Deadly Diversions: the Effects of an Entertainment Mentality on the Church
by Steven M. Johnson
The little boy came home from
church with the same nickel his mother had given him, intending it for the
contribution basket. But, the youngster
proudly announced that the preacher had met him at the door and he learned that
you didn’t need a ticket to get in, so he saved his nickel. Years ago, when worship and entertainment
were much further removed from one another, that story seemed slightly
amusing. But today, one might simply
cringe because of the growing threat posed to the Lord’s Church by the
prevailing entertainment mentality in
Our culture’s entertainment mentality contributes to the loss of focus in worship. From the sacrifices of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:3-4) to John’s rebuff by the angel (Revelation 22:8-9), it is clear that God is to be the recipient of our worship. But, our cultural conditioning may lead elsewhere. Rather than God being the divine spectator of worship, the inclination can be for most of the assembly to become watchers while a small segment performs. Active worshippers are turned into passive observers, whose role it is to evaluate the quality of the performers.
The search for enjoyment also
encourages a thirst for emotional stimulation rather than spiritual nourishment
in the assembly. This is a natural
outgrowth of spectatorism. Viewing oneself as an onlooker, the question
becomes, “What did this activity do for me?”
Whereas, Jesus taught us to first seek the
While the attendee becomes the passive customer, the minister and few others who lead in the activities of worship come to be the performers. Not only does this perpetuate the unbiblical clergy-laity distinction, it is also an insult to God, who alone is worthy of the sacrifice of praise from our lips (Hebrews ).
A diversion mind-set likewise
hampers our ability to concentrate. It
shrinks our attention span. Our society
yearns for the abbreviated. Around-the-clock
availability becomes simply “24/7.” A
Finally, an attitude of amusement stifles the desire to reason about the truth. In entertainment media, much of which is visually oriented, the goal is for those who watch to simply enjoy, not to think rationally or critically about what they are watching. Thus the entertainment world is an ideal ally to the concept that there is no such thing as absolute truth. On film, opposing views of reality may be presented as equally valid; suggesting that we can’t really be sure what is true, and possibly that it doesn’t matter anyway.
But the written Word is presented to us as available essential and worth the effort that is put forth to understand. Jesus said that we are sanctified by the Word, which is truth (John ), and that this truth is the source of our freedom (John ). Paul compelled us to undergo a renewing of mind and to prove the will of God (Romans 12:1-2). Paul’s word for prove means to test, examine, scrutinize and discern, in order to recognize that which is genuine. Peter admitted that some of what Paul wrote was “hard to understand” (II Peter ), which simply means that sometimes we arrive at truth after diligence and exertion.
Luke obviously believed that evidence which supports the truth could be written, read and understood. He wrote, “It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed” (Luke 1:3-4).
In order to protect ourselves from the perils associated with an entertainment mentality, we must be aware of these threats. A preoccupation with that which entertains can alter the focus of our worship from God to man, it can substitute emotional joy for spiritual nourishment, it can hinder our ability to concentrate and it can squelch our intention to reason about God’s truth in a balanced way. May we, as Paul cautioned, “Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (I Thessalonians -22).