When I was in high school our church had a choir. Oh, and an organ. The organ might have had some pipes on it, I don't remember. That was really all we had. A choir and an organ. Pretty simple.
The church I attend these days has a grand piano, an electric bass, an acoustic guitar, and electric guitar, keyboards and a set of drums. The drums are enclosed with one of those Plexiglas screen things to keep the drums from being what the are - loud. Oh, and we have two, sometimes three singers as well. And a great big screen that holds all the words so we can all sing along without having to hold those heavy old hymnals or even look up the hymns! Things sure have changed . . . for the worse. Why is that worse? Read on.
When I was at Lifest a few weeks ago, our states biggest Christian music festival, I took part in a two-hour long discussion about how many Christian events, like Lifest, have become filled with a lot of "show." Maybe TOO much show. We also talked about how "Showtime" is creeping into our churches as well.
There were four members in our little discussion group - a friend of mine who works with youth at his church (and who also works security for many of the larger bands at Lifest), a pastor of a church near Green Bay and another friend of mine who leads a young lady's group at her church. We were all concerned above the "entertainment" aspect of the concerts and the "experience" factor slowly entering in to many of the worship services in our churches.
By far, the biggest act at Lifest this year was Skillet. They're a hard-rocking band who has risen to the top of the Christian music industry in rather impressive fashion. One picture is worth a thousand words (see photo at left).
If I didn't know Skillet was a Christian band, if had never heard the message delivered by the band between songs, I could easily assume, just by looking at them, that they were straight out of the gates of hell. Look at all of that fire on stage!
This issue of entertainment finding its way into our Sunday morning gatherings concerns me. I don't think a Sunday morning service would EVER have flames and explosions during worship but I never thought I'd see churches becoming accepting of sin or condoning abortion either but it's happening. Experience-based worship, trying anything to get the people to come to church so they can hear about Jesus or have a more enhanced worship "experience" IS from the gates of hell . . . in my opinion. It takes the focus away from God and places it on things that WE have done.
Take my wife's church for example. They underwent a multi-million dollar building program, and these were the pastors words spoken directly to me, to make the church "feel" more welcoming. I was under the impression that we are created to worship, no matter WHERE we are or what the conditions are. If a church is trying to make people "feel" welcome, perhaps they should have spent those millions on a red carpet, fruit baskets and lovely parting gifts?
My church surprised me a few months ago when I saw this picture posted on Facebook. There are three people on stage doing what they do best, playing worship music for our King. They are very talented and they are doing EXACTLY what God created them to do - worship. That's beautiful.
However I noticed something different in the photo. Something out of place. I'd like to call your attention to the steel structures on stage with internal lighting and also to the lights shining up on the walls. These things are not there on a normal Sunday morning. Why are they there during worship in THIS particular night? To enhance the worship experience? Hmm. That job belongs to The Holy Spirit, not man.
Check out the following video from a church in California! (Sarcasm alert) I bet their church has WAY more people attending than your church does!!! "We'll get to the Gospel message right after these guys do some more jumps . . . through actual fire and brimstone!" (sigh)
Motorcycle Jumpers at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church. I think these guys were also at Lifest last year. What is going on people?
Today I have a few Bible verses for you about interacting with the world in which we live. The first is from the apostle Paul.
"19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings." - 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
Was Paul being sneaky here? I think he was! One could easily say that. What he was actually doing though was relating to people at whatever social level or position they were in to deliver the Gospel in a way they would understand.
From The MacArthur Study Bible . . .
"He (Paul) stooped to make the gospel clear at the lower level of comprehension, which Paul no doubt had dome often while dealing with the Corinthians themselves. Within the bounds of God's Word, he would not offend the Jew, Gentile or those weak in understanding. Not changing scripture or compromising the truth, he would condescend in ways that could lead to salvation."
Maybe Jesus said it best when he was about to leave this world behind. He spoke the following words to God in a prayer for His disciples. We also should take note.
"14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth." - John 17: 14-19
Church is for believers , not for seekers. It is we Christians who should be welcoming, not the building. We should not "bending" or "warping" God's Word trying to make the message of the Gospel "more appealing" to this group or that. We should not be enhancing worship services so the those in attendance will "feel better" or "more comfortable" or "more excited" to come back the following week to see the traveling circus and their trained elephants.
This last video is of an actual church service, I kid you not. Despite the American Idol signs, which, now that I think about it, are very appropriate, this is the opening song of a "worship" service.
Entertainment in Church
Worship is about God. It is NOT about us. We are to humbly come before the Lord, ask his forgiveness for our sins and offer ourselves to Him in holy worship. I pray that all churches would recognize this entertainment trend in worship services today and I pray the we would reject it. We should be IN the world (as Paul described) but not OF the world. That is exactly what the enemy wants - for us to be focused ANYWHERE but on God. Let's keep our eyes open and stand firm.
"13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love." - 1 Corinthians 16:13-14