Worship or Entertainment?

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Neil Postman described serious problems in modern culture in his insightful 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death. His thesis was that public discourse has been reshaped to such an extent by television and entertainment that thoughtful discourse is missing. “Show business” hype has affected advertising, politics, and religion. Postman’s conclusion is that none of these changes have made for improvement.

In our entertainment-oriented culture, many churches find themselves trying to “outdo” themselves with more and more elaborate additions to worship. What began as special music by a choir becomes a full orchestra with professional soloists. A dramaJc reading necessitates a full Broadway stage production. And as long as those who come to worship enjoy what is offered, anything goes. The expectation is that sermons will be shorter, wittier, and more uplifting. Anything in worship that cannot be “jazzed up” must be abandoned as boring–and there is nothing worse than being boring, we are led to believe.

The problem with this entertainment orientation is that the very object of worship is forgotten. God is the “audience” in worship. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that ignorant worship was unacceptable to God, even though it may have been sincere or enjoyable. “God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him that spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). To worship God in spirit and truth means that worship must be from the heart, not just outward acts, and that it must be done in exact obedience to God’s commands. The worship must be directed to Him, not to the whims of the worshipers.

God’s regulations for worship as set out in the New Testament are neither boring nor out-of-date. They are God-centered, while entertainment is man-centered!

Culture relevance is important–thus many churches are implementing modern technology such as projection systems to enhance sermons. And there is nothing wrong with the worshiper enjoying worship. God intended worship to bless His children. But when worship is merely window dressing for an entertainment performance, it cannot please God. The apostle warned, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God” (2 John 9). Paul condemned things that “have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship” (Col. 2:23). “Will worship” is that which is fashioned after man’s desires.

Bob Pritchard
via Chapman church of Christ
Ripley, MS

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