How much of an influence does the world, especially in the entertainment realm, have on our Sunday morning services in our local churches? There hasn't always been this struggle between holiness and Hollywood. And there can be excellent elements in music and drama that point people to the whole and complete Gospel message. But as we've seen in the past decades, the pendulum has swung hard the other way, and there is a growing trend toward entertainment to fill seats and grow churches, and it seems to have nothing to do with Jesus at all. Marsha West has penned this provocative article over at Renew America:
What Would Jesus Have You Do? By Marsha West
Reprinted with permission
No question, we are a culture that loves to be entertained. Even churches have caught on to the public's desire for 24/7 entertainment. As a consequence, a large number of evangelical churches are now driven by a need to fulfill this desire in their congregants. And what better way to pack the house in ginormous auditoriums than to offer a 90 minute stage show enhanced with state-of-the-art sound, lighting and video systems.
Lights, camera, action!
To boost the mood for the Praise and Worship segment of the service, a large number of churches feature a worship leader and several backup singers accompanied by a live band. I've been in services where the Praise Band could be the opening act for Switchfoot!
To help spice up worship, a team of want-to-be actors treat the audience to a short skit that ties in with the message (sermon). As the lights dim and the actors scurry off stage, a hip cool pastor wearing skinny jeans, a logo T-shirt, and a five o'clock shadow ambles out to preach the "new" Good News. Hip cool pastors aren't your average run of the mill ministers. Some of these guys are genuine entertainers loaded with talent! They're bona fide performers. True showmen. And some of them are comics! In fact, most hip cool pastors could walk off the church stage onto a Las Vegas stage and feel right at home. No really, they're that good!
By in large, hip cool pastors' main aim is to see that the folks find God, because once they find Him, they'll find themselves and then...drum roll please....they'll find their real "purpose" in life!
Now, I'm not attacking Church entertainment per say. I'm simply pointing out that in an effort to grow their churches many ministers adopt worldly methods such as the church growth model, a consumer oriented marketing strategy developed to attract the unchurched. And let's be honest. For some pastors it's not about saving souls, it's about becoming the CEO of a thriving "megachurch." Trying to attract large numbers of people, some pastors go way overboard. The end result is that the house of God has become like the world.
Warning: Adopting secular marketing techniques has risks. Often the Gospel becomes compromised when we adapt it to the culture.
Hellywood's Influence On The Church
Many people are movie-goers...TV-viewers...music lovers...concert-attendees...sports fans...game enthusiasts...computer junkies and users of all sorts of other high tech gadgets. Those who profess Christ and hold to the authority of the scriptures are among those addicted to this kind of entertainment. To feed their entertainment addiction there are also what we deem "Doubting Thomases" who attend Sunday services principally for the entertainment value.
That Christians enjoy the same sort of entertainment as those who walk in darkness is revealing.
This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (I John 1:5-7)
In this day and age it's rare to find a movie or TV program that's fit for Christian consumption. Hedonism, sexual explicitness and perversion, violence, occult themes and vile language aside, very few movies refrain from abusing God's holy Name.
Have you ever noticed that Hollywood's elite go out of their way not to offend ethnic groups, homosexuals, environmentalists, abortion providers, radical feminists, illegal immigrants, even Muslim terrorists? Yet evangelical Christians, Catholics and Mormons – especially those with conservative values – are all fair game.
It's an undisputed fact that the entertainment industry is made up of liberals. Why should this matter to Christians? I answered this question in my column Sexually Transmitted Diseases Are A Result of Liberalism:
For most liberals right is wrong and wrong is right. Good is bad and bad is good. Normal is abnormal and abnormal is normal. Whatever advances their cause is what counts. "We must remember that liberalism is not just a system of bad ideas. It is a religion with its priests, creeds, confessions, and dogmas. Liberals worship the system, their church. They gladly sacrifice themselves and anyone else, friend or foe, who gets in the way of the cause. They are more religious than most Christians. They are more dedicated than most Christians." (Liberal's Are Evil, Wrong and Nuts!)
In the liberal's way of thinking pretty much anything goes. Liberals view themselves as tolerant of the behaviors of others. They're broad-minded. Generous. Untraditional. Unorthodox. Progressive. (Source)
Most Hollywood liberals don't try to hide their disdain for conservatives – especially if they happen to be conservative Christians! And liberals don't try to hide their blatant disrespect for the Lord Jesus Christ and for any of His followers who hold to biblical values.
So with this in mind, why do a large number of Christians tolerate Tinseltown's deliberate abuse? Moreover, why do we cower when we're labeled hateful, bigoted, mean-spirited, homophobic and worse? And why do we lay down our hard earned money at theater box offices when those in the entertainment industry (the same folks who make big bucks off of us) do not give a hoot that they're dishonoring God's Name?
While I'm on the subject of disrespect, I must mention that in churches all across America a number of pastors – especially younger pastors – have sunk to the level of using crude language and R-rated stories to "make a theological point." Would profane pastors deliver a sermon laced with rough language to a church packed to the rafters with God's holy elect angels? Of course not! Which makes one wonder, where are the deacons and elders – the so-called Church leadership? Why do they fail to roundly rebuke profane pastors? And when did the Church become Comedy Central?
Consider this also. Many professing Christians use God's Name in vain and think nothing of it. For instance, you hear Christians utter "Oh G – !" and "Oh my G – !" all the time. How has it escaped them that they're in violation of the 1st Commandment? The Bible explicitly says:
Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain (Exodus 20:7).
Clearly, anyone who misuses the Name of the LORD will be held accountable.
Returning to Tinseltown, people who work in entertainment expose young and old alike to gratuitous violence and vile language in films...DVDs...TV...music, especially gangsta rap and grunge! Even pornography, including child pornography, is pushed on society in a myriad of ways through the marvels of modern technology. TV networks have dropped the few remaining standards of decency for prime time telecasts. Those who happen to be TV fans know full well that producers/writers/actors/reality stars relish pushing the envelope. And when someone crosses the line, as is often the case, the FCC looks the other way!
Welcome to the anything goes world of moral relativism, where pretty much nothing is off limits anymore and nothing is sacred – including God's Name.
What's In A Name?
God's Name is special. His Name carries His personal identity. So why are followers of Jesus Christ not incensed when they hear someone misusing His Name whether it's in a movie, on TV, or from the lips of one of your friends or business associates?
Look at it this way, Christian: If someone close to you, say a parent, spouse or child, is called a vile name for no good reason, you'd come to his or her defense, wouldn't you?
Of course you would!
So the next time someone drags God's Name through the mud in your presence, why not turn to the person and say something like: "I'm a Christian, so I'm offended when you take God's Name in vain."
Many Christians will spend two hours viewing a movie that's peppered with language so profane that they readily admit they wouldn't dream of inviting Jesus to watch with them – because they know perfectly well He'd turn down the invite!
Some believers I know offer some of the most flimsy excuses for putting up with hearing God's Name misused. For example, when it comes to seeing a movie that tickles their fancy they deem using the Lord's name in vain acceptable if it's not overused.
Whenever I broach this subject, I receive a slew of emails from so-called believers providing me with excuses for their viewing habits. The top 4 are:
1) We are under grace not under the law; therefore we mustn't maintain a pharisaic attitude.
2) The Holy Spirit hasn't convicted me.
3) Christians can do what is right in their own minds.
4) It doesn't bother me.
Clearly, some Christian moviegoers think they're excused from the moral example God has set forth for His people. Those who fall into this category should consider this: Hollywood is using your hard earned money (God's money) to mock your Savior and to advance a morally bankrupt ideology.
Consider, also, that leftist entertainers use the money they rake in to further an anti-Christian agenda which includes removing all mention of God from the public square; abortion on demand; normalizing every sort of sexual perversion; advancing same-sex "marriage"; and environmental extremism.
What does this tell you about biblical discernment?
What it says to this writer is that far too many followers of the Lord Jesus Christ hold a worldview that is more aligned with Secular Humanism than with biblical Christianity.
The sad fact is that many believers participate in a number of things that the Bible deems inappropriate, immoral, and even toxic to the soul.
Do God's people's viewing and listening habits really matter all that much to Him? I mean, we're under grace not under law, right? Listen to the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 6:22-23:
The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be filled with darkness.
A "good eye" should be fixed on the Person who made our eyes!
Would Jesus Invite His followers To A Service Such As This?
At the beginning of this article, I discussed churches that have gone astray and, in an effort to "keep people coming," focus largely on creating a "fun" and "relevant" environment that will draw the seeker in. To that end, hip cool pastors dumb down their sermons in an effort not to offend anyone, church doctrines are disregarded, the gospel is glossed over, worldly music is the norm – some of it with unbiblical lyrics! Sadly, when people raise holy hands to the God they say they adore, their demonstration of praise and worship comes, not from the heart; it's merely inspired by the music – especially if it has a good beat.
What Would Jesus HaveYouDo?
First of all, there's no perfect church. In choosing one, a good rule of thumb is to see that you're in a Bible teaching church that holds to the authority of Scripture. If your current pastor gives a "feel good" message that includes a few Scripture verses with good stories and applications but has no biblical basis, consider shopping for a church with solid Bible teaching. In other words, find a church where, for the most part, the pastor teaches one verse at a time and rightly divides the word of truth. (2 Tim. 2:15)
When it comes to entertainment, the professing Christian need only ask: Would I invite Jesus to sit down next to me during a movie or TV program or while I browse the Net...email...text...comment or "like" something on Facebook? Would I want my Lord to hear the music stored on my iPod? Would I offer Him the best-selling book I just finished reading? As I glance through a magazine would it make me a tad uncomfortable to have Jesus looking over my shoulder? If the answer to any of the above is in the negative, then hightail it out of the theater...turn off the TV...log off the computer...delete the music...close the book!
Worldview Weekend – Brannon Howse offers a decidedly Christian worldview with excellent articles, news, radio, Worldview TV – pretty much everything!
The Holiness of God book – By R.C. Sproul
The Holiness of God lectures – By R.C. Sproul
© Marsha West