I wasn’t even going to write this post. I’m not sure if I was slightly afraid to or unsure of whether or not I possess the knowledge to do so. I’m even a little worried of the backlash it may create because the topic challenges some strongly held opinions.
And then I prayed.
I prayed that God would give me the insight to make suggestions without sounding judgmental. I prayed that I wouldn’t allow my opinion to be bound on others but that I would use God’s word to admonish and instruct. And finally, I prayed that my readers would be convicted to let God speak to their hearts and convince them of our ultimate priority.
As a Christian, I have many important responsibilities but none greater than placing God as my primary concern. If I’m truly going to proclaim faith in the God of the Bible then I must be willing to seek him first (Matthew 6:33) and be ready to give him my undivided obedience. Anything less and I may as well not call myself a Christian. It’s here that I want to start because if you’re unwilling to give God your all and your acts of religion are just done for show, you might as well stop reading right here. Unless you’re prepared to go all in for God, then your opinions start getting in the way of his commands.
With that said, I want to look at the unintended consequences of creating a form of Christianity that we’re simply comfortable with rather than the form of Christianity described in the Bible. The problem here is that instead of doing what the Lord has instructed us to do, we quickly fall into the trap of doing what we want. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers that suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). One has to look no further than the church to see how man has corrupted the sound instructions of God.
In the Old Testament, pagan rituals, sexual immorality, and idolatry won the day in early worship practices. People found it much more interesting to create a form of religion that allowed them to hold onto different aspects of the world rather than being distinct as God’s chosen people. Today, not much has changed. Most modern churches practice some form of entertainment as a means to attract more visitors, and while that seems as if it were harmless, it basically takes the focus off of God and puts it on us. In the July/August 2005 edition of Preaching magazine, mega-church pastor Max Lucado had this to say…
“No longer can we afford the luxury of thinking that the people who are sitting in our pews are going to be there every Sunday. We have to arrest their attention. We have to use every device possible to reach them and to teach them and we need not be so apologetic about entertaining them. I mean, they’ve been entertained all week long, every time they turn around. I have no apology for putting a good singer in front of them to entertain them if they’re not Christians. You’ve got to do something to reach them…”
Now, I have no doubt that Mr. Lucado has been able to reach many people for Christ through his books and entertaining worship services. In fact, I have no doubt that his church provides excellent instruction that is supported with plenty of biblical references, but there are unintended consequences from centering your worship of God around entertainment, namely that it is no longer God-focused but instead people-focused. The writer of the 19th Psalm had it right when he said, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight” (Psalm 19:14). What God finds acceptable is all that really matters. When we need a praise team or talented musicians or lights or smoke just to draw the masses, we have effectively invented a new form of idol worship.
This is not only a problem within the mega-church movement with their high energy bands and their multitude of programs that are only marginally related to God. It’s also a problem in the quiet rural church where members are more interested in when services end so they can make it to the local restaurant. I’ve even noticed churches that tout that they worship as the Bible has instructed turning towards a new form of distraction, namely phones and tablets. Why do some Christians criticize the entertainment driven services of the church down the street but spend their time texting on their phone or handing their kid an Ipad to play games so they will keep quiet during the sermon? Don’ those devices create distractions as well? Where are our minds and hearts during worship? Are they truly on God or are they somewhere else?
I know for some this seems like a personal attack. It seems as if I’m advocating for a worship service that lacks any semblance of spirit but only follows truth. Jesus himself reminded us that true worshippers would include truth and spirit when coming before God (John 4:24). On the other hand, there may be some who are self-righteously saying that they already follow God’s instructions concerning worship and see no need to make any changes.
I simply hope that we will all seriously examine our motives for what we do as Christians. Not only our worship practices but ultimately our overall walk with God. Is he really our Lord and Master, or is he just a sideshow act? Do you really place your faith and trust in the God who loves you enough to die for you, or is he just one more thing in your life between work and play? I sincerely pray that if you’ve decided to give your life to God that you would do so joyfully and wholeheartedly and not let anything in this world, even if everyone else is doing it, get in the way of giving him your all.