The danger for us is that we will want to keep up with our entertainment culture and its focus on the eyes by turning our worship into a religious stage show. We must walk a fine line between offering worship that is appealing and engaging without becoming simply a splashy performance, and worship that has depth without becoming tedious and flat.
By definition worship must be about God, not my amusement… All up front, the service performed on behalf of an audience relaxing in theater-style seating… Much of what passes for worship today is nothing more than lightly baptized entertainment, and therefore is idolatrous. It is idolatry from which serious churches must distance themselves.
[Do we] want a ministry designed to amuse the dying or a ministry aimed at raising the dead?
The Story of Creation by Michael Lawrence taken from Biblical Theology by Michael Lawrence, copyright 2010, Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton Illinois 60187, www.crosswaybooks.org. Page 124
Worship services in many churches today are like a merry-go-round. You drop a token in the collection box; it’s good for a ride. There’s music and lots of motion up and down. The ride is carefully timed and seldom varies in length. Lots of good feelings are generated, and it is the one ride you can be sure will never be the least bit threatening or challenging. But though you spend the whole time feeling as if you’re moving forward, you get off exactly where you got on.
Many churches have de-emphasized preaching and worship in favor of entertainment, apparently believing they must lure converts by appealing to fleshly interests. As if Christ Himself were in some way inadequate, many church leaders now believe they must excite people’s fancies in order to win them.
A steady diet of performances by soloists or even choirs can have the unintended effect of undermining the corporate, participative nature of our musical worship. People can gradually come to think of worship in terms of passive observation, which we do not see modeled in the Bible. Such a diet may also begin to blur the line between worship and entertainment, especially in a television-sopped culture like ours, where one of our most insidious expectations is to be always entertained. Of course, this blurring is hardly ever intended. But over time, separating the “performers” from “the rest of the congregation” can subtly shift the focus of our attention from God to the musicians and their talent – a shift that is frequently revealed by applause at the end of some performance pieces. Who is the beneficiary of such applause? (Mark Dever and Paul Alexander).
There is no place in a worship service for entertainment. The people are not in need of seeing how clever man is, but how holy God is… In entertainment the focus is on man, while in worship the focus is always on God.