Is it Wrong for the Church to Entertain People?

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Is it Wrong for the Church to Entertain People?

30 April 2014 Hits:10083

A couple of weeks ago someone from our church posted a John Wimber quote on my Facebook page. Wimber wrote, “I’m concerned the Church has become more of a theatre experience, rather than a meeting place for people to encounter & interact with God. People don’t need more entertainment; they need to encounter the King.”

It’s a great quote, and I certainly agree with the sentiment of it, but I felt there was a reason this man posted the quote – a reason that was more than it being just a great quote. I asked him and I was right. He said he came across the quote when I was promoting our recent Good Friday service and it appeared to him that the service could perhaps contain entertainment.

All of this got me thinking about the question “Is it wrong for the church to entertain people?” Before I give my thoughts on this let me say that I agree with John Wimber in that entertainment is not the church’s purpose or goal.  He was observing a phenomena that was rising in his day when the church was becoming increasingly a “theatre” experience that was more seeker-sensitive than Spirit-sensitive. I believe the main reasons we are to gather are to encounter God, grow deeper in our relationship with Him as well as to strengthen our relationships with each other.

But is it wrong to entertain people in the process of achieving these goals? Are they mutually exclusive? If we entertain people do they not encounter God? Can people only encounter and interact with the King if they are not entertained?

For answers to these questions we need look no further than the way Jesus taught as well as the content of the Bible. The vast majority of Jesus’ teaching was in story form (Parables). Telling stories was the primary entertainment of the masses in Jesus’ time. After a long discourse (recorded in Mark 12) that contained stories, an amazing answer to religious leaders who were trying to trap Jesus, and then a blunt rebuke to one of the leading religious sects (the Sadducees) the people were enthralled.  Mark says, “The large crowd listened to him with delight” (Mark 12:37). Were they entertained? Absolutely! They were rapt. Their emotions were stirred. I can hear them whooping and cheering. Jesus entertained people and, while they were engaged, they encountered and interacted with God.

The Bible is full of language and writing that entertains people – there’s history, poetry, stories, drama, suspense, hyperbole, miracles, sinister plots (think Haman and Esther), proverbs, songs, fantasy, humor and a whole lot more. God could have given us a two-sided A4 page with “Things to do” on one side and “Things not to do” on the other, but instead He gave us a book that engages and entertains the imagination and enables us to encounter Him on every page.

Unfortunately many churches today see life in black and white and shades of grey. What a shame when the very nature of God in creation is so full of colour and entertainment that engages our senses. See the incredible variety of animals and plants, taste the amazing foods, smell the aromas of coffee & freshly baked bread, hear the sounds of birds singing their song, let sand run through your fingers on a warm day. God’s creation entertains and engages us and through it we can encounter Him. Should not the church gathering reflect these same qualities? I love encountering God in our church and all of the ingredients of our services make this possible.

In Jesus’ day people were entertained by stories. Today telling stories is still a big way of engaging people and communicating truth. In Today’s society however, we are blessed with technology. We can communicate, engage and yes, entertain people through film, social media, drama, dance, music, lights, pictures, artwork and so much more. In an age where the adult attention span has reduced to an average of six minutes I believe that entertaining people is even more important because if they tune out how will we communicate life-changing truth?

Is it wrong for the church to entertain people? Not at all!

Rob Buckingham

Senior Minister

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11 replies on “Is it Wrong for the Church to Entertain People?”

Zizi Paltossays:

If entertainment is the avenue that leads us to God, well then let’s walk through it . I know in my Church we are both entertained and taught…..I have learned so much more about our Lord through this.
People today learn visually more than by rote.

Craig Weirsays:

When I read the initial quote, my instant reaction was yes that is exactly how I feel (when I was 13) At 40 I have developed experience and understanding and wisdom to understand that people in groups generating positive energy is a science (both physical and metaphysical). It is not how we do our best to get the message across but how the message is received and the effects there from. I am a Christian who does not gain spiritual glow from entertainment but who enjoys the power generated. My Christianity is internal. But how can we be Christian if we do not glow in each others ways of reaching this height.

Saying that Rob, you with your “Churched has changed” motto, have bred change in the mainstream who are repelled by no change. I stand behind you 100%

Craig

Craig Weirsays:

Sorry meant to say “Church has Changed”

Petesays:

The church has always been about entertainment. Right from magnificent temples in biblical times through to contemporary worship spaces. It is not wrong for us to create experiences that stimulate our interests and keep us engaged. The base definition of entertain is “to give consideration to, or provide for amusement”. we always worship in ways that enrich our spirits and bring us closer to God. To suggest that contemporary church is “only entertainment” negates the way that the spirit of God works.

Chris Hillsays:

Aww gee… Yes if a church is primarily just putting on a show to entertain then it’s not really church, is it? Bayside is not like that though. Definitely not. It is my opinion that the screens and the worship are beautiful, powerful, relevant tools of expression and communication that praise God and help draw us closer to Him.

Bayside church membersays:

Hi Rob

This blog reminded me of when, during one of your teaching times at church, you held up a $50 note and went on to point out that the $50 note itself is neither good nor bad, but can be used by us for either.

Warnings are common place in everyday life. Consider the WorkSafe adverts on the TV. Jesus warned us about the effects of the love of money and in the blog subject here John Wimber simply warns us about substituting the real deal for something else. The substitute (like money, alcohol, possessions, relationships, entertainment) are not bad in themselves, like the $50 note — after all, they are things that God has given us for pleasurable life. However, they were never meant to replace relationship with God. Our message as the church is God’s invitation to restored relationship with Him.

So, if the warning speaks to someone then they should heed it, but Wimber’s warning doesn’t make entertainment wrong

Darren Chansays:

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 7:13-14
 13″Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter through it. 14For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
https://youtu.be/HoqDwtSok9U

Adrienne Hoggsays:

Would you please explain for the slower amongst us, why you cited this scripture? (I don’t get it!)

Adrienne Hoggsays:

I totally agree with your blog, Ps Rob. I guess the only thing that comes up for me, and in reading about criticism of Pentecostal churches, is the idea that the entertainment, or more particularly, the worship music, is manipulative and designed to induce certain emotions in the parishioners That is, the more skeptical might see that as a ‘trick’ to convert people. As a Christian, obviously I don’t see it as a negative to convert people but I suppose non-Christians are wary, as I was. Undoubtedly, the music and entertainment as expressed by Pentecostal churches isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It is certainly mine – the stale seriousness and somber hymns of a more traditional church hold no interest for me. Thank the Lord there are a variety of ways God has guided us to know him – something for everyone! (Reminds me of a sermon you gave on how important it was for Jesus to communicate differently according to his audience ).

Dawn Vernonsays:

I agree with Pastor Rob 100% . I grew up , going to Church Of England Church. The same set prayers etc that were said so parrot like. Attended many services eg Weddings Funerals too at many church`s , people say the Lord`s prayer so quick I really try and slow it down , so we are really thinking what we say. The service held at Bayside recently ,when Peter the disciple was acted out. I will never ever forget it. So well presented thank you, Bayside I hate missing a service.

Tonysays:

Thank you for this post, I stumbled across it due to reading an post about what Jesus wrote.

This is a topic I have struggled with for some time, where is the line between it being a show to entertain and a response to God?

At the end of the day that line is different for everyone so to expect a church to be able to define how each individual within it reacts to what it does as a whole is difficult.

One thing to be mind full of though is the “groupie effect”, you know the effect I’m talking about here, the “footy finals effect” the “rock concert effect” etc. When many are gathered together it is very easy for the individual to get “caught up” in the moment, sometimes what starts out as a peace full rally turns into a riot. Not say that will happen in a church setting just saying as humans we can easily get caught up in something, be it a church, a game, a concert or even a cult.

I think that the whole entertainment questions is one for each individual to answer for themselves and to check themselves on regularly. Not trying to be a downer of anyone’s worship or praise but have witnessed time and again the focus that people have being manipulated away and skewed to an individual rather than God. Supple and slow to begin with but becoming stronger and more relentless over time.

Another personal opinion, and again a personal one only is that this is an area that worship leaders need to be very discerning in. Discern the content or the words of every song, be careful of emotionalism which I see creeping into music more and more, we should have the focus on God, his strength and works and not on always on our failings and emotional shortcomings. It needs to be a balance for every service just like the Psalms, sometimes realising shortcomings but always ending on God.

Again just my 2 cents worth.

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