Are people growing tired of the church's glitzy stage?
When a local church creates a culture of entertainment in an attempt to build a congregation, it will only be a matter of time before they begin to experience the negative consequences that emphasis will bring.
Over the past number of years I have observed that when a church centers their congregational structure on an entertainment model of ministry, where the Sunday morning service is organized in much the same way as a concert would be - including set lists, lighting design, and stage presentation - the consistent result has been the creation of an ethos of entertainment that eventually permeates throughout the entire congregation.
The consequence of creating an entertainment-based church culture is that ministry practitioners are often seen to be the stars of the show, while those in the seats tend to view themselves as paying customers, waiting to be entertained.
Yet, as Cheryl Bridges Johns said recently,"Those big stages and flashy lights have a way of honoring the wrong presence."
What will inevitably happen over time is that people will start to determine their Sunday attendance on the quality of the production, on what songs are chosen, and how those in leadership make them feel, resulting in the cultivation of a consumerist-based mindset.
However, as Alan Hirsch has so aptly observed, “you cannot build a church on consumers.”
The effects of a culture of entertainment
When our church gatherings focus on how we can entertain the masses in order to create and maintain high attendance numbers, we know we have veered off course.
When a church's operating budget is largely consumed with the costs associated with trying to entertain the masses, we can be confident in saying we have missed the mark.
Living on a diet of entertainment is like feeding on candy - it may satisfy our sweet tooth, but we will soon become hungry for something more. A consistent diet of candy may taste good for a while, but will quickly lead to malnutrition. Over time, we will become pale, weak, and unable to contribute.If we feed the church a diet of entertainment, those feasting on our pop-Christianity will soon become malnourished. Click To Tweet
Likewise, when we feed the church a consistent diet of entertainment, those feasting on our Christianized-candy will eventually become malnourished, weak and unable to contribute to the life of the body.
As a result, their presence will add pressure on the remaining parts of the body as sugar-fed Christians always require more time and resources than well-fed Christians ever will.
When we as the church attempt to feed the entertainment bug planted in all of us by culture, we will only perpetuate, not treat, the consumerist epidemic.When we feast on Jesus we will gradually move away from the need to ‘be served’ and look for ways ‘to serve.’ Click To Tweet
How do we treat entertainment fatigue? By re-centering our gatherings on the person, life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
When we follow and feast on Jesus we will gradually move away from the need to ‘be served’ and look for ways ‘to serve.’
Cultivating a church culture centered in Jesus and sacrament
Jesus makes faith real and alive. He moves faith beyond the abstract into the realness of flesh and blood.
Jesus makes the invisible God human and approachable. Jesus makes the picture of a distant God into a God who is near; someone who can identify with our insecurities, pain and loss.We as the church will always lose our way when anything other than Jesus captures our attention. Click To Tweet
God is no longer distant, but close. God is no longer 'out there' but 'right here.' In Jesus, God became one of us.
We as the church will always lose our way when anything other than Jesus captures our attention. If anything usurps the central, defining place of Jesus, everything will slowly begin to unravel, sometimes without us even realizing it.
In a recent interview, Leonard Sweet said it this way,
"There is only one singularity that matters and if this singularity is in place everything else coheres. And, that singularity is Christ. In everyone’s life, in the life of the church, when Christ is made the single, supreme focus – when the person of Jesus himself becomes that supreme, singular focus, than everything comes together."
What we need in order to maintain a healthy body, individually and collectively, is to feast on a steady diet of Jesus - his body in the bread and his blood in the wine.
When the sacraments of Jesus, served within community, by community and for community, in the form of prayer, scripture reading, communion, and baptism, become the food that feeds the church, then and only then will “we grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).
In communion, followers of Jesus partake and share with one another the body and blood of Jesus so we can become the body and blood of Jesus in the world.
I'm weary of being entertained. The church was never called to be an entertainment complex, but a hospital, where we look for ways to serve one another’s needs, as we also serve those around us with the medicine of Jesus Christ - the healer.
Are people growing tired of the church's glitzy stage? I believe so.
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