Entertainment or Worship?

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As fall comes upon us this year, though the weather doesn’t feel like it, we know it is here because of the new crop of TV shows appearing. This year many new shows are hitting the air waves battling for our attention. I’ll admit, I do enjoy finding a new show each year. Some years are better than others, but this year, there were a number of shows that caught my interest. One such show was Code Black.

Code Black is a medical drama based in Los Angeles. The name comes from the code given when needs outnumber resources. We’re told in the pilot that this particular hospital goes into code black 300 days out of the year. As a fan of ER, I was excited. I thought, This is going to be exciting! So I settled in for the pilot episode and I was extremely underwhelmed. The acting was fine, but there was a sense of excitement and tension missing from the show. I found myself tired of the story and almost turned it off part way through. Now, that’s just my opinion, as one of my friends really liked it (although he is an EMT, so maybe he is predisposed).

So what was my major problem with the show? It was just boring; particularly compared to the fast pace and intensity of ER (at least in its early days). I missed the doctors barking out orders, recognizing the life-and-death impact of their action or inaction. I just didn’t feel that in the pilot of Code Black. Maybe it gets better in the second episode, but I probably won’t be there to find out.

This whole situation got me thinking; thinking about the church.

As a church, we are asking people to spend an hour out of their weekend each week to worship God. To many, Sunday is a prime time to sleep in and have a lazy day – at least until the football game. So what are we as the church supposed to do?

There are several answers to that question. One suggestion that I have seen attempted over and over is to try to make the worship service as exciting, energetic, and entertaining as possible. Through the use of music, media and lighting, the church tries to put on a show each week. They try to compete with the world’s entertainment standards to entice people out of their beds to see what’s going to happen each Sunday. The problem is that with 99% of the churches, there’s no real way to compete. We don’t have the budget, time or talent to put on a Broadway caliber “show” every Sunday. Instead, churches who try this model of worship often end up looking like a cheap knock off, and it’s just a sad shadow of what people might expect.

As you may guess, I’m not a fan of this model. In fact, even if we had the budget, time and talent to pull it off, I don’t think I would. Don’t get me wrong – I think using lighting, media and contemporary music are all good things – but the focus can’t be on the production – it can’t be about the entertainment. It has to be more.

Worship services need to be a time to come together to connect with one another and to connect with God. In order to do that, you need a service designed to quiet your mind, freeing it from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, so that you can truly focus on God, your creator. Certainly using lights, music, and media can help that process – I use them myself – but that can’t be the focus.

While I say that, church should also not feel boring or lazy, as I felt Code Black was. We are doing one of the most important things we can possibly do – praising God, proclaiming his truths, joining with other believers. That’s what we need to focus on. Regardless of church budgets or resources, any church properly focused can have a meaningful worship service focused on Jesus Christ, our Savior.

If our focus is on Jesus, building relationships and telling people about salvation, then our focus is in the right place.

I believe people like a good show. But I also believe that people are seeking something authentic. Something worthy of their time. I hope and pray that is what we offer at my church, and I pray that is what all churches strive to do.

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