How Jon Stewart Could Lead the Church

Kyle Reed // @kylereed

There is a huge issue happening in the church today.

This issue keeps 63 percent of bloggers and authors in business. You might be thinking the issue is about the songs we sing or the coffee churches serve (can you even call it coffee or just nasty hot water). Nope, much deeper then that.

The issue is conversation

I love Jon Stewart. His show is the best 30 minutes of my night. I am a new fan of Jon, but have quickly grown to love his humor, ideas, and views on important political issues. A couple of weeks ago I was thinking about the issue of 20 somethings and the church, and how they are no where to be found. I started to wonder who was at fault? Was it the “lazy” (as some would call them) 20 somethings that are not concerned with religion or was it the church that has seemed to alienate a generation? Jon Stewart quickly gave me the answer.

Over the past 2 years I have not gone to a church service. Sure I have attended church, shoot I play drums at a church almost every single week. But I could not bring myself to sit through the sermon. For some reason there has been a huge disconnect between me and any pastor. I noticed that any time I attended a service I left more sarcastic and bitter then I did before I walked into church. I needed to step away from this and it has been a 2 year journey of trying to figure out why I cannot sit through a sermon. I think I finally figured it out.

Its about the conversation.

My biggest issue with the preaching that I was hearing was there was no conversation tone to it, instead it was a one way street with a delivery of a message and a pat on the back as you left the doors of the church. The conversation was missing.

Now where does Jon Stewart fit into all of this? Well Jon taught me that the conversation was the most important thing. Not about who can shout loud enough, have the best argument, or have the best understanding of history. Jon instead showed me that conversation wins with a generation that is more informed and connected then ever before.

Here are two videos that I think help explain what I am talking about more. Check out these interviews between Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly. The first is from Bill O’Really’s show and the second is from Jon Stewart’s show.

One thing to keep in mind, 63% of O’Reilly’s audience are age 50 years and up. 74% of Stewart’s audience is 18-49 year olds. (you can read more on this here)

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Bill O’Reilly
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

I will let you take away what you want from the interviews. But to me this perfectly represents the issue. Conversation is dying in the church and I think Bill O’Reilly is to be blamed for this. And possibly, and I say that with a smile on my face, Jon Stewart could bring some answers.

Its about the conversation.

This week I want to keep discussing this. I know that some of you might be highly confused as to what I could possibly mean by this. Over the next couple of days allow us to have a conversation about these ideas. And lets make it a bit more personal shall we.

Your initial thoughts on these two videos?

Do you see a connection to the issue of the church and the lack of conversation?


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Kyle Reed

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I create websites, conversations, and ideas. Advocate for the 20 somethings. Looking to connect everyone to a mentor. Married to my best friend, Ginny. I like my coffee black and my dog Jack. I currently live in Nashville and work at Sony Music/Provident in Nashville
  • Alise

    I think you’re absolutely nailing it here. I think churches have a sense of that, which is why small groups seem to be pushed pretty heavily (or at least they are at my church), but it’s missing in the church service.

    Honestly though, I think it’s missing in the Church as well. I can deal with a sermon element, but part of what frustrates me is the assumption that we all agree and that there is no room for disagreement. I don’t know if that needs to be addressed directly during the sermon, but I think conversation even away from the main sanctuary tend to fall into that same idea. People don’t mind posting really negative things about the president or liberals or gays because we’re all Christians and we all think the same way, right? That kind of attitude just crushes the ability to converse.

    Fortunately, I think that attitude is coming to among many of the younger members of the Church. Which is a good thing.

  • Brent

    I think your right on one of the issues why young people don’t like going to church.

    In college many of my friends stopped going to church, even those planning on going in to full time ministry. they wouldn’t go to church services but would sit and talk about theology for hours anywhere we were at. we could also talk about what we liked in other religions and what we need to learn from them.

    I struggle with going to church on the Sundays I am not scheduled to serve(usually audio or video). I’m typically playing on my phone during the message and only halfway listening to the message.

    I look forward to hearing what else you have to say on this topic.

  • Ben

    How to disagree with you, let me count the ways. 1. This generation is poorly informed, the election of Barack Obama proved that. Polls show that people didn’t know that Obama would be “so liberal” and I am like, if you paid attention and listened to his speeches instead of getting caught up in a marketing a campaign that maybe people would have known what they were getting.
    Now, I haven’t attended church services in awhile but that was primarily for lack of community. I guess I would have to say that the sermon has some of it also. But when I ran my young adult Bible study, it was highly attended and I am just like O’Reilly. People want to be challenged and have a good banter. In fact, when I talked on the phone with you, it was pretty much like O’Reilly’s interview more than anything.
    Young adults don’t like to be challenged, they like to be coddled. I don’t know how long the church can last with coddling, just to be honest. Really O’Reilly and Stewart are exactly the same, both provoke. Stewart is just able to be funny, O’Reilly gets in your face and makes you prove your point. Which is also something our “informed” generation is not good at doing, have the facts to back up our assertions. May I also point out that they both have very different brands of humor, O’Reilly is very dry which (me being a dry humor person) people don’t get a lot; and Stewart has a refined comedic humor. So nope, O’Reilly isn’t to blame, in fact he should be accoladed for exposing just how our generation is becoming very obnoxious.

    • Kyle Reed

      See i really have to disagree with you here.
      I think our conversation was well a conversation.

      Honestly man a lot of the stuff you said about Obama was opinion. Which is your opinion. I don’t think you can say it was misinformation. people have the responsibility to be informed. But I think you are missing my point. A lot of the so called coddling that you see people needing is really something I think people are looking to be connected with something.

      • Ben

        Not at all are my comments on Obama opinion, Gallup polls backed it up when they asked people if they thought Obama was liberal or not. It isn’t hard to find. It isn’t misinformation if people are simply not willing to be informed themselves, which is exactly what happened.

        I do feel it is a coddling effort because people want what they want how they want when they want. It is about their needs, noone else’s. No matter how you attempt to meet those needs, this generation is the more generation. The iPhone is a great example of that. Version 3 isn’t good enough anymore, we have to wait in line for version 4. My small flat screen isn’t good enough so I will charge a bigger one to my card.

        No doubt that they want to be connected but it is more about their terms than the “greater we.”

        You are probably right though, our conversation was a conversation. My bad. =P

  • Tyler

    I think your point is a great one Kyle, though I do disagree somewhat with the importance of the sermon. I think throughout Acts we see God’s spirit come during a “sermon-like” speech. I see a message from God’s word in some form as being important to the consistent gathering of God’s church. There’s a lot of ways to make it more conversational, but I do think it is a must-have in a church gathering of believers.

    • Kyle Reed

      I totally agree and am not advocating we throw out the sermon. In fact I am saying what you are saying here, sermon needs to be more conversational.

  • mo

    Great thoughts Kyle. I think it has to do with so much more than style. It has to do with the intentions of the “interviewer.” Are they interested in learning something off-script? Or are they just using the interview to push a pre-formed point of view?

    I guess in church it has to do with whether the intention of the pastor is simply to pass on a predetermined set of points, possibly predetermined 4 or 5 weeks in advance, or cover ground not in their notes, in response to how the congregation feeds back.

    The bigger question is whether the Sunday morning format is suited to this concept, or if it’s better left to small groups. The analogy is college – lecture in the big hall, discussion in your TA’s section.

    • Kyle Reed

      great connection and thoughts. Good stuff.

  • Jason

    Great post Kyle. I’ve really struggled these past few years with ‘church’. I am there every Sunday. But am just not engaged when I am in a service. I get way more out of small groups – or when a group of us gets together.

    • Kyle Reed

      totally understand and agree.
      I actually have a post I will be working on talking about church and 20 somethings.

  • Marshall Heppner

    I would love to see churches stop trying to be relevant to the culture and start leading the culture. I would love to see the church stop worrying about entertaining or spoonfeeding and keeping people in or bringing people in the buildings but rather disciple and send people away. Christ said Go and Make Disciples, yet we somehow have established a church culture where people come in and sit down and leave with very little engagement but leaving feeling good they’ve put in the facetime. As leaders we need to do a better job of establishing God’s authority and identity on our lives to go and be atmosphere changers.

    Maybe its just the Canadian culture… You Americians might have it different.

    And maybe in my ideal world this would happen. However it would make alot more work for Pastors and Leaders like myself. I say get dangerous and allow God to be God.

    Huh. I get what you are saying Kyle. I dont nessisarily agree we have it right. But I think it spurs the conversation to lead better. Which is right on.