For Labor Day weekend, my wife and I decided to go St. Louis to watch the Cardinals play, but we first made at pit stop at Holiday World, an amusement parked nestled in the corn and soy bean fields of southern Indiana. If you’ve never heard of Santa Claus, Indiana, then there is a high probability that you have never heard of Holiday World. Allow me to quickly fill you in: compared to Six Flags, it is Three Flags. It is a fun place to go, but not very big.
After six hours of fun in the sun, we decided to continue our voyage to St. Louis. As we made our way out of the park, we were stopped by the sound of a gospel revival coming from one of the performance stages. Earlier, a wanna-be Carrie Underwood slashed her way through “Cowboy Casanova,” and now the sounds of Jesus’ return were booming through the speakers.
There they were. A shiny-robed quartet with perfectly-timed choreography bring a message of Hope to the half-naked audience. Side note: this performance stage was close to the water park half of the amusement park. These people were serious, though. They had their own musical tracks, hands-free microphones, and a “churchy” backdrop that would give Westminster Abbey a run for its money. Sadly, we only got to see the finale, but this did include a encore where the singers went out into the audience to give high fives and fist bumps.
I thought it was hilarious until I saw a lady casually walk by mouthing the words to the song. I simply tacked this up as another spectacle of silly Christians, but this lady worshiped in the middle of an amusement park. What was set up to be entertaining was actually fulfilling a greater purpose.
As a kid, I was told that churches with loud bands and choirs had all that stuff for entertainment. In other words, it was not worship. I was told that it was a distraction and therefore sinful. For the past 5 years I have attended several churches with loud bands, and I have yet to be entertained in the sense that a person is entertained at a rock concert. I haven’t seen Satan jump out of the drum sets, either. On the other hand, I have also been to several churches with no bands that still try to entertain the “audience.”
Let’s be real. We’ve all thought, “Alright, preacher, you better keep this quick, funny, and spirit-filled,” or, “I hope we sing my three favorite songs.” We go to church expecting the elements of church to refuel our tanks to get us through the week. If we are not entertained by the singing, scripture reading, or the sermon, then church was a failure. If this trend continues too long, we’ll find another church that does meet our needs and expectations.
Where is the line between entertainment and authentic worship?
This question has caused many problems in churches because the church leadership must devote most of its time and preparation to figuring out how to please its members. Preachers stress out over writing a sermon that will make 17 and 71 year-olds laugh. Worship leaders try to pick songs that everyone knows. Where is the Church focusing most of its energy?
Here is the difference: entertainment is a one-way road that leads to our own interests – in. Authentic worship is a one-way road that leads to God – out.
No matter how your worship looks or sounds, it is authentic?