The Peoples Church was Canada’s first and for many years only megachurch, and this long before the term existed. The Toronto church was also independent, a rarity in its time. It was founded by Oswald J. Smith whose ordination was Presbyterian and had also founded an earlier church with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Smith had been turned down by several missions agencies because of his health, but ended up living to 96 and traveling all over the world. You can read more at Wikipedia. (As a young child, I attended Oswald Smith’s funeral, where Billy Graham spoke.)
Yesterday we were going through a number of family photographs and papers related to my father’s sister, Audrey Wilkinson who died on the mission field in India before I was born and was a missionary of The Peoples Church. Oswald’s son Paul B. Smith had succeeded him as pastor and continued his father’s tradition of colorful, topical and even controversial church services. Critics referred to the place as “a three ring circus.” (At a later age, Paul Smith baptized me.) But I had never seen the advertisement below.
The thing is, you could preach this sermon today as well. There are, among more conservative Christians, people who would not be caught dead in the cineplex watching certain genres of movies, but have no hesitation to own them on DVD (or more recently, stream them on Netflix.) Add to that the current proliferation of faith-based movies in national release, and for many Christians, the theater has become a second home. (I don’t think I am exaggerating to say there is one new title a week at ChristianCinema.com.)
But back to the premise of the sermon, there are many cultural things the church refused to embrace — ballroom dancing, bridge and other card games, drinking wine or beer, etc. — which later became more acceptable. Only one thing, the conservative Christian acceptance of Halloween, seemed to run the opposite way. The sermon teaser also raises the question of context. Is it more acceptable to have an alcoholic drink in a family restaurant than in a bar? Is there a stewardship component in waiting for the DVD release as opposed to paying the money to see the film on its release?
You can have a lot of fun with this one.