“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...providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the church…the need is for Biblical doctrine, so understood and felt that it sets men aflame.” - C.H. Spurgeon
Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) was known as the Prince of Preachers and his quote above is as relevant to today’s church, as it was to those of his time who may have believed that something, other than the divine preaching of the word of God would benefit an audience.
Should a church be so led with entertainment to attract people to its building, or should it be led by the Spirit of God where the name of Christ is exalted and proclaimed? Remember, Jesus said that if His Name was lifted up He would draw people to Himself (John 12:32).
The power of God’s Word can affect more of a change in a person’s life than any type of Broadway style theatrical performance that occurs in a church. The pastor’s role is not that the church should have the best show in town, but that through the preaching and teaching of the Word of God, the congregation is edified in developing a deeper more meaningful understanding of the Scriptures. Scripture tells us that God’s word is alive and powerful too, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12).
Looking up the definition of the word edify, it means to instruct or improve morally or spiritually. Are pastors doing that? Are they primarily interested in the spiritual improvement of the body of Christ or creating such an environment that is similar to a mall or a Broadway performance and using non-biblical language and positive sermons to attract people for attendance? Are they not driven with a deep burning passion to see people transformed by the renewing of their minds through the Word of God (Romans 12:2) and His Spirit that should live within them (1 Corinthians 3:16)? Or are they wanting to be a good teacher, life-coach who instructs people on “The Power of Visualization” where the sermon is more psychological or philosophical than it is biblical?
Scripture defines what God wants to see church leaders do. “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;” (Ephesians 4:11-13, emphasis mine).
Sadly though, pastors in many churches around the country feel there is a desperate need to be culturally relevant with today’s generation, by becoming like the world around them. Game systems such as the Wii, PS3's and Xbox360's are amenities now in some churches and these items capture the attention of kids. Most parents cannot afford such high-end entertainment items, but hey, the church in town has them so why not just take the kids there so they can play with it, right? Wrong!
iPods and text messaging are consuming the attention of today’s generation of children and the parents do little about it because they want to satisfy their cry to be just like their friends. Keeping up with the Jones’ and the Jones’ are headed to hell too because their lives are manipulated by everything else in life, which takes them away from God rather than passionately pursuing Him, loving the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength (Luke 10:27).
"When amusement is necessary to get people to listen to the gospel there will be failure. This is not the method of Christ. To form an organization and provide all kinds of entertainment for young people, in order that they may come to the Bible classes, is to be foredoomed to failure." -- G. Campbell Morgan
In Entertaining Ourselves in Church, Dave Brown writes, "Not so surprisingly this carries over into politics, where image over substance is so pervasive, but it has also profoundly penetrated religion. With more and more emphasis on emotional experience over the Bible and Biblical doctrines, we’re seeing churches mimicking the TV entertainment format. The new orthodoxy in many American churches seems to be everything must be turned into entertainment in order to get people to pay attention to us. Feeling good in church has become such an overriding concern in some places one wonders if they learn anything about God or even lose the presence of God in their worship."
In a 2002 Wichita Business Journal article, "Tod Ford, an architect at McCluggage, Van Sickle & Perry, says church sanctuaries are being planned as places for entertainment. He says a big reason for the gradual change is that churches now have to compete with other aspects of entertainment in order to reach young people. The thrust now is becoming the celebration of the assembly and not so much the written word," says Ford."
The church’s focus should be on equipping and sending the congregation out into the world to preach the Gospel as Jesus gave His followers the authority to do so. But it has been distracted in believing that it must “do church” differently because of the way society and culture dictates and manipulates our lives away from God.
Scripture defines and provides an example how a church grows and it is found in the New Testament book of Acts in the second chapter. It reads, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42, 46-47).
A mega church can look great on the outside because of its enormous size and inside attributes that make it similar to some commonly visited entertainment places in the local neighborhood. It can look like it is spiritually filling within its walls by the number of people going in and out, but it is truly empty because of the severe lack of true nourishment it needs to feed the congregation, the pure milk of the Word to grow from (1 Peter 2:2).
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Brown, D. (n.d.). Entertaining ourselves in church. Retrieved September 3, 2007, from http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/3505/entertaining.html
MacArthur, J. (n.d.). Seeker-friendly churches. Retrieved September 3, 2007, from http://www.gty.org/resources.php?section=articles&aid=230863
Mazullo, L. (2002). Church entertainment becoming more than just an organ and choir. Witchita Business Journal. Retrieved September 3, 2007 from http://www.bizjournals.com/wichita/stories/2002/01/21/focus2.html
Morgan, G.C. (n.d.). Retrieved September 3, 2007, from http://www.middletownbiblechurch.org/lochurch/enterta.htm