Overall, the feedback has been very positive and confirming. Indeed, it's a relief to know I'm not the only one that desires more than the entertainment factor in a church community. In fact, probably the only point of disagreement has been trying to come to a consensus on the definition of "fun"!
In any case, the topic has been quite timely as my brother-in-law, affectionately known by many of you as 'The Bonus', recently moved back to California and is searching for a new church home. He recently blogged about his experience visiting a congregation that takes great pride in their, um, Christertainment:
I am, once again, in search of a new church. You see, I had found one that “felt right:” I loved the pastor, the music was awesome, and the crowd was pretty young. When I found this church, they were in the final stages of construction on their new, permanent home - a massive structure that would more than double current capacity. The new building opened to much fanfare…and at least one believer was left behind. The new church is too big, too theatrical, and, having no other way to put it, too entertaining.
Now, I believe that entertainment in church is fine, as it allows people (particularly young people) to experience God in a way that is favorable to them. Church too often is seen as dry, stuffy, and no fun. But this church has swung too far to the other extreme. Walking into the “sanctuary” (and I’m using the term loosely there) feels more like entering an off-Broadway theatre. When the worship time starts, it’s more like a rock concert, complete with lighting effects and smoke machines! During the sermon, there are custom animations displayed on three HD projectors.
Going to this church is fun, no doubt, but it’s not the place for me, and I knew it the minute I first walked in. At this point in my life, in my walk, I need solid, personal, caring, uplifting relationships more than I need to be entertained. I’m sad to be leaving the church, as I know that their style and presentation will lead to many young people becoming receptive to the gospel, but I also know that if I stay I will be just a nameless face in the crowd being entertained every Sunday. I need so much more than that.
I love it when he says (roughly paraphrased), "At this point in my walk, I need solid relationships more than entertainment". Because really, don't we all? No matter how old we are, or how long we've been a Christian, or... or... or... ?
Now once again, let me clarify. I don't think fun is bad! I am not anti-fun!
But, seeking first our own entertainment, our own pleasure, what we can get versus what we can give, could that not be described as, well, idolatrous? (on second thought, hmmm, I may not want to open that can of worms!) OK, at the very least, selfish?
Whereas, when we gather with friends to participate in a greater good such as a service project, fun automatically seems to be a natural, healthy byproduct. When I encourage a friend, help out a stranger, or do anything of significance for God's Kingdom, I can't help but have a great time.
In a recent editorial in Group Magazine, Rick Lawrence describes his perspective:
"...I like to be happy as much as anyone, but I don't have much interest in happiness anymore. It's an irrelevant word in so many respects, especially compared to the words love, faith, hope, and passion. Why settle for happiness when we could be pursuing love? And why does happiness factor as a goal for Christ-followers? There are 21 references to happy from Genesis to Revelation, but love is mentioned 697 times. In heaven, happiness will be the air we breathe. Here, we get just enough of a whiff to know what it'll be like...
...The short-term rewards of happiness pale in comparison to simply knowing him [Jesus] - Paul said, "I have determined to know nothing but Christ, and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). All this got me thinking about whether or not our programs, practices, and lingo are accurately communicating to kids what a maturing relationship with Jesus really looks like. Is it about the "pursuit of happiness", or the pursuit of something much bigger?"
So, that's the question I leave you with. What are you pursuing?
And to ministry leaders, what does your ministry encourage others to pursue?