Perhaps we rely on entertainment in the church to keep things interesting because we do not trust enough in God to keep our gatherings compelling. Entertainment is easy compared to waiting on God because waiting on God requires that we come to church with hearts prepared, undistracted by the world, and with a desire to commune with God corporately.
Though God can indeed move in places where entertainment happens, I fear we often rely on amusement to fill the void when he is missing. Has entertainment become a cover for our spiritual emptiness?
It is essential to distinguish between entertainment and something being able to hold our attention. When God grabs hold of you while reading his word, he may have your attention, but that is not entertainment. Something more profound is taking place. The goal of entertainment is to amuse. The purpose of corporate worship is to glorify God and commune with him. The problem happens in planning for worship services when the desire to delight is part of the equation.
The thing about amusement is it can all be accomplished in the power of the flesh. Think of all the fantastic secular productions that have grabbed your attention and not let you go. Some of them may have even had a deeper goal than merely amusing you. They might have wanted to communicate a message or give you the experience to transform you into their secular vision of a good person. However, they produced these experiences without seeking the Lord, and the creators created them without hearts aflame with the Holy Spirit. They relied on the power of entertainment.
Let’s not miss this point; entertainment is powerful. This is why it is so tempting to use. There are places where the power of entertainment may be appropriate, but corporate worship is not one of those places.
Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 help paint a biblical contrast. He says, And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
In Paul’s day, lofty words of men’s wisdom was the counterfeit capital everyone was required to spend if you wanted a hearing. Still, Paul refused to participate because he did not want anyone to confuse the spurious with the spiritual. Paul wanted Jesus and Jesus alone to be the draw.
If the lights, concert-like praise bands, drama teams, and preachers with magnetic personalities were all gone, would we still gather? I do not have the answers to all these questions because I do not know the context of your church. Your church may not have any of these trappings and still be far from God. Nor am I saying that God will not use any worship service that desires to be entertaining. Our Lord often uses crooked sticks to draw straight lines, but we must never deny the stick is crooked simply because the line is straight.
I pray that the Lord blesses our worship leaders with excellent musical abilities and our pastors with outstanding speaking skills. I also pray he gives them the discernment to avoid the temptation to be entertaining. Otherwise, they will be mingling simulated sunlight with the real thing.
Maybe if we rely less on entertainment in our services, we will depend more on God. If we do that and our gatherings become dull, perhaps we should examine our hearts, get down on our knees, and ask the Lord to move and sanctify us. Though it may not be appealing to the world, that would be a corporate gathering worth attending.