We all have to decide whether we’re most driven by mission or by aesthetics.

Recently, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey put together a series of TV programs chronicling the life of Jesus, then continuing through the book of Acts with the birth of the church. I don’t like these shows. It seems weird to me that most of the actors are Caucasian, and it seems doubly weird to me that most of these white people have British accents. The version of Jesus they portray is lackluster and domesticated. In these shows, I get the impression Jesus’ followers would be more comfortable at a political convention than they would be in the radical kingdom-shaking, government-defying, prophetic ministry of the Messiah.

My friend Tim is a new believer, and he has been enjoying these shows quite a lot. When he first told me how much he’s been learning I stopped myself mid-scoff. I felt the Holy Spirit convict me, saying “David, these TV shows are helping Tim grow in his faith. Why would you ever want to interrupt that?”

I realized in that moment that I was being driven more by an aesthetic than by mission. God wants to heal. God wants to save. God wants to rescue the lost. More often than not, that doesn’t happen in one fell swoop—it happens gradually, over time.

These Jesus-shows are like little Holy Ghost appetizers, preparing the spiritual digestive system of those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. We must decide whether it’s more important to us to be right than it is to make disciples. Whether it’s more important to be artistic or creative than it is to lead people further and deeper into the presence of God.

To be sure, mission and aesthetics aren’t mutually exclusive. But when push comes to shove, mission should trump theological, liturgical, artistic, and cultural aesthetics every time.