April 27, 2016 / MaryKate Morse

What the Church Could Learn from Oprah

Oprah had an internationally-loved talk show called “The Oprah Winfrey Show” which aired from 1986 to 2011.  A few years ago I was bed-ridden because of a back injury, and I watched her show every day. It was pretty entertaining and interesting. I learned a lot of things, but I began to wonder why the church couldn’t be more like Oprah?

Three Lessons from Oprah

I think the question is still worth considering today. Three contrasts struck me about the difference between Oprah’s talk show and most churches.

Little disclaimer – The Oprah show is not the church, and the church has many concerns which are not shared by her producers. However, there are a few things I noticed:

Oprah/No topic is off limits.
Church/Many topics are off limits.

Oprah talks about all sorts of things. She talks about poop and women’s sexual experiences. She talks about social media and its effect on kids. She talks about violence in the home. She talks about anything and everything. Yet, in the church there are many taboo subjects….such as abuse in the Christian home, pornography, hypocrisy, sex, politics (I’m not talking about endorsing parties or candidates but about the conflicts in American values), discrimination, addiction, consumerism, poverty, immigrants, etc.

The church should be the very place where we too can talk about anything and everything. What would it be like if we could just talk about these topics? What would the church be like if we could listen to experts and expose the whole of life and culture to Christ’s light, and not just the cozy things?

We have also forgotten how to talk. We have lost the art of civil discourse, not just in the church but in our country. What would it be like if the local church was known as a place where we could talk civilly together about anything?

The church should be the very place where we too can talk about anything and everything. Share on X

Oprah/Addresses Real Problems.
Church/Dabbles in Problems.

Oprah tries to solve entrenched social problems, even if she doesn’t get it exactly right. She makes a public effort to address the social ills that plague our day. For instance, the problem of girls having limited access to education in many countries is a global concern which she actively addressed. Oprah started a school for girls called the Leadership Academy in South Africa. It has had its difficulties, but girls are getting an education.

Where are the churches on the stage of actively immersed, sacrificial engagement with their communities’ social problems? Some criticize ‘Black Lives Matter’ because it is not a church movement. Well, where is the church? Why isn’t the local church in the news and on social media for immersing itself in social and justice concerns? We tend to dabble. The church could be the moral compass of a community through engagement rather than judgment.

Why isn’t the local church immersing itself in social and justice concerns? We tend to dabble. Share on X

Oprah/Tries Again and Again.
Church/Wants Immediate Success

Oprah is transparent. She doesn’t soften or hide her challenges. Take her life-long journey with her weight. She gets dieting right, and then she doesn’t, and then she does and then she doesn’t — she keeps trying. She keeps moving forward and engaging her audience in her journey.

In the church we want problems solved instantaneously or in short periods of time. People soon learn that a difficulty shared in prayer is expected to be resolved in a week or two. Otherwise, they might be accused of having little faith, little will, or they need an exorcism.

Christianity, once started, is a slow journey of falling and getting up, and falling and getting up again, always yearning for the fullness of life in Christ. Our whole life-long we depend on Christ and the in-dwelling presence of the Holy Spirit for a steady transformation into a new creation. Like Oprah we can commit to an honest, observable journey where our light becomes a little more obvious than our dark.

Christianity is a journey of falling and getting up, always yearning for the fullness of life in Christ. Share on X

Is Your Church Like Oprah?

Perhaps these thoughts about what Oprah could teach the church are a little speculative, but I love the church, and I want to see her thrive. As the Bride of Christ she too is on a journey where like Jesus nothing is taboo, where for Jesus all of life’s concerns need redemption, and where in Jesus steady, resilient transformation is the call.

I am also sure that there are some churches today who do one or more of these three things. If your church does, share with us what you do.

How did you create an active conversational environment where all sorts of topics are civilly engaged?

How did your church sacrificially address a real problem in your community?

Or how did your church create a culture of transparency, and a commitment to the life-long journey of growth?