Friday, July 2, 2010

Entertainment and Religion

There are many similarities between 21st Century American Christian Religion and Entertainment. Much of what passes for church programming is, essentially, faith-based entertainment, the purpose of which is to keep the faithful happy and participating. And the central "program" for most churches is worship. As hard as we might try to the contrary, a major part of American Christian worship is a form of entertainment.

Not that entertainment is bad; it just isn't what the Christian faith is about.

And I'm not just talking about "contemporary" worship. And I'm not just talking about "traditional" worship. There are entertainment elements in all styles.

We talk about "excellence" in worship and measure it in worldly terms. Is the organist good? Does the worship leader have a good voice? Is the choir in tune? Can the preacher hold his/her "audience"? All of which points to people-pleasing. If we wish to achieve "excellence" in terms of God's measurement, we would be talking about very different things. Does the preacher live what he/she is preaching? Is the musician's heart in touch with the Holy Spirit? Is the worship genuine? Because, you see, worship is not about pleasing people so much as pleasing God.

And church programming should be less about attracting members and more about being the Body of Christ in the world. We should be meeting needs, but not so much the needs of our church members as the needs of people who are not a part of the church. Jesus said that he "came not to be served, but to serve" (Mark 10:45). As a "spiritual culture" we must transition away from self-indulgent, inwardly-focused programs to ministries that engage the world that God loved so much that He sent His only begotten Son to save, Who then passed to the Church that mission.

We have got to transition away from a Disneyland-type approach to "doing church" to a Mother Theresa-type approach.

Church people generally do not what to hear this. However, the world is on tip-toes, waiting for the children of God to step into their Jesus shoes and BE what they are: the Body of Christ.

1 comment:

Patti said...

So many thoughts, not enough time:
People too quickly embrace what is comfortable and familiar - I think church's should strive to prevent worship from becoming formulaic, keeping in mind what the relevant trends 'in the world' are - so as to attract those who have not darkened the door of a church before. I understand it's not about pleasing people - but, to those who do not know Christ and church is a foreign concept, designing worship in such a way that it is a comfortable experience - i think would allow a non-beleiver to perhaps become more engaged in the experience. I look at the worship style of my church (shall remain nameless to protect the innocent) - they call it a blended service, but it isn't blended at all - it's segregated and very formulaic. The 'contemprary' part is simply placed within the body of a very 'traditional' order of worship. You can look at a worship bulletin from 20 years ago and one from last week - no real difference. To me this is a very sad thing - mainly because the God of all creation has given us all different gifts - gifts that we can use to worship Him with, but out-dated worship styles don't allow for the variety of ways that are good and appropriate to use. And (I'm almost finished, I promise) too often Pastors don't address the 'worship style' issue, because its a contentious one. I work at a church now where it literally took the pastor 6 years to work through the worship style issue - the church lost members, the pastor was beaten down (figuratively, sort of) and this, the seventh year, we are seeing and feeling the fruits of perseverance. Kudos to any and all pastors who take the issue on. I wonder... since people struggle so much with change, and becoming a Christian fundamentally means change... is there a lesson for us related to worship in this?
Last thought: Popular music can be a great tool in worship - so many secular songs can be applied as songs to our Lord - playing them in worship provides the opportunity to say to to friends "hey, they played that song in church last week" - always a good conversation starter.