Charles Spurgeon once said of church: If you have to give a carnival to get people to come to church, then you will have to keep giving carnivals to keep them coming back.
So, why would church leaders want people to come to a Sunday worship service to be entertained? In the 1800’s, Spurgeon saw the entertainment-driven church looming on the horizon when he was preaching and he spoke out against it. Today the goats who fill the chairs expect their church experience to be entertaining. And if it isn’t? They’re out of there!
Professing Christians leave churches for a myriad of reasons. For example, they leave because they feel that the sermon is too long, too preachy, boring, politically incorrect, or they don’t care for the music…people are unfriendly…people judge you…no youth groups or the ones they offer don’t meet their standards…parking issues…the church stops offering snacks or the snacks become smaller — for some it’s about bigger snacks, as you will see in Elizabeth Prata’s piece over at The End Time. Prata tackles the conundrum over whether or not pastors should try to entice people to church by offering them “prizes & trinkets, promises of fun, snacks, entertainment and the like.” She writes:
I love a serious church.
When I attend a worship service on Sunday that has all gravitas, seriousness, and intent to learn about, praise, and glorify the Lord, I am lifted up to great heights.
Our church is a Reformed-doctrine church that adheres to the ecclesiology of a plurality of elders. Our main teaching pastor exposits the scriptures verse by verse, book by book. He is good at it. We also have a confession time, where one of the elders gives us some scriptures to think about as he explains them, and then there’s a time of silence to repent or plead with God in any way we need to in order to prepare for receiving the preached word. Our music is doctrinal and Christ-exalting too. We do not pass the offering plate, but instead we have spots around the sanctuary during the service to place our money. Also we can give online.
It’s a serious church, all the more remarkable by the fact that we have many young adults (college students, grad students, and folks just beyond college) who are members. Their presence is encouraging. This is because of their dedication to learning the word, speaking the word in Godly conversations, and participation in local and far-off missions. Some of these ‘kids’ have already gone to Indonesia, South America, Seattle, and to other locations near and far to share the word of God. It’s joyous to be around them because of their zeal.
I realize I’m currently blessed, because many churches are not serious. There are things at the pulpit that take place that are far from explaining the word of God, the main reason for a pulpit. There are dances, skits, jokes, comedy routines, feel-good lectures, book promotions, smoke machines, rock bands, concerts that do not look any different from the world’s…
For example, from the Museum of Idolatry:
(See photos on the site)
I was speaking with a young student at school. She said she used to go to church before she moved here. I asked about her old church. She said that at her old church they served big snacks. She loved the snacks. Then after a while the church went to smaller snacks, so they tried to find a church that served big snacks. Then they moved here. They haven’t found a church with snacks yet. It was all about the snacks. She never mentioned Jesus or anything she’d learned.
I can’t fault her for that, she’s young. If we attract kids to church on the basis of snacks, then that is what they will associate with church, not Jesus.
Many churches’ Vacation Bible School budgets are larger in the snack department than the Bible materials department. Snacks are getting more and more elaborate, and the time to eat them longer and longer, and the Bible time shorter and shorter. Or, the craft time exceeds the Bible teaching time, or the song and dance moves with hand motions are the major part. I long for the old days of Bible Drills, Bible quizzes, and mini-sermons.
I don’t know who said it first, but “What you win them with is what you win them to.” If you attract people with prizes & trinkets, promises of fun, snacks, entertainment and the like, then you will always have to provide that so they’ll stick around. As people become more bored with what you’re presenting, you have to go bigger and more elaborate, to retain their attention. It brings to mind Janet Jackson’s secular song, “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” The people eventually only want entertainment and not sermons. So many churches are entertainment-driven and consumer oriented, not worship-driven and service oriented. Continue reading