Is entertainment worship poisoning your people? Can churches use it to reach people? How Can Churches Be Entertaining?
Our culture worships entertainment. The English word worship is cousin to the English word worth. Worship ascribes worth to something. The American entertainment industry is worth an absurd amount of money because Americans worship their entertainment. The spend a lot to keep themselves occupied.
Each year our nation spends:
- $20 billion on movies
- $13 billion on video games
- $14 billion on performing arts tickets
- $10 billion on the NFL
That’s about $57 billion on just these forms of entertainment.
Here are other ways we ascribe to worth (worship) our entertainment.
- Americans spend about $1,200 each year on electronic gizmos.
- An estimated 195,000,000 Americans watch NFL games each year.
- The average video gamer is 34 years old.
- The average American family spends $1,200 per person per year on vacations.
- The rest of the world is beginning to share our lust for entertainment.
- The global entertainment industry is projected to grow to more than $2 trillion in the next few years.
- In 2012, $9.3 billion was spent worldwide downloading music.
There’s no way your church (or any church) can compete with these industries, so stop trying. Don’t try and entertain people with new media and technology. Energize people with the power of the Spirit. Keep entertainment secondary, and keep the Message of the Cross primary.
First, (for the haters) there is nothing wrong with entertainment. Being entertained is better than being bored. Entertainment is like food, it’s good and enjoyable in moderated doses, but overdoses can be unhealthy.
Second, This isn’t a diatribe against entertainment. Some churches are so boring that even the pastor nods off during his sermon. Holiness doesn’t equal boringness. You can honor your group’s traditions without grinding people into the ground with monotony.
Third, Jesus entertained people. He told stories that kept their attention. He worked miracles that left people wondering and wanting more. He hung out at parties, and spent time with questionable people. He communicated so well that thousands of people came to hear him in the wilderness. How many people would come hear you speak in a desert?
Fourth, People are bored because they don’t have purpose. A life without purpose loses luster. Who wouldn’t want to go to a movie where a superhero saves the world if all you lived for was paying bills? Give people purpose. Challenge them with the strong truths of the gospel.
Churches can and should be as entertaining as possible, but don’t sacrifice content and quality for quantity and a laugh.
Three Ways to Reach the Entertainment Age
Know your culture. A sermon aimed at people who are addicted to entertainment may benefit from “speaking the Message in their language.” Don’t feel like you have to entertain, but don’t be afraid of it either. If you have something to say, say it well. I’m not sure how he said it, but I don’t think the sermon on the Mount was delivered through a monotone monologue.
Dress up your media. You may sing the same hymns that were sung in 1803, but you can use a background made after 1993. You may have preached that sermon 55 times during the 40 years you’ve been in ministry, but try some modern examples to which people can relate.
Use technology to make things better. You don’t have to have a strobe light entrance, but make sure that you’re filled with the Spirit of God. No one entertains better than Jesus. Invite Him to show up in your meetings and make sure to get out of the way.