King of the Hill on the Megachurch

There is a scene in “King of the Hill” where Hank and his family are trying new churches.

Repeatedly to no avail they cannot find one that they fit in exactly. After much effort, Peggy asks Hank if they could try the local megachurch as an alternative. She describes all the amenities and the programs that this church was running: “It pampers all of them. They have their own coffeeshop, florist, minimart, bank and a drycleaner that accepts all competitor’s coupons.” Hank’s response is classic:

“If I wanted to go that route, I could just walk around the mall and think about Jesus!”

I’m not sure why people outside of the church have greater understanding about the church than the people inside. If I didn’t know better we are getting more honest commentary outside of the church than within. I wonder how thick the walls of the churches are that we cannot hear the laughter of the people outside. 

I have posted about another King of the Hill episode before. This one is a bit newer in terms of chronological ordering and present some different commentary on a different part of the church. Where previously, they were critiquing the youth group Christianity, the target here in this episode seems to be the megachurch.

 “That church really understands the meaning of good customer service.”

Hank remarks as he receives a disc shaped object–it rings everytime there is an important announcement concerning the church. Soon enough, Hank finds himself immersed in everything that is concerned with church, the act of going to church becomes a chore. Slowly and surely he is finding himself wishing that he was back at his old church, even if he may have time to drink beer with the men in the neighbourhood.

I don’t really consider myself as a particularly “churchy” person, I don’t think I react too well with human authority and conformity to a set of ideals. For these reasons, I feel that I would never accept a kind of device like that, I would consider that as cloaked marketing. And this, is part of the problem that the episode is evoking, the way that the church invades Hank’s life and how he lives daily. Though, not entirely a bad thing–the problem is that he is not replacing his leisure time with Christ, but with more busyness. Surely “program” doesn’t save people, and I hope it never does.

Being a good friend doesn’t really make anyone saved. Being a good example doesn’t make anyone saved. I’m afraid at this point, I do disagree with Saint Francis of Assisi–you do need words to communicate the gospel. A program makes a robot, who is not born again but following laws. It’s not even words, it’s the experience of doctrine that yields the real fruit of the Gospel. Within the confines of the beeping device, it seems that Hank is almost switched on and off as a Christian, that suddenly he has to conform to a “churchy” character, that when not on call he is whatever he wishes himself to be.

2. “Not extremely satisfied? What could they have done to make your experience more satisfying?”

The megachurch which at one point in time, seemed something so glamourous compared to the smaller traditional Baptist church, suddenly seemed ominous and impersonal. He becomes afraid of walking inside the large church complex, which was something that resembles more of a theme park. There is a humorous scene where there is an overseer who is continually surveying Hank on all the programs–he asks to be rated on a scale of “Extremely Dissatisfied” to “Extremely Satisfied”. The reality is that the overseer is misguided when he is focused on human achievement as opposed to God’s satisfaction.

To seek man’s approval will always fail. I am finding more and more often that to satisfy man, we will have to grieve the Spirit–the inverse will apply as well, in order to fulfill the Spirit’s will, we will have to grieve man and the expectations put onto us. Francis Chan tells a story of a man on his deathbed, a few of the elders of his church as well as himself were summoned to his deathbed to pray over him. In the middle of the prayer, Francis spoke us and he fires a question that he was led to ask: “Why do you want to be healed?”. Francis doesn’t tell of the answer, but his intention was clear: Do we want to be saved from our sicknesses for our own wellbeing or for the Kingdom?

Are our own needs and wants more important than what God wants of us, and what he demands of us daily? In other words, are what we satisfied by the same as what God is satisfied by? In the episode, I think that there is a disconnection between the two–that the church is seeking more for a carnal satisfaction as opposed to a heavenly fulfilment.


All that being said, the episode does present at the end a wonderful dynamic, not unlike a compliment, of the mega-church pastor. The numbers that are filled in the church is apparently not forthright in his mind as he willfully lets Hank return to his old church–citing that he should be where he can worship the best. In many ways, there is a disconnect between the aims of his coffeehouse and his honesty as a pastor. It is not a undesirable disconnect though. It is surprising that at the heart of the church, which is on the exterior is so impersonal lies a real person who is really seeking for souls.

Similarly, perhaps we often have the correct idea–we want people saved. Often I think that churches have it right–they want people saved–but our means are often rotten. If we want to satisfy, then we would really have to question who we are satisfying. Our God is not of this earth, he does not need the praise of man–but surely He wants all people saved, and He wants souls saved, not seats filled.

Personally, I found this episode a fascinating look into the life of the American church, more honest and biting than most self-assessments of church pastors themselves. I hope you have the time to view the whole episode yourself : It used to be uploaded onto youtube, but it appears to have been taken down, unfortunately–but you can also get it less than legally here.

About JN
what happened to dignity / never see it on MTV.

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