Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

The entertainment-driven church

I love a serious church.

When I attend a worship service on Sunday that has all gravitas, seriousness, and intent to learn about, praise, and glorify the Lord, I am lifted up to great heights.

Our church is a Reformed-doctrine church that adheres to the ecclesiology of a plurality of elders. Our main teaching pastor exposits the scriptures verse by verse, book by book. He is good at it. We also have a confession time, where one of the elders gives us some scriptures to think about as he explains them, and then there’s a time of silence to repent or plead with God in any way we need to in order to prepare for receiving the preached word. Our music is doctrinal and Christ-exalting too. We do not pass the offering plate, but instead we have spots around the sanctuary during the service to place our money. Also we can give online.

It’s a serious church, all the more remarkable by the fact that we have many young adults (college students, grad students, and folks just beyond college) who are members. Their presence is encouraging. This is because of their dedication to learning the word, speaking the word in Godly conversations, and participation in local and far-off missions. Some of these ‘kids’ have already gone to Indonesia, South America, Seattle, and to other locations near and far to share the word of God. It’s joyous to be around them because of their zeal.

I realize I’m currently blessed, because many churches are not serious. There are things at the pulpit that take place that are far from explaining the word of God, the main reason for a pulpit. There are dances, skits, jokes, comedy routines, feel-good lectures, book promotions, smoke machines, rock bands, concerts that do not look any different from the world’s…

For example, from the Museum of Idolatry:

“Villains, Bad Guys and Minions” —series at Church by the Glades
Hillsong, 2015 Vision Sunday

I was speaking with a young student at school. She said she used to go to church before she moved here. I asked about her old church. She said that at her old church they served big snacks. She loved the snacks. Then after a while the church went to smaller snacks, so they tried to find a church that served big snacks. Then they moved here. They haven’t found a church with snacks yet. It was all about the snacks. She never mentioned Jesus or anything she’d learned.

I can’t fault her for that, she’s young. If we attract kids to church on the basis of snacks, then that is what they will associate with church, not Jesus.

Many churches’ Vacation Bible School budgets are larger in the snack department than the Bible materials department. Snacks are getting more and more elaborate, and the time to eat them longer and longer, and the Bible time shorter and shorter. Or, the craft time exceeds the Bible teaching time, or the song and dance moves with hand motions are the major part. I long for the old days of Bible Drills, Bible quizzes, and mini-sermons.

I don’t know who said it first, but “What you win them with is what you win them to.” If you attract people with prizes & trinkets, promises of fun, snacks, entertainment and the like, then you will always have to provide that so they’ll stick around. As people become more bored with what you’re presenting, you have to go bigger and more elaborate, to retain their attention. It brings to mind Janet Jackson’s secular song, “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” The people eventually only want entertainment and not sermons. So many churches are entertainment-driven and consumer oriented, not worship-driven and service oriented.

Charles Spurgeon was a preacher in the mid-to-late 1800s. He is called The Prince of Preachers. His pastorate in London lasted 38 years. During that time he preached numerous times per week, and

founded a pastors’ college, an orphanage, a Christian literature society and The Sword and the Trowel magazine. Over 200 new churches were started in the Home Counties alone, and pastored by his students. His printed sermons (still published) fill 63 volumes. Source

His sermons at the Metropolitan Tabernacle and then the Royal Surrey Gardens Music Hall drew 10,000 people on a Sunday. His work has held up to this time. He seems almost prescient, and that is because he stayed strictly within the narrow road of God’s Word, and thus he always seems fresh. Here is something he said-

Within suitable bounds, recreation is necessary and profitable; but it never was the business of the Christian Church to supply the world with amusements. Source

The above from which I’d excerpted the Spurgeon quote is a good one. It is titled, Spurgeon on the Entertainment-Driven Church and goes on with other reasons that a focus on entertainment in the church,

–Our Mission Is Not Entertainment
–Entertainment Negates the Weightiness of the Cross
–Entertainment Attacks the Preaching of Christ

I recommend the article.

Another article about trinkets and winning people to Christ (though not entertainment) caught my eye. I’ve been involved with the Christmas Shoeboxes at a previous church. It is a well-intentioned mission where people fill a shoebox with “stuff” for disadvantaged or impoverished children in Third World countries, along with Gospel tracts and/or Bibles. Operation Christmas Child (OCC) boxes are shipped through Samaritan’s Purse. The items OCC recommends items to put in the shoebox are

quality ‘wow’ item such as a stuffed animal, soccer ball with pump, or clothing outfit that will capture the child’s attention the instant he or she opens the box. Operation ShoeBox

At the GilandAmy blog, we read that Amy has some thoughts about Operation Christmas Child, prompted from some experiences a Tanzanian church planter shared with her. Thoughts such as,

“What happens when the life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ is associated with dollar-store trinkets from America?” and, “…we don’t see in the Bible this model of ‘gift giving’ being used for disciple-making and planting churches,” and “So I started to wonder: Do we want children to expect toys at Christmas? Has that tradition produced good fruit within our own culture? Is that a Christmas tradition that Americans want to export to the rest of the world?” (Source)

Instead of skits at the pulpit, its own smaller way, have we paired games and entertainments with the Gospel in a shoebox?

We need serious church.

John MacArthur has some thoughts about the necessary gravitas for serious church:

We should be characterized by the worship of God. It should be lofty. It should be exalted. It should have a gravitas, a seriousness about it. Christ should be constantly being exalted. It ought to be Christ-centered, not man-centered. It’s not about you, it’s about Him. Here we should be engaged in endless praise. We should be learning, so that the knowledge of divine truth is increasing. We should be pursuing holiness and serving with joy. That’s how heaven comes down. That only happens in the church, the ordinary church. I love the church because it is heaven on earth.

I began these thoughts with Spurgeon about the need for seriousness of worship and in church and I’ll end with him. These words are true today as when he uttered them 150 years ago:

A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats.

If you have to give a carnival to get people to come to church, then you will have to keep giving carnivals to keep them coming back.

An unholy church! It is useless to the world, and of no esteem among men. It is an abomination, hell’s laughter, heaven’s abhorrence. The worst evils which have ever come upon the world have been brought upon her by an unholy church.

I pray you as well as I are mindful of the gravity and privilege of worshiping the Great and Holy God in truth. He made Himself known to us in special revelation, and it’s His due to be worshiped seriously, intentionally, and as purely as possible, according to His word.

Paul wrote of church services:

But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner. (1 Corinthians 14:40)

 

Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

Discernment in entertainment is really cultural discernment, and we need it

theater sign

We are told to be in the world but not of the world. What this means is we have to know the world if we’re in it. Not love it. Not cater to it. Not compromise with it. But we have to be aware.

so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. (1 Corinthians 2:11).

Be sober-minded and alert. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

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. (John 17:14-15).

Because being IN the world means you take in a movie once in a while, or read a book, or attend a poetry slam, or visit an art museum…Entertainment is a fact of life, sometimes a quite nice fact!

Here are three resources to keep in mind for when you take in the messages of the world. Movies, for example, are not non-theological. They do have a message. These resources help you discern that message and how to combat it as you make your entertainment choices.

#1- Start with this short article from Ligonier:

TableTalk: Discerning Entertainment
by Burk Parsons

Entertainment of all sorts can be a wonderful way to rest and recuperate from the busyness, noise, and struggles of life. … But we must always guard our eyes and our hearts. For we cannot even begin to understand all the ways that Hollywood has affected us. Entertainment affects our minds, our homes, our culture, and our churches. Consequently, we must be vigilant as we use discernment in how we enjoy entertainment—looking to the light of God’s Word to guide us and inform our consciences.

#2- Professor Grant Horner is professor at The Master’s University and has written a book on discerning entertainment called Meaning at the Movies: Becoming a Discerning Viewer. This first one is a link to an article discussing his 2011 book.

It’s All About the Fall

Author Grant Horner believes every film is ultimately about the human condition—and that watching movies is serious business that requires solid discernment. The article asks Horner the following questions and more.

Your book doesn’t list movies we should or shouldn’t watch as Christians. Why not?
But is there a standard or a cutoff point you go by?
Many people limit “discernment” to avoiding the negatives: If a film doesn’t have sex, violence, or bad language, it passes the test. Anything wrong with that approach?

Here is a link to Dr Horner’s book:

Meaning at the Movies: Becoming a Discerning Viewer
This is a purchaser’s summary of the book:

This is the best book I’ve read on the intersection of faith and film. The first chapter, which gives a biblical and theological explanation of art and culture, is worth more than the price of the book on its own. Horner uses Romans 1 to explain that all human production is characterized by both a knowledge of God and his truth and also the suppression of that knowledge. For this reason, Horner argues, we must be discerning when we watch movies. We can enjoy them and learn much from them, even when the film has been crafted by a non-Christian. But we also need to be discerning (even when the film has been crafted by a Christian). Horner’s book is well written and his arguments are persuasive. The last half of the book features an insightful look at a handful of important film genres, and in each case Horner gives a wonderful discussion of the genre itself, along with a theological look at why we find that particular genre appealing. This book should be required reading for anyone interested in faith and film, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to understand the arts in general.

Here is part 1 of a ten-minute Youtube interview from the Full Circle Ladies with Grant Horner regarding his book on movies and discernment. And here is part 2.

#3- The Gospel Coalition has some things to say about discernment and teenagers, this nations’ largest consumer of entertainment.

Teach Teens Discernment
by Jaquelle Crowe
We cannot grow without discernment. Yet discernment isn’t a sort of hyper-criticism that turns you into an embittered watchdog sniffing out others’ mistakes. Instead it’s a holy call to discern what is pleasing to God and what is not (Rom. 12:1–2). It frees you to relish what’s beautiful and true, and to reject what’s ugly and false. Discernment equals growth.

The article deals with the following issues:

  • How to Explain Discernment to Teens
  • How to Help Teens Pursue Discernment
  • No In-Between

It’s high summer…may your entertainment be light and your days be long. 🙂