Are you not entertained?
I grew up in a small denominational church. On any given Sunday, we had about 110 people in the building. The church was packed, the choir loft was full, the pews were spoken for, the hymns were old, and the message was good: the pastor would hit you over the head with brimstone, slap a cross on your back, wash your tears away with the Blood, and have you rejoicing as Resurrection came at the end of every sermon. That was reality 25 years ago. As I fast-forward to this post-COVID reality, much has changed.
Entertained at Church
The church is still there; the hymns are still old, the message is still good, but the passing of time exposes more and more blood-red cushions on the pews. Some have moved to different states where life is cheaper but too many, I feel, have moved on to other “bigger,” more hip, churches. There, pews are replaced with folding chairs and standing-room-only, the choir lofts are replaced with stages that rival modern concert venues, the hymns are replaced with modern music, and the message has more in common with Dr. Phil’s self-help than Jesus’ self-sacrifice.
In the churches where many have gone off to, pastors are award-winning, New York Times best-selling authors, the sanctuary is acoustically fine-tuned for maximum musical efficiency, the lighting is complex and computerized, the songs are popular and copyrighted by the church, the associate pastor has a dynastic surname, and the message feels like a great big hug and a pat on the back for time well-served. The only real consequential question everyone is asking themselves, and each other is: Are you not entertained???
After all, who doesn’t like good music, young, friendly faces, a feel-good message, a light-hearted atmosphere, and a guilt-free conscience? My answer is, “I don’t know, but I sure know who does“! I know what you’re saying, “there’s nothing wrong with…..” And, begrudgingly, I would have to agree with you. All those things were made by God: good music, good feelings, good atmosphere, etc.
But here’s the question: if it weren’t for the fact that everyone is told the name of the message (as part of a series), would anyone remember what the preacher said? Better yet: does anyone care what the preacher said? Another great question to get to the heart of the matter is: what are you here for?
Entertained at the cost of the Gospel
Don’t get me wrong. I think churches should stay relevant. Music and social media and architecture and all the rest, but not at the cost of the Gospel. You want no dress code: great; you like loud music: fine; you want a “come one, come all”: amazing; Jesus did too! But once you have them, hit them with the mind-numbing, Life-altering Truth of Jesus Christ.
Give them the “streams of living water”; give them the “Truth that sets you free”: give them the whole Gospel, not this new-Age “God loves you just as you are, and He made you just as you are”! Yes, tell them God loves them, but tell them why God loves them and tell them despite what God loves them and tell them what to do about it. Give them their current state of affairs and inform them of the amazing Love of God: But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
If anything in churches needs to modernize, let it be everything possible, not everything imaginable: the Truth, as always, needs no compressor to smooth out the edges, no equalizers to make it universal, no filters to give it the proper appeal, and no sub-woofers to provide it with the appropriate emphasis. If the message needs all of this to be viable, then it’s not the message that everyone needs.
Bondservant to Jesus Christ, Married to Michele, Dad to Madelyn, Claudia, and Joseph and educator by trade, apologist by calling and saved by Grace. Antonio loves to read, write, and discuss all-things-apologetics. He has many passions in life including reaching, teaching, and keeping men for Jesus Christ. Waiting on God’s big reveal: Antonio knows He has something beautiful in mind.