Entertainment Anyone?

Featuring Tom Kraeuter Posted on February 6, 2010

Many churches seem to have the idea that what people are looking for when they come to church is entertainment. This is an error. Folks in our society have more choices for entertainment than ever before in the history of the world. The truth is that they have more than enough sources of entertainment. What they want—and need—from church is reality and authenticity.

Let’s face the facts. The average church (less than 100 people) will never be able to do musically or theatrically what the major concert or television show can do. We do not generally have full-time professional musicians, dancers, actors, etc. Even in the relatively few churches that have the luxury of having such a person, that person is not usually the very best of the best. He or she is good but generally not good enough to tour with the big-name music group or be on a popular prime-time television show. Simply said, we are probably not going to wow people with our talent.

Actually that’s a good thing. As I already stated, people have plenty of outlets for being amazed. What they are looking for in church is genuineness.

Recently Discipleship Journal asked several twenty-something people about their experience in church. One of the responses summarized it well.

“I wish Christianity would move away from the ‘entertainment’ mindset it has adopted in an effort to appear more relevant. Most non-Christians I know come to church after they get fed up with the superficiality of our culture; they want something substantial. Walking into a church and finding a show going on can be a turn off.” (Katie, 29)1

There is clearly a heart cry, not for entertainment but for authenticity. The average church will most likely not have a large pool of musically-gifted people. It is possible but not probable. Again, however, that’s not bad. As Katie plainly articulated above, entertainment should not be the business of the church. Being culturally relevant is one thing. Trying to entertain is quite another. My pastor and I have discussed this topic quite extensively. We are convinced that we should not endeavor to impress people with our musical prowess. Over the years our little church has included quite a number of extremely gifted musicians, but they have never been the focus. Instead we focus on God.

When an unbeliever comes into the midst of a group of people who are wholeheartedly worshiping the Lord—whose hearts and countenances are unabashedly honoring their Creator/Redeemer—that person will not leave the service unchanged. Why? Because that individual cannot help recognizing the reality of what occurred. “These people obviously love God” is not an uncommon theme in the responses of non-Christians who have been in a service where there is authentic, culturally relevant worship going on. There is a dimension of reality and genuineness that is conspicuously absent in most of our society, certainly in the entertainment industry. People are hungry for that reality.

All of this, though, does not give us an excuse to slack off in our preparation or not to work at doing our best. I must state as emphatically as possible that, from a scriptural perspective, we are to put forth our very best effort. After all, Proverbs 18:9 tells us, “One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.” Those are serious words. We don’t want to be associated with one who destroys because we refuse to do the best job we can. Paul told us in the New Testament, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” (Colossians 3:23). Would you give the Lord a half-hearted effort? Without question, we must not put forth a mediocre effort. We absolutely must do our best, striving for excellence in everything we do. These are clear mandates from God’s Word.

Even our best, however, is not generally going to cause the world to sit up and take notice of our talent (although doing our best can keep people from focusing on a poor performance). On the other hand, a heart that is passionately in love with Jesus will most assuredly get their attention. People hunger for an honest relationship with God.

Our job is to do the best we can from a technical perspective but to focus on worshiping God. Do the best you can, but that “best” is not meant to impress people. It is, as we read in Colossians 3:23, for the Lord. Yes, doing a good job will definitely help people not to be distracted with the technical aspects, but our focus should be on the King of Kings. As we do this, fixing our eyes on Jesus, people will be affected. They will begin to recognize—perhaps only in a small way, or maybe in a very strong way—the reality for which they long.