I grew up playing basketball. As a young kid around the age of 12 or 13 my older brother would take me with him on Saturday mornings to gyms around the city to play basketball in what are known as pickup games. Often we went to gyms that had multiple courts. In the multi-court gyms I knew as a kid which courts to stay away from. Some courts had bigger, stronger, more skilled players. Invariably there were courts that had kids my age that played at or around my skill level that I have fun playing ball with. Every once in a while it was a slow Saturday so I was allowed to play with the big boys. In those games I couldn’t compete at their level and I was relegated to passing the ball often and making a lot of mistakes. I became a pretty good ball player as I got older but I never tried out for Division 1 College team or Pro Team because I wasn’t at that level. I knew my lane. I was good enough to play pickup games to play on weekends. I would be kidding myself to try to do more.
Just as the early church could not beat Rome and Greece in entertaining society at that time, the modern day church cannot compete with the entertainment industry at entertaining society at this time. The sad part is the church of today tries to compete by becoming an entertainment machine rather than a hub for fellowship and training. If we think about it, what is the purpose for modern entertainment? Modern entertainment is not built purely to educate or train or bring people together for that matter. The sole purpose for modern entertainment is to make money. TV shows are merely to keep your attention long enough to watch the commercials. Movies are geared to draw you to one location to buy a ticket, concessions and watch commercials and trailers prior to the movie. Sports are geared to get you to buy a seat and concessions. Sports events are even nice enough to create breaks so that you can buy concessions without missing any action. Instead of worshiping, some churches have turned praise and worship into entertaining mini concerts that feel more like performances than real praise and worship. Some pastors have thrown out teaching Christians and growing babes in Christ to give motivational speeches to fill concert-sized venues for tithes and offerings (in other words money).
Acts Chapter 2 says that signs and wonders happened daily. I have been in the church for over 30 years and I have seen the old shoe trick. You know that shoe trick right? If you don’t know then here it is. During the healing lines, the minister would say that they could sense someone is having back problems. That person would come to the front. The minister would assess that that person has one leg that is shorter than the other. He would then sit them down, hold their calf and slightly tug their shoe with the other hand to give the illusion that their leg was growing. This Vaudeville-like act is not the signs and wonders written about in scriptures. Signs and wonders do occur in some churches while in some churches it is either not approached or more reminiscent of a Vaudeville magic show.
Often I have witnessed entertaining environments that made me feel good and even motivated but isn’t that the same thing I should feel leaving a movie or watching a good basketball game? Some churches gave me that same experience. Having a personal relationship with God meant that I did not need a building, preacher and praise team to experience God. With all this said I had to wonder what happened. The answer was very simple. The church had somehow lost her way.
Some churches have now tried to become competitors with the entertainment industry instead of compasses for society. The entertainment dollar is important for survival in entertainment so all entertainment entities are competing for it. Some churches have become entertainment entities so they have become competitors with each other and the other forms of entertainment. When in a competition one must size up the opponent and determine his strengths and weaknesses. Better sound systems and better lighting were needed. The buildings need to become bigger and more comfortable. The speakers needed to step away from harder, more controversial views that Christ espoused and lean more toward messages that motivated people culturally or socially. New marketing schemes had to be developed that are dubbed church growth models. The game had to change for some churches that they could compete.
If some churches look in the mirror they could see that they were not living up to Architects intent? Are they challenging themselves to become better? Have some churches entered a competition they are not designed to compete in or win? In entertainment, the one who makes the most money wins. The funny thing is the goal post keeps moving. As one entertainment entity makes more money, another surpasses it. As one entertainment conglomerate gets bigger, another gets even bigger. As one finds its edge, the other finds its edge. Sound familiar? Churches are being built on every block. Once one building is built, some church begins building a bigger church. Some large churches plant other churches which is a way of franchising. The edge for some churches is to talk about health and purpose, better than another church. The edge for other churches is to specialize on faith and motivation. It feels like entertainment.
Did God intend for Bentleys, TV cameras and celebrity to be pervasive in the landscape of the modern church?
Read what the original church was doing in Acts when it started.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Does that sound like your church?