Megachurch Christmas Extravaganza With ‘Flying Drummers’ Sparks Backlash After Clip Goes Viral

By Josh Shepherd
flying drummers prestonwood
A video clip of "The Gift of Christmas" production at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas has sparked backlash online. (Video screengrab)

Flying drummers, flying angels, live animals, and a 1,000-member cast. It’s all part of a Christmas extravaganza at a Dallas-area megachurch — which recently sparked backlash, after a clip from a show rehearsal went viral on TikTok.

“A nice humble place of worship,” commented one TikTok user about the production at Prestonwood Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist megachurch in Plano, Texas, pastored by Jack Graham, founder of PowerPoint Ministries.

Many of the clip’s more than 14,000 other comments follow a similar snarky tone. “I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’m in awe and I’m turned off at the same time,” wrote a user named Melissa Cunningham.

The 23-second clip of the rehearsal of Prestonwood’s production called, “The Gift of Christmas,” was posted by TikTok user Tony Daussat. The video features several drummers suspended on wires above the congregation.

The clip, which has attained 2.3 million views in five days, was posted with the caption “Casual Christmas worship service in TX.”

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Prestonwood executive pastor Mike Buster said in a statement that the church expects about 75,000 people to attend their Christmas pageant. “At Prestonwood, we believe Jesus deserves our absolute best, especially at Christmas.”

A press release from the church, which reportedly has over 50,000 members, describes the show as a “visually stunning multimedia event.” In addition to flying acts and an expansive cast, the show also reportedly features special effects, an LED video wall, and a 50-piece orchestra playing an original music score.

Tickets cost $19 to $59, with an optional Christmas buffet available for an additional $22.50. At press time, 11 of the 14 performances had sold out.

Church calls out critics as ‘hateful’

The church response statement, which noted that Prestonwood has “pulled out all the stops” for over 25 years with its Nativity productions, acknowledged online criticism.

“It’s unfortunate that the perennial American tradition of the church Christmas program now draws hateful ire from some,” said Buster. “We pray that they, too, may come to know the joy of Christmas and the love of our Savior.”

In a follow-up TikTok post, Daussat said he saw the clip on Facebook and originally reposted it without any ill intent. “It made me laugh,” he said, “not because of some disdain I have for churches, but because there’s flying drummers inside of a Christmas show at a church. It’s objectively funny.”

Some comments online — “Why feed the poor or help the homeless when you can have flying drummers?” has been a common response — implied the big-budget production necessarily supplants Prestonwood prioritizing food insecurity outreach and other community initiatives.

According to the church, their Prestonwood Cares initiative donated $7.5 million to 70 different charity initiatives in 2020. Over the past two years, their “Hunger Project” reportedly has provided over 250,000 meals to food-insecure individuals across North Texas.

prestonwood baptist church
Prestonwood Baptist Church

Prestonwood is one of the largest churches of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), which has been embroiled in scandal concerning the coverup of sex abuse at SBC churches.

An independent report, which found that for decades, SBC leaders protected sexual abusers and mistreated their victims, named Prestonwood Senior Pastor Jack Graham. Specifically, it cited the “quiet dismissal” of a Prestonwood staff member in 1989 as a potential cover-up.

In May, the church stated that leaders “categorically deny” how the report described the past staff matter. “Prestonwood has never protected or supported abusers, in 1989 or since,” the church said.

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32 thoughts on “Megachurch Christmas Extravaganza With ‘Flying Drummers’ Sparks Backlash After Clip Goes Viral”

  1. Complete total trash ! It’s a circus act , blasphemous to Anything Godly or reverent

    Graham is a fake a phony a wolf in sheeps clothing , Franklin Graham as well is in Kahoots with this looney toon

    It’s all about their lust for glory and fame and MONEY!

    These are they that Peter warned in his epistles they bring in damnable doctrines of devils !

    It’s a Satanic witch hunt that tarnishes the Name of Christ

  2. “So Jesus deserves our absolute best….” – so that’s why He was born in Bethlehem to the smallest of tribes and had a manger for a stall – born to poor parents, etc.?

    1. Schuller said on multiple occasions that if he wasn’t a preacher he’d be a showman, he liked putting on extravaganzas so much. At least he was honest about it.

      And Crystal Cathedral didn’t go belly up until after he retired and his heirs/successors played the Game of Thrones right into the ground.

      The entire “campus” was bought by the Roman Catholic Church at the fire sale; after some remodeling, Crystal Cathedral is now Christ Cathedral, seat of the RCC Bishop of Orange. (And there was a lot of sackcloth-and-ashes among the Christians(TM) over that development.) The diocese had been looking for a site for a cathedral large enough to handle the diocesan offices and overhead after it outgrew the refitted parish church it had been using, and they couldn’t pass up a fire sale bargain.

  3. I invite all you readers to watch The Simpsons two-part episode, “Warrin’ Priests.” Go to Season 31 and watch episode 19 and then episode 20.

    The story is about a young, attractive minister, Bode Wright. He sees an advertisement for a youth minister position at the church which the Simpson family and most of the familiar characters attend, so he travels to Springfield to see about the job. Eventually, Reverend Timothy Lovejoy decides he should visit the young minister’s previous church. Please watch episode 19 and then episode 20. Your laughter when Reverend and Mrs. Lovejoy enter Bode’s previous church will be more hearty.

    As far as Prestonwood is concerned – you’d think the dénouement of the extravaganzas at the Crystal Cathedral would have been a warning to other enormous churches, wouldn’t you?

  4. I’ll say this without any rancor. These mega churches could use some serious introspection as to how they come across. I’m a believer and I think many things they do are down right bizarre and way over the top. If I think they’re bizarre, how do non-believers see them? With all the bad news coming out of this denomination they should seriously think about dialing it back several notches in a few areas. When the $22.50 buffet and the aerials were mentioned I thought, “bread and circuses” are being offered to keep the people happy.

    1. “Bread and circuses”. That phrase is etched in my brain now. How we should fear and tremble in front of God’s glory instead.

  5. It’s an incredible Christmas program! Really jaw-dropping, high-quality & God-honoring. People just like to be snarky.

    1. It’s a classic hit piece. Any concerns about being “over the top” should have been made 25 years ago when GOC first came onto the scene. And bringing in the issue from 1989 has nothing to do with anything other than to smear them (by the way the incident happened one month after Graham became pastor, and at the time the prior pastor had started a new church and was stealing members from Prestonwood, so he has no idea if the account was true or someone trying to cause dissension). If Cathedral of Hope (DFW’s well-known LGBTQ+-friendly church) had a similar event you would have heard nothing about it.

      1. What’s your definition of a “hit piece”? We fairly reported a news story. And it’s news now because a video of the production just went viral and sparked backlash.

        1. The abuse scandal seems shoehorned in. The rest of it is appropriate but maybe a little bit of begging the question. Would you report it without the tie-in to the 30 year old scandal? Writing as a former journalist and professor.

        2. This isn’t news; this same church has done this same production for eight years – videos are all over online. It feels like clickbait, which cheapens the other important work this site has done. This fuels outrage; it doesn’t inform anyone of anything other than someone else’s discontent.

  6. This screen capture is from Prestonwood’s 2021 Christmas show (last year). Why is it considered news now?

    Images from this year’s upcoming show are available on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIhqyH_hohY).

    That said, I would never spend time or money on this. This is a paean to human power, influence, ingenuity, and accomplishment. It is not a tribute to a humble LORD and Savior.

  7. Church as useless entertainment. Ain’t nobody getting saved down there. Makes me thing of the song “this Disco used to be a cute cathedral.” Lots of fun until it is your turn to die. Then you learn that Jesus does not know you because He can only be found in the humble things and people. Jesus could have been born in a palace but instead was born in a stable that smelled worse than many can possibly imagine! A cell in hell for people reinventing Jesus into their own image. Fun turned into pure despair. Hardly sounds like a bargain to me.

  8. Carolyn McLaren

    “We believe Jesus deserves our absolute best” however Santa and Mrs.Claus are part of the production. This is such hypocrisy.

  9. Why does this remind me of Emerson, Lake, & Palmer’s “Karn Evil Nine: First Impression, Part 2” and it’s prologue in the second half of “First Impression, Part 1”?
    The prologue even ends with the lyric:

    “AND NOT CONTENT WITH THAT
    WITH OUR HANDS BEHIND OUR BACKS
    WE PULL JESUS FROM A HAT!
    GET INTO THAT! GET INTO THAT!”

    They’ve even topped the Vegas-like Christmas and Easter paegants the Crystal Cathedral guy used to put on — and he admitted flat-out that “If I wasn’t a preacher, I’d be in showbiz!” He liked doing onstage spectacles so much. (At least he was honest about it.)

    But it isn’t the weirdest video I’ve seen along those lines.
    That was several years ago, in a viral video of some megachurch service that included:

    * Large background set design right out of “Yellow Submarine”.
    * Strawberry Shortcake tap-dancing to one side.
    * And an emcee in a red lobster fursuit singing(TM) “Come Together” by the Beatles in the style of the William Shatner cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”.
    * And at the end, red lobster guy suddenly gets hoisted up off the stage by a fishhook.

  10. Neil Cameron (One Salient Oversight)

    We need to be clear here: The Holy Spirit CANNOT work without smoke machines, lasers, or flying drummers. It’s a wonder that Christianity started off at all without these things.

    (sarcasm)

  11. Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?

    Charles Haddon Spurgeon said it well;
    “An evil is in the professed camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most shortsighted can hardly fail to notice it during the past few years. It has developed at an abnormal rate, even for evil. It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments. The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them.

    From speaking out as the Puritans did, the church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses.

    My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the church. If it is a Christian work, why did not Christ speak of it? “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). That is clear enough. So it would have been if He had added, “and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel.” No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to him.”

    Link: https://www.biblebb.com/files/spurgeon/amusement.htm

  12. Marshall McLuhan once said “The medium is the message”. So I have to ask….Will people walk away from this with an understanding of the true message of Christmas or will most walk away and say “Wow what a show!”.

  13. Prestonwood’s Christmas program seems like the inevitable destination, prophesied by Neil Postman in Amusing Ourselves to Death. To put it in more biblical terms, do any of y’all in Prestonwood have itching ears?

  14. American evangelicalism is, at best, just another entertainment industry. It’s time to tax churches as the businesses they are.

  15. With all the scandals facing the church today….sex scandals, financial scandals, pastoral power abuse scandals, false teaching etc etc. I don’t see a Christmas “extravaganza” as much of a concern.

    Is it over the top? Probably…but it basically is just family entertainment presenting a positive Christmas message with eye popping visuals and staging. It’s obviously a popular event that people are willing to pay to go see and enjoy during the holiday season.

    God has gifted many people with gifts of creativity that can be used for events like this.

  16. If this were a church service I would be troubled. But it’s a production. People are paying to be a part of it. Many creative individuals who have been gifted by God are at the helm. I’m kind of scratching my head on the purpose of this article… Is it because too much money is being spent on it and you’d rather the money go somewhere else? Is it because we’ve fallen into the “All large churches are bad” trap? (I’m not from a large church). I’m probably more in line with Jim Henry in that I think it’s a bit much. But there’s plenty of “Thank God I’m not like that sinner over there” going on in these comments.

  17. While they’re likely making a healthy ROI on this, as the article states, they have contributed significantly to helping the community with outreach and meals.

    What is wrong about producing a Broadway-like play surrounding the birth of Christ? Why can’t Christians also make high quality, theatrical events? Should we just leave it to show business and Hollywood? They’ve obviously taken their own version of it too far. Look at how successful the Chosen has been. People want to see genuine Christian art. For far too long contemporary Christian Music and cheesy Christian remakes of movies and games have been stuck in devoutly Christian households and not making impacts in the music, movie, and art scenes at large in our secular nation. I believe gifted Christian individuals should do their absolute best at producing amazing art, competing even with Hollywood or the music scenes while remaining morally and doctrinally correct.

    And who’s to say this church’s preaching and small groups and heart aren’t solid or focused on Christ? I haven’t done much of any research on this church, as I’m sure many of those commenting haven’t either, but I’m encouraging others to reconsider their disdain for spectacular Christian productions.

    1. I attend Prestonwood and the ticket prices are set to cover expenses. The majority of effort is from volunteers both within and outside our membership.

  18. These sort of events are not for me – HOWEVER, I try to be fair and make sure my personal preference is not the standard used to dismiss them altogether.
    It is known that churches have more visitors and visibility during Christmas, Mother’s Day and Easter. So I understand those to be seasons when many churches will host services, events, and productions to reach the unchurched and/or those who have been turned off by “traditional” church.
    As long as the message draws people to Christ – and monies collected from tickets and/or donations are used to serve the needs of the congretations and communities in which these churches stand – I have little problem with it. I mean, there are all sorts of huge pagan, and outright athiest, holiday productions coming out every week over the next month. Why should churches be limited to putting on small, cutesy Christmas pageants if they have the funds and talent to put on an equally impressive production that is actually rooted in the real meaning of Christmas?
    As for me, I’d consider inviting a non-believing friend to something like this. My old roommate is an ex-Catholic who LOVES majestic theater productions like this. Why not take her and have her hear the message of Christ in a way that meets her where she is?

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