Sunday, August 31, 2008
Fistfights, crashing helicopters and gun-wielding guerrillas flashed across the screen. The auditorium filled with the sounds of the jungle as Senior Pastor Rob Seagears clomped onto the stage in camouflage and combat boots, toting a rifle, canteen and machete.
"Good morning, Mountaintop!" he growled to the congregation before launching into his Sunday sermon based on the R-rated, curse-filled Hollywood hit "Tropic Thunder."
The audience chuckled at his grizzly soldier act, and gave him some loud "Amens!"
If there were an Oscar for sermons, Seagears would be a contender. There's his "Dark Knight" performance, when he roared up to the pulpit astride a Suzuki motorcycle, dressed like Batman. And his whip-cracking Indiana Jones, and his green-suited Hulk.
Perhaps most memorable was when he bumbled out wearing a ratty wig and a blood-red smile across his face, ranting like a maniac.
"When I went into the church as the Joker, there was complete silence," Seagears recalled fondly. "People were stunned because I was acting as if I was evil."
Since June, Seagears, senior pastor at Christ Chapel Mountaintop in Prince William County, has based his sermons on the summer's blockbusters, managing to draw life lessons from the most unlikely subject matter. The Summer Cinema Series, which concludes today, seeks to attract those who don't ordinarily attend church while making the experience more fun for those who do. The four-year-old church averages about 20 visitors a week, in addition to members, which is significant considering that attendance usually lags during the summer, he said.
"We try to make church and God applicable to people's lives," said Seagears, 47.
Seagears bases each week's message on the highest-grossing movie the previous weekend. He sees the movie, then prays about how to extract a biblical message.
He has had to see movies with violence and language he would otherwise avoid. Last month he saw "Hellboy II: the Golden Army," in which an evil prince seeks to resurrect an indestructible army to take over the Earth by assembling pieces of a magical crown.
We, too, have invaluable crowns, Seagears preached, rewards God has prepared for those who love and serve him faithfully.
"It's kind of risky to be watching to see what the number one movie is going to be and figuring out how to flip this thing for God," he said.