|Image Source: Aditya Chinchure|
I can clearly recall a local preachers meeting that I attended a couple of years ago where one of the members commented that one should not use humour in their sermons as it dishonours the word of God and preaching the gospel is a serious affair.
I can't remember where he got his justification from, but it was well supported from various sources. This comment has stuck with me through the years and recently got me considering the way that we conduct our worship services.
I have been to many church gatherings where the sound and lighting shows have rivaled Coachella and the beautifully-edited, tear-jerking promo videos of the church's current events could very well have been produced by Steven Spielberg himself.
Is the entertainment factor a healthy addition to the church worship service or does it do more harm than good? Is there there a place for it in our churches? How much is too much?
Personally, I believe that God can work through a wide variety of worship styles: loud and raucous, silent and reflective; even traditional hymns played solo by Aunty Margaret on the organ. Furthermore, I am in full support of churches using their talented members and resources (that God has blessed them with) to run their church as effectively as possible. It is possible to use fancy lights and top-quality musicians to glorify God and help our members worship God intimately and earnestly.
In his book, The hour that changes everything, John van de Laar coins a word, edu-taining, which implies that a church needs to take their educational role seriously, but it can offer its teaching in entertaining ways.
"One of the primary meanings of the word entertain is to consider or hold on to a thought or idea. In this sense, to entertain someone, is to engage their mind, to hold their attention, to enable them to consider the ideas you are representing. Essentially, if people are bored in our worship services, they will learn nothing. If, however, we can hold their attention while communicating our message, learning and growth occurs."
Therefore, I don't have any issue with a church using entertaining methods to get their message across or a preacher using humorous illustrations in their sermons to keep the congregation's attention.
However, we need to be careful that the main purpose of our worship services does not become about the entertainment value. We should not judge the success of our worship services by how many people are coming or how much fun they are having while they are there. We also need to be wary that our well-planned, well-run services do not get in the way of what God is trying to do in people's hearts.
One final thought: if a church is spending more money on the latest equipment, the best coffee or more parking spaces than it is on doing mission or caring for its members, I strongly believe that they are not fulfilling God's mission for the Church.
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."
- Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)