« Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven (But Nobody Wants to Die) | Main | American Idol: Three Lessons for Worship Leaders »

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Ty Pennington and the Work of the Church

Ty Two of the most popular shows on network TV right now are Extreme Makeover:  Home Edition (starring Ty Pennington) and Three Wishes (starring Amy Grant).  I've watched bits and pieces of both within the last couple of weeks, since my wife, Dawn, enjoys them.

My question after watching both shows...  Why are we letting ABC and NBC do the work of the church?

Last week on Three Wishes:
The charming town of Cedar City is home to about 30,000 people. At the wish tent, Diane met with Brian who had a wish for his wife Nicole. Having survived a potentially fatal brain virus, Nicole was now blind. Her right eye was completely dark, while her left eye had about a pinhole’s worth of vision. Brandon just wished for the chance to explore new techniques to treat Nicole and to give her a chance at a normal life. Meanwhile, Amy met Jolene. Her parents (Charlie & Donna) started their own toy company, The Happy Factory, out of their garage. The toys were handcrafted and sent to needy children all over the world.

Last week on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition:
Susan Tom, a single parent of seven adopted children with disabilities from Fairfield, CA, didn't set out to adopt children with special needs, but somehow they found each other. After her divorce, Susan, a mother of four at the time (two biological, two adopted), became a foster parent and soon fell in love with the children no one else wanted. Now Extreme Makeover: Home Edition will give back to a woman who has given so much love to children in need by providing a new home for her family. Taking in children with challenges hasn't been easy. For Xenia and Hannah, who were born without legs, and Libby, who was born with spinal bifida and confined to a wheelchair, the Tom home is a logistical nightmare. For Cloe, who was born unable to bend her elbows and knees, getting around the house and up the stairs is extremely difficult. There is also Katie, who was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and is mentally challenged, and Faith, who was badly burned as a baby and encounters stares from strangers every day of her life. Finally there's Margaret, who was not expected to live because of brain damage; she's now a thriving 21-year-old who works full-time and helps out her siblings, as she pursues her dream of becoming a pediatric nurse.  In these special episodes of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, this family will finally find a safe haven to call home. Discriminated against on a daily basis by ignorance and physical challenges, the Tom children deserve to have a home that doesn't discriminate against them. Susan and the children are thinking of taking in more children with special needs, if their new house could accommodate them.

OK... before everyone goes off on me... these shows are EXTREME.  Instead of giving a cup of water to the thirsty; they give them the cup; and build them a whole water processing facility.  And some of the causes they help are kinda different.  But for the most part, they do good for those who need it.

But the truth is... the networks have it right in this instance:  They are helping those who Jesus said we as Christians, yes, we as the church, should be helping.  And I couldn't help feel a little weird seeing someone doing a job that Jesus said I/we should be doing better.

I mean, they're making a difference and showing love in ABC/NBC's name.  We have the honor and means to do so in Jesus' name.  Wow.

And so often we don't.  We avoid the widows, the orphans, and homeless.  Or better yet, we say we give to organizations that help them.  But Jesus told us to do it.

So why do we let Ty Pennington outshine us in this one area of Jesus' commands?  It seemed to me, as I watched, that something might be seriously out of whack.

Here's a church that I think is getting it right:

Fifteenth Baptist Church in Nashville was recently written up in the Tennesean like this:

"The need for housing in this community was one of the concerns that we kept hearing," McClellan said. "That need spurred us to take on housing as one of the ministries of the church.

"We see single-family home ownership (as) vital to help stabilize communities and families. We are looking to build more single-family homes and want to look for lots that will help us to keep the costs affordable.

"Our commitment to the neighborhood is an understanding that comes out of being in relationship with the neighborhood. It goes beyond economic development, but it's really about the development of people.

Of course, this type of work has to be in balance with the rest of the ministry of the church; but it clearly fulfills one of Jesus' commands:

Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. -James 2:15-17

James isn't speaking to the television networks to do this work... but to Christians, like you and me.

(Props to the NashvilleFiles Blog for the idea for this story)

Add Your Comments and Ideas now...
Pass this post on to a friend now...
Subscribe to RSS Feed | Get Email Notifications on New Posts

November 9, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink

First Name:


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Ty Pennington and the Work of the Church:


Several years ago I was asked to teach at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention on the topic of Christian television programming. I asked the attendees which one of them did NOT show yet another church preaching show. None of them raised their hands.

I asked them to raise their hands if they honestly thought their local TV program was on par with not only churches like Charles Stanley's, Greg Laurie's but how they brought something unique and different to their market. Again, no hands were raised.

I then asked what would happen if they spent their TV airtime on creating a show that looked like a "Dateline meets Oprah", where investigative reporting on community issues could then be addressed in an Oprah-style the-church-did-this-to-help-these-people kind of show. All I got were blank stares. Of course, this was well before "reality shows" were on TV.

My point then is your point now: what can the local church do to make community-wide impact that puts our words into tangible action? You're on-target, Todd. The church needs to stop thinking "me-too-istic" and get ahead of the curve in leading where we ought to be leading.

Great post!

Posted by: Anthony D. Coppedge | Nov 9, 2005 10:40:57 AM


"Why are we letting ABC and NBC do the work of the church?"

Excellent question, Todd, although you probably won't like the answer.

Just this past week, my former fellowship in Louisiana broke ground on a 20 MILLION dollar facility which, they believe, will "bring hope" to hurting people.


So here is my old fellowship, that I served on staff of, pumping millions into a building program that will increase the size of the auditorium, and this being done immediately after one of the most devastating natural events (i.e., hurricanes Katrina/Rita) in U.S. history and they believe that this monument will "bring hope."


I know of tens of thousands of people just in Louisiana that can't eat "hope," or be clothed or warmed with "hope," or have some of their most pressing financial needs met with "hope." They need a literal cup of cold water and all they get is Dixie Cup with a huge hole in the bottom.

One of the main reasons why the church in America has been so marginalized is because they equate physical buildings has being the end all for everything. They refuse to sacrifice their own desires in order to help others, all because of erecting those &%#$@ buildings/monuments to their "Christianity," while denying it through selfishness.

There's little doubt that America's "churches" are fiddling while Rome is burning.

(BTW, excellent post, Todd ;) )

Posted by: Ricky | Nov 9, 2005 10:46:57 AM

Thanks, Ricky...

You know... (and you might think it funny that I would say this)... there does have to be some balance here.

I have no problem with facilities as long as they aren't outlandish. But buildings don't excite me.

Making a difference in people's lives does.

Will the 20 million reach people? Buildings are just a tool... and yeah... probably the building will help facilitate the making and growing of disciples over the year. But the cost per will be huge and amortized over the next 50 years.

There are ways that we can impact our community in greater ways, for much less in many cases.

But I don't know... maybe that same church is doing things like this... I have no idea.

So, rather than looking at the negatives, I'd just like to encourage people to look for ways they can help in ways like this. We shouldn't be giving up this area to the likes of ABC or NBC.

Just my opinion.


Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Nov 9, 2005 10:53:30 AM

For some crazy reason the "church" has been sold the bill of goods that we must "preach the gospel" and that we must shove Christ and eternity in either heaven or hell down someone's throat--and that the only way we can do that is through high pressure and arm-twisting events.

I love Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. It is one of the better shows on television.

And yes, the Church should indeed be doing these things.

But how can we expect such "great things for God" from a group of people who barely know each other?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but some of us have been part of congregations for years, and we don't know any of the people who don't "run in our circle."

We won't pick up the telephone to do a little "pastoral care"--we say we're busy.

We won't bother going to visit someone--just for the sake of showing them we care--without an agenda.

Todd, this is a great post! And you have asked some very important and very serious questions.

I hope many of us are convicted in our hearts, minds, and wallets concerning these issues.

Posted by: Phil Hoover-Chicago | Nov 9, 2005 10:54:12 AM


"So, rather than looking at the negatives, I'd just like to encourage people to look for ways they can help in ways like this. We shouldn't be giving up this area to the likes of ABC or NBC."

Todd, one can't help but look at the negatives when billions are spent each year by "churches" on their facilities instead of directly helping people.

How refreshing it would be for an organization to fully divest itself on behalf of others. Do you think that that would catch the attention of others for the sake of Christ?

I do. Jesus fully "divested" Himself when He died on the cross for us and people are still speaking about that ONE event two thousand years later.

Shouldn't we be willing to do the same?

Posted by: Ricky | Nov 9, 2005 11:03:26 AM

Man, Ricky... we finally find something we can agree on (kinda) and you have to push it. :)

I think every church/every individual is responsible for their own actions, and for their own building programs.

Balance... I think it all has to do with balance.

Truth is, we all 'divest' of everything when we die.

But I don't want this post to turn into a bashing of building programs. That's not what's intended, so we'll not go there. And, if I remember right, some of God's houses of worship in the Bible were pretty darn elaborate (while outside there were lepers and widows and the poor).

Do I wish that churches looked at what the needs of their communities were and started there, rather than automatically building a new building? Yep.

Do I wish that we all could be more open to Jesus' admonishments in this area? Yep.

Do I wish that we'd all (and all our churches) would look more to the needs of the helpless, rather than making our lives more comfortable for those of us involved in the church? Yes.

But I'd rather encourage people to take a look at changes they can make... challenge them... rather than beat them over the head about buildings.

Todd out.

Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Nov 9, 2005 11:11:31 AM

Why is ABC and NBC doing the work of the church?

Well, I really don’t think they are. For every “one” family they help during the week, the church helps thousands. Men and women, boys and girls meet on weekends, spend their vacations going on mission’s trips, donate their money, give their clothes, have bake sales, sponsor less fortunate children etc, etc…

I recall many a mission trip I spent helping “no named” people turn their lives around, while handing out “cups of water.” Did I do it in the spotlight of TV cameras? No, but most of what the church does is not in the light of TV cameras yet it doesn’t escape the eye of our Heavenly Father.

And yet with all the work we do as a church to help the comfort and real physical needs of people, the primary “work” of the church is making disciples, something ABC isn’t doing nor do we actually wanting them spreading their “view” of Salvation.

The bottom line, yes many churches spend too much on facilities, yet those “facilities” are gathering places for the church to worship God; however, churches also spend a vast amount on helping those around them. The point isn’t what the “collective” church is doing to help the poor, what are “YOU” doing personally. In the end we will only by judged by how we handled our sphere of responsibility not by the deeds of others.

Pastor Al

Posted by: Pastor Al | Nov 9, 2005 11:25:39 AM

Pastor Al writes "Why is ABC and NBC doing the work of the church?

Well, I really don’t think they are. For every “one” family they help during the week, the church helps thousands. Men and women, boys and girls meet on weekends, spend their vacations going on mission’s trips, donate their money, give their clothes, have bake sales, sponsor less fortunate children etc, etc…"

AMEN! In fact, let's turn this around. How 'bout we hear some examples of how our churches ARE doing the work of the church in this regard! For example, the church that hears of one of its members facing the beginning of the cold season with a father out of work and the heat turned off, where the church went ahead and paid to have the heat turned back on. A small example, but if we do that kind of thing all the time, it adds up!

Thanks for the post, Todd... although I'm sure that in reality the seeker-sensitive TV mega-churches are the problem here...

;-D (Smile... God STILL loves you! And he KNOWS all your junk!)


Posted by: Peter Hamm | Nov 9, 2005 11:38:32 AM

OH... hey... let me clarify...

I'm not saying the church is doing nothing.

The church is wonderful; and SO MUCH is done every day by churches (LARGE and SMALL).

But, overall, you have to admit that most of us and our churches do a pretty poor job at fulfilling that James passage.

And many times that help that we give; and the compassion we show is actually for people inside the church. Good thing... but not necessarily what James is talking about here.

We've made numerous meals over the past year for people in our small group. We've visited, prayed, helped financially (anonymously) to help meet needs; watched kids, etc.

But I've not helped make or provide a meal for a person outside my church.

I'm just saying that I (and, I suspect most of us and our churches) have much area to grow here.


Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Nov 9, 2005 11:52:01 AM

For the record, the church is doing that kind of work.

Who do you think is in the trenches on the relief effort in Louisiana & Mississippi? Due to personal things going on in my life right now, I haven't had the chance to go down myself, but many close friends have been down there to help.

They have all told me that the majority of the work they see being done to help the poor, needy, and homeless down there are the churches.

I agree, the church needs to be doing more of this across the country, not just in disaster areas, but I think it is a valid point to say that, while Extreme Home Makeover is doing a lot of good for some specific families, there are a lot of people they never touch...

But hopefully, God's people do.

As a matter of fact, my old campus ministry just did something similar to an extreme home makeover for a poor single lady in their hometown of Montgomery, Alabama.

It's being done... the church just doesn't have the broadcasting budget to advertise it and brag to the whole world about it, which Jesus never wanted us to do anyway.

Also, I have to agree about the church building thing... WAY too much money pumped into bricks and mortar. I agree there has to be some worship space, but the mission is outside of the walls, not inside them.

I know, I rambled this time, but my wife needs the phone, and we're on dial up access.

Brian out!

Posted by: Brian Burkett | Nov 9, 2005 11:57:54 AM

Hi All,

Great topic and challenge!

I really enjoy Extreme Makeover Home Edition. Yes, they are doing great things for deserving people. However, I think an important point may be missed here.

The network is a contributor bringing "star power" to the project. I think their biggest role is that of project facilitator.

Much of the work appears to be done by the individual and business community of the family they are helping.

I'm sure some of those involved do so for the PR opportunity. I pray the vast majority of the people want to be part of making a difference; that everyone involved is changed for the better. I can only assume that some of those may be "churched" people.

The possibility of doing something similar (a smaller scale, on a consistent schedule) rather than a one time extreme project is very doable. If THE church (not MY church, YOUR church, THEIR church) would come together, I truly believe WE could have a similar effect on the needy in our midst.

We need unity in the community and it needs to start with the church. Let's bring our "loaves and fishes" and experience the miraculous.

Posted by: Beggers | Nov 9, 2005 12:18:30 PM

I think these are great things for us to wrestle with. I struggle with investing money into buildings that are inward-oriented, too. I think we ought to push against those things in such a way that we honor God with the money that is available in the US church.

I was on staff at a church near Buffalo, NY that dealt with this tension in a very positive way. We were growing as people were coming to Christ (very good "problem" to have). We needed to respond. The leadership chose to response by increasing the capacity on this campus. But we also chose to use this as an opportunity give a bunch of money in more "justice" oriented ways.

The building was a youth center that met a legitimate need in the community and is bieng used that way in profound ways. Then, on top of that, we also gave away over a million dollars to begin to address the issue of AIDS in Africa as well as issues of poverty in the city of Buffalo. It wasn't a 1-to-1 ratio, but it was pretty high.

I think that was a pretty positive response to both issues that have eternal value and are pressing.

Posted by: matt | Nov 9, 2005 12:53:54 PM

I can't believe it I agree with you as well?!?!? Churches spend too much on their building and not enough doing God's work. Did you see Lake wood Church's building it looked like a football statdium. Come one, that is wrong. I can't imagine how much money they spent on that building.
I do not think Churches are doing their job in meeting the actual physical needs of people. Some are churches are, but as a whole we are not doing enough.
God help us!

Posted by: Jade | Nov 9, 2005 2:09:47 PM

Todd, I agree with the essence of what you're saying, but also let's do like Brian Burkett suggested: Let's remember that the church has led out in hurricane relief and a lot of other stuff. Now let me ask this: no cameras were present on our youth group when they went on a mission trip to help with home repairs in New Mexico. No cameras recorded our ladies group holding a baby shower for the local crisis pregnancy center. We're helping to house and feed a lady dying of AIDS. One thing that concerns me with "emergent pastors" is the constant criticism of what the church isn't doing. Maybe some of these aren't seeing the world turned upside down like in Acts, but like Elijah one day we may find out there's a bunch of "insignificant" churches that haven't bowed their knee to Baal nor consumerism, and we really do love Jesus and He loves us. Sometimes that cold cup of water doesn't get noticed by men, but God does notice it. Keep up the provocative thoughts Todd, this is a good discussion place!

Posted by: bishopdave | Nov 9, 2005 2:12:24 PM

Beggers said: “Much of the work appears to be done by the individual and business community of the family they are helping.”

This is a great point. I don’t want to bash ABC for the show, in fact, we watch it as a family because it is a good message. But my brother in law was actually a crew member in one of their early shows and he worked nearly 24 hours a day for an entire week, while the “stars” came in when they wanted. Ok, sounds petty I know, but one has to remember… it is a TV show and not all that you see is completely reality. If you know what I mean. ;-)

Last point, it does get the community to rally around a good cause, and that can't be all that bad!

Pastor Al

Posted by: Pastor Al | Nov 9, 2005 2:16:53 PM

Todd, good points. Appreciate your challenge. As you know, Lake Ave. Church in Pasadena, CA has had its tough moments in the last 6 months. But one of the bright spots was our own effort in just what you are talking about. Check out this article from the Pasadena Star News about our own makeover project at Washington Middle School here in Pasadena: http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/search/ci_3181464

Posted by: Mark Howell | Nov 9, 2005 2:22:47 PM

The real point here is that the BOOK OF JAMES is still in the New Testament....

but alot of us would rather fight, fume, and fuss over theology that we barely understand than to actually LIVE OUT theology that we have no problem understanding.

But we often have a problem obeying it.

Case in point:

Our Men's Ministry had a recent "clean up day" for a neighborhood where we are currently worshipping on Sunday Mornings. Out of more than 100 men in our local congregation, we had FOUR show up that Saturday morning.

Pretty sad, huh?

Posted by: Phil Hoover-Chicago | Nov 9, 2005 2:26:58 PM

Woohoo! Mark, thanks for the link. I read the article in the Pasadena Star - that's exactly the sort of thing I meant.

The "Community Without Walls" non-profit org. fits my premise for local church communities to unite and facilitate change. I will be researching it as a possible model for doing something similar in our area.

Anyone else know of similar organizations?

Thanks again! Beggers

Posted by: Beggers | Nov 9, 2005 3:51:09 PM

Can't disagree with you, but I would like to point out a few things I've noticed on Extreme Home Makeover. One is that Ty and other cast members have occasionally made references to grace and to being a blessing to people, and other references that indicate to me that they may be believers and view what they are doing in that light.

Also, I have noticed that when recipients of the new house/cash/help on Extreme Home Makeover credit prayer, their faith in God, or Jesus explicitly for the blessings they have received, ABC doesn't edit it out and leave it on the cutting room floor - they show it to the American people.

Sure, those people thank Ty and his crew and the builder for their work and help and gifts, but they sometimes thank God publicly on air too, and that's a good thing.

And, finally, the show inspires me and may inspire others to also "go out and do likewise," which is a good thing.

Posted by: Bill Hobbs | Nov 9, 2005 4:04:34 PM

Last year watching Ty, I had a few of our team at my house and we asked the same questions, then conversed about the how. The bottom line is the $'s available to ABC to get it done. Then more often than not the contractor is swept up in the emotion of it all and pays off the home for the family. Becasue everything starts with vision, I admire the vision of what EM:HE is advocating and I know I bought my last dishwasher at Sears because of it! No church was selling dishwashers:)

Our churches can do only what our churches can do. You cannot give what you don't have. So no matter if it is silver and gold or not, we have to give what is entrusted to us. Certainly there are dozens of examples of this in Acts.

I am certain it is clear we need to model stong vision for our people and stong projects for those less fortunate.

To have one (a strong local church) without the other (a strong impact on community) is missing the goodness of God. "No good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless."

I am a firm advocate of strong churches, strong outreaches, strong leaders, strong givers, strong helpers, strong missions, strong evangelists and etc...to what end?, that the weak would say, I am strong!

Posted by: jeff | Nov 9, 2005 5:05:52 PM


"You cannot give what you don't have."

Ah, but you don't have because you spend money on other, less important things.

The budget of my old fellowship in Louisiana routinely shows that approximately 75% of its budget was for salaries, benefits and facility cost. Of the remaining 25%, nearly 80% of it is spent on television/radio costs.

My point is that the same budget ratio applies to the vast majority of "churches," meaning that because of the beast called "facility," a relatively small percentage actually reaches people in need.

Sure, we can say, "Well, at least they hear the gospel," but that doesn't go very far when you're looking across an empty table at hungry children.

If only "churches" had the nads to reverse that budget ratio. How much more impact would they make in their respective communities?


For example, this is from World Magazine (Copyright © 2005 WORLD Magazine; October 22, 2005, Vol. 20, No. 41)

"Where is the money going? For buildings? Not really, since churches spent proportionally more for new buildings in 1965 ($29 per capita) than in 2003 ($27).

But the sprawling church 'campuses' that have become the norm today are expensive to operate.

Congregations today typically run an abundance of internal programs. The number of staff members and the amount of salaries have risen. All of this is for the good, but, as the authors of the report conclude, 'the numbers demonstrate an increased emphasis on internal operations over the broader mission of the church.'"

And, by the way Jade, the cost of renovating Joel Osteen's monument was 95 MILLION.

Ninety-five MILLION on a building that he doesn't even own.

God, help us.

Posted by: Ricky | Nov 9, 2005 7:04:14 PM

I'm glad that the world and the TV networks are trying to upgrade their image as well as Sears. Most churches (except the Mega ones) don't have the financial where with-all and can't afford to build well deserving people a $200,000 house, but would like to. I would like to do that for my deserving members, but 'taint gonna happen in my life time (no lotto for me). Too many times we give up when the world bumps into us and throw down our arms and walk away down troddened. We need to get in on some of the action out there, maybe not building a complete house, but maybe putting back together a family that is about to self-destruct. People are the target of the church, getting people saved and on their way to heaven is what it is all about. We were never commanded to build a house for a family, just bring them into ours (the church) and let them grow from there. My 2cents. Rev Jay

Posted by: RevJay | Nov 10, 2005 12:19:51 AM

Nice post.

Posted by: Andy Jones | Nov 10, 2005 9:34:08 AM

I think Extreme Makeover is a great metaphore for the whole message of grace. I just did a show with them... and it's not just about giving a family a home. It's over the top. It's outrageous! The house they build is amazing. The finish is the very best of the best. The furniture is killer. Then, the get started with providing what the family needs to get on with life, whether that's a new vehicle, tools for a job, eduction. You name it. It's just overwhelming. It's EXTREME. Just like what Jesus did...


Posted by: kdl | Nov 12, 2005 11:48:52 AM

Ricky, I noticed you parsed Todd's words once again only to pick out what best suits your arguement, choosing to throw the rest out. At least three times Todd said, "It is about BALANCE." A shame you missed it each time.

Which is better, Ricky: Giving $1000 to feed the poor ("directly helping people"), or giving only $500 to the poor and spending the other $500 to record the experience, using it to inspire and motivate 100 others to give just $20 each?

In fact, maybe $95M for Lakewood's facilities isn't all that much if you consider that it houses nearly 30,000 people in worship each week. That means approximately 1.5 million people will walk through those doors and EXPERIENCE A LIVING GOD this year alone. So if they remain in that buliding for just 10 years, that averages to about $6 per person, no? Imagine the "direct" giving/helping potential from those 15 million people over that 10 year period ... much higher than $6 each, I would assume.

It is about balance. It's not always black & white. PLEASE don't constantly act like each of Todd's posts are.

Posted by: Passer-by | Nov 14, 2005 12:45:05 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.