put something like that on, they could probably bankroll a soup kitchen or homeless shelter for a year and actually DO SOME GOOD. I know they probably do a decent bit of charity activity already, but something like that just seems like a colossal waste of money when compared to the other things they could be using it for. I'm sure the 'poor' people that they're giving the tickets to would much rather have a hot meal and some fresh clothes.
  4. I think the price tag is excessive, simply put. I don't think that people make the decision to attend a church program in the same way as a Broadway show. I think the church's comparison is off the mark as to competition and why they do it. I do think the money could be put to better use in the community. Sure, churches need revenue to run, but it does not seem like this is the point of such a production.
  5. I agree with Amanda. How many homeless/hungry people could they feed becuase of this "display'?

    I'm glad we donate our spare change directly to the local shelter and food bank.
  6. they are simply trying to recruit people into church.

    we simply dont have a problem when every time we start our computers up and Bill Gates makes another million!! wonder why?
  7. ^^ I think it's because religion is supposed to be the one thing that's pure and unspoiled and not commercialized.

    I mean, since when does worshipping God supposed to cost 1.3 million?
  8. Well, actually, a lot of people have a problem with that too.

    But Microsoft is a commercial business made to provide products and services for a fee. They are taxed and regulated (even though the Gates Foundation has put literally billions of dollars into charity work worldwide). Churches, on the other hand, are nonprofit organizations not taxed by the government. They shouldn't be operating like a for-profit theater organization. If I was a member of a church and my monetary donations were going toward hiring broadway producers instead of doing work in the community, I'd be finding a new church. Fast.

    I also fail to see how having real, live camels in the Christmas Pageant is any sort of good-faith attempt to recruit people to a religion. It seems more like church organizers living out their opulent fantasies on the dime of parishioners. Christianity has thrived for centuries in America without the aid of live animals and choreographers.

    There are also megachurch leaders in Atlanta driving around in Bentleys bought with church money. I find this even more vulgar.
  9. ^^^ What Amanda Said!
  10. $1.3 million is super-excessive. The proper word used by caitlin is "vulgar".

    Neeya, you sound like you need some anger management. I don't think bashing anyone with a bat is productive at all. You don't sound "ten times more moral" than any decent people I know.

    I also disagree with your assessment of Narroway based on personal experience.
  11. We can all discuss this without comments like some mentioned above.

    I can tell you something about this production- it is a sold out event, that sells out about 5 days a week more than 1 show a day. Much money is brought back to that church, and there production is absolutely amazing. They are also given money through large donations for this one cause.

    This same church has given large amounts to the community.

    So yes, their production is excessive, but they are also a mega-church, that raises a TON of money. I guess I don't see anything wrong with them putting on a large production.
  12. The thing about that production (and others like it) is that church members give the money to the church. They have a say in what the church does with the money. So my feeling is if they didn't want the money spent that way, they wouldn't give it OR they'd go to another church.
  13. Nothing exceeds like excess. Food banks across the country are begging for food to feed the poor, and churches are spending over a million dollars on a parade.

    *Please keep your religious views out of the thread*
  14. This same church gives back hundreds of thousands of dollars. As it makes money, it always gives back.

    And yes, their production is over the top, but much of this money comes from members to go towards the production. People can choose to spend their money as they wish. Just because they give $1000 to a production does not mean they do not give $10,000 to homeless shelters.
  15. Sorry Megs.