Entertainment in the Church



Entertainment in the Church:

The Sensational and Spectacular

Richard Hollerman

Have you ever wondered why people aren’t content to live a simple, common Christian life while they enjoy a simple fellowship with other followers of the Lamb?  Isn’t this the way it was in the beginning?  Luke tells us, “[The believers] were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). I see nothing spectacular about this description, other than the overwhelming love for God and each other and their profound fear of the Lord.

After mentioning the miracles accomplished at the hands of the apostles (Acts 2:43), we continue to read the description: “All those who had believed were together and had all things in common” (v. 44). The early Christians were sharing with one another according to need (v. 45).  We then read that they met daily in the temple and broke bread from house to house and were filled with joy (v. 46). They praised God and had favor with all the people. And God added to their number those who were being saved (v. 47). They had no big programs or organizational structure. They were simple Christians and people could see that God was among them.

Why is today different? Today I opened the newspaper and a full-page advertisement greeted me, sponsored by a large local mega-church. The ad said that we should join the church for “a high-flying adventure!”  This referred to an approaching Vacation Bible School.  They promised a free ticket to “Hawaiian Falls” which is a “waterpark”!  Most of us known enough to realize that a waterpark is a center for some of the most immodest clothing that anyone dare wear in our day. Virtually nearly all of the clothes are removed except the bare essentials. It is not a place where any self-respecting and God-fearing person would want to visit. Yet the church is widely promoting this entertainment to gain attendees to their services. 

The ad further promised, “Come see the plane on our platform!” This seems to actually mean that they will have an authentic airplane at their church building—again, to attract the young people and adults.

You may be aware of other entertainment-oriented events at local churches in your area.  Some churches advertise a “muscle man” who breaks bricks in half or bends bars.  Sometimes these “body builders” and weight lifters will lift barbells on the church stage for the awe-struck spectators.  Or they may lift a number of men to show their strength—a strength that they must attribute to Jesus! 

Lights, Smoke, and Music!

Another favorite crowd-pleaser is to have a clown, complete with outlandish costume and comical skit.  Other churches may invite you to see their mimes that go through a pantomime routine.  One young man began an organization titled “Skateboarders for Christ”!

Juggling for Christ!

Sometimes churches offer ice cream, hot dogs, hamburgers, and other dietary enticements to bring the young people in.  Some churches even have raffles to entice outsiders to become involved and contribute to their congregation.  One church meeting across from where we used to live had a yearly event that could be described as a miniature carnival and feast. As I recall, they offered donkey rides!

Church ball teams of all kinds!

More common than all of these crowd-pleasers would be the big-name preachers, evangelists, or missionaries—for these are sure to draw the crowds to their church.  Sometimes churches advertize promised miracles and wonders to draw the visitors to their services. 

Another favor tactic is to offer well-known singers and musicians, along with their guitars and drums! Obviously, the music they offer would be the so-called “Christian rock” or other contemporary but worldly sounds.

Dancing in the church!

The thinking and discerning reader will be able to conclude that these entertainment centered churches are far removed from New Testament Christianity.  The communities of saints in Jerusalem, Antioch, Philippi, or Ephesus wouldn’t have recognized today’s diversions and amusements that are used to pull in the crowds, whether we are speaking about young people or adults.

No, those early believers were content with the simple gospel of Christ that they recognized as the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16).  They knew that the Word of God is “living and active” (Heb. 4:12) and can change the inner man and point the hearer to walk in the fear of the Lord.

When Paul went to a new city or town, he was careful of the outreach for the gospel. He said that his speech was not calculated to please men but God who examines the heart (1 Thessalonians 2:4).  He didn’t come with flattering speech or a pretext for greed, for He assures us that God was his witness (v. 5).  Nor did Paul seek glory from men (v. 6).  He determined to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).  He would have nothing by way of gimmicks, games, spectacular displays, or sensational tactics. This was beneath Paul—and beneath the power of the gospel.

In the community of saints in Ephesus, after some of their number publicly confessed to magical arts and burned their books, Luke says, “So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing” (Acts 19:18-20).  Perhaps we need open repentance and confession to make a lasting impact on the surrounding world!

I must add one more point here. We’ve been referring to the “Church” and the entertainment that has come to dominate some services. In actuality, the modern concept of “Church” is far different from what is meant by “church” in most contemporary translations of the Bible. The early believers would have known nothing of what people today mean by “church.” The early believers were simply a fellowship of brothers and sisters, in God’s family, who met in private homes, and who were entirely non-institutional and not-establishment. They were simply saints in love with God and each other. The super “entertainment” emphasis of modern mega-churches would have been meaningless to these early disciples. Let it be that way with us as well! 

Do you think that we could have the same perspective as the early Christians today?  Are you willing to renounce the popular entertainment orientation, the crowd-pleasing tactics, and the worldly means common today?  Will you return to the simplicity that is found in Christ Jesus and His way of life?  Will you join me in this holy return to the primitive way of God?

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