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Many churches theme their sermon series based on a popular TV show, movie or pop culture phenomenon.

I recommend you don’t do that. Here’s why.

1. It gets confusing—especially for unbelievers.

The show Modern Family is a pretty popular sermon series title churches use. As an unbeliever, though, it can get pretty confusing.

“Are you screening episodes during the service? Are you encouraging me to watch it?” Because the popular TV show or movie has such a huge budget, it's easy for your point to get lost within their advertising.

2. You endorse it by putting your name on it.

This is dangerous ground. You never know what scandals or negativity can come from popular culture.

By naming your series a pop-culture title you’re indirectly encouraging people to watch those movies/shows. Different people have different standards for their pop culture consumption.

Unless the movie/show is completely wholesome do you want to encourage people to watch it who may be struggling with things it contains?

3. You lose the opportunity to brand your own message.

I always get annoyed when I see businesses ripping off the “got milk” ads. “Got tires?” “Got beer?”

They will never be able to take over that slogan. It’ll always belong to milk.

Plus, it’s stealing.

You need to be original and create your own branding. Create your own brilliant ideas.

I must admit, I've done a few series based on TV shows or movies. Sometimes the opportunity is too tempting.

So if you must, here are some ideas for you.

1. Go retro!

Pick an old movie (at least 20 years old). It can make it fun.

Plus more of your people have probably already experienced the movie.

2. Just show a clip from the movie/show.

Showing a short clip doesn't necessarily endorse it, and you can still get the illustration across.

(Just make sure your permissions are in order.)

3. Spoof it.

A spoof is creative and, if done well, it can even stand alone from the original movie/show. Spaceballs, anyone?

Through this you can still capitalize off the excitement over that movie/show without connecting yourself too much to it.

Our messages each Sunday morning are far too important to get muddled and clouded by confusing marketing messages. Keep your communication clear and compelling.

Don’t fall into the trap of doing something “cool” just because you’re bored. Make the sermon series packaging irresistible and irreplaceable.

Jonathan worked as a creative pastor and worship leader before becoming a consultant. He now focuses on effective creativity and leadership for churches through his many projects. He’s created multiple free resources for church leaders including ChurchStageDesignIdeas.com and SundayMagazine.tv. He lives in San Antonio, Texas with his wife, where he writes and manages his projects.

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Talk about it...

Richard Scotland

commented on Jun 9, 2014

Good advice! I have never gone down this route, but a nearby minister did with his "Simpsons" series. He was clearly not a Ned Flanders type either!

Vaughn Rasor

commented on Jun 9, 2014

I find your point very hard to understand. You tell me not to use TV, then you say you use TV. You say not to use clips because it endorses the movie, then you say use "short" clips like that is different. Then you say use something like "Spaceballs" which is a PG movie with questionable humor. I would stay with your original thought. Stay away from TV for illustrations

commented on Jun 9, 2014

I thought the same thing... It looks as if 2 different people wrote the 1st and 2nd half of this article... Which is it?

Keith B

commented on Jun 9, 2014

I think his point is that it's best to NOT do it...but if you do, use a movie or tv show that doesn't compromise the message, and to limit how you do it.

Matt Sutman

commented on Jun 9, 2014

Why stay away? That's like someone in Jesus' day saying...stay away from parables!

Vaughn Rasor

commented on Jun 9, 2014

No it is not. Jesus is the author of the truth in parables. The only truth that counts. The problem with TV and movies is that while you are highlighting "a truth" with a good illustration, you may also be endorsing a point that is not truth or exposing a viewer to material that is not edifying. Be very careful in using TV and movies is all I would say.

Keith B

commented on Jun 9, 2014

Good advice. It's strange to see so any pastors today tying to wring spiritual truths out of a movie that CLEARLY doesn't have any intention of being spiritual. Our mission is to preach the gospel....and too often we stray off track.

Doug Conley

commented on Jun 9, 2014

I know of one church that has a "Mayberry Day" in the fall. The evangelist uses clips from the show to illustrate the spiritual point that he's making. Afterwards, there are food, games, and gospel bluegrass music outside. Not only is the Andy Griffith show family humor, it offers a lot of visual material that is used to effectively communicate the sermon's intent in teaching how to live a godly, morally correct life. I certainly would not use "popular" shows. But, I've attended this event several times, and the clips do help visualize the sermon in a positive way. And, I think that's the qualifier.

Pastor Jeff Haynes

commented on Jun 9, 2014

Here's a strange idea, how about preaching on SCRIPTURE!

Hugo Fries

commented on Jun 9, 2014

article reads like Sm?agol having an argument with Gollum

Tony Bland

commented on Jun 9, 2014

do preachers write sermons from T.V. shows? tell us the truth... you wanted to write an article...oh i see you mean they write while watching a t.v. show...

Minister Sanders

commented on Jun 9, 2014

Stick to the Scrip-ture! If you are saying anything about T.v. shows of today make sure you tell your congregation how most T.v. shows of today are being used as devices by satan to attempt to expose us to sexual immorality, witchcraft, idolatry, and the occult and that we as Christians are to steer clear of these shows and prevent our children from watching them.

Norman Tate

commented on Jun 10, 2014

I am certainly no authority on preaching. I have been struggling for 40 years to get it right. But I have one word of advice. Every preacher should be guided by the Holy Spirit to preach the Truth to his particular congregation. If the preacher knows the people he will know when something is appropriate or not. There is no set formula that will work for all of us. Help me, when did all of these young preachers become such authorities on how the Word should be shared.

Ranger Harper

commented on Jun 15, 2014

Jonathan worked as a creative pastor and worship leader before becoming a consultant. He now focuses on effective creativity and leadership for churches through his many projects. That kind of explains this entire definition of poor preaching

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