Today’s Churches: Entertainment Heavy, Holiness Light

That so many churches today are absolutely addicted to entertainment, razzamatazz productions, and keeping the masses amused and happy is fairly obvious. I have spoken to this often before. So many folks seem to think that entertainment is the missing ingredient to a successful church, so they spare no expense to be the most entertaining outfit around.

But for most of church history the obvious missing ingredient to a successful, fruitful and godly church was the Holy Spirit. But now the Spirit seems to be just an optional extra, while worldly entertainment is an absolute necessity. There are of course thankfully many exceptions to this, but far too many churches are simply competing with the world in being entertainers.

This woeful mentality goes as follows: ‘In order to reach people in the world, we must become just like the world. We have to be hip and cool and relevant, and above all else, entertaining. That will bring in the crowds (and the offerings).’ So churches compete with one another to be the coolest and most entertaining joint in town.

We had a perfect example of this sadly with a Hillsong bigtime production number in a Christmas service. Using the wonderful song Silent Night, they turned it into a glitzy and trashy piece that any pagan nightclub would be proud of. But no description of mine will do it justice, so see for yourself:

hillsong-church-christmas-music-laodicea-end-times-last-days-nteb-933x445Of course Hillsong and other trendy churches have already given us plenty such worldly entertainment – we already have countless discos for worship (complete with strobe lights, smoke machines and black interiors), and now this: nightclub and cabaret entertainment.

The next obvious step is to bring in the pole dancers I guess. Just think what crowds we could get with a Methodist Moulin Rouge, a Presbyterian Caesars Palace, or an AOG Whiskey A Go Go. After all, we have to be just like the world to win the world, right?

Great saints like A. W. Tozer wrote entire books on the entertainment-mad church scene, and that was decades ago. He would be utterly shocked and repulsed at the trendy, sacrilegious churches of today. Let me offer just one quote of his:

It is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God’s professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to attend a meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments.

We are not alone in such concerns of course. Christian commentator Matt Walsh has just penned a piece dealing with similar themes: “If Your Church Makes Christianity ‘Cool’ And Comfortable, You Should Find A New Church”. He speaks not just to the modern idol of entertainment, but of being cool and trendy. It is worth sharing a good-sized hunk of this piece. He begins:

There are no two words in the English language more incongruous than “celebrity” and “pastor,” but as we all know, these are very incongruous times. One of the latest red carpet-trotting “celebrity pastors,” Rich Wilkerson, was just profiled here on TheBlaze.
Pastor Rich is a young guy who dresses in skinny pants and deep v-neck tees, poses for photo ops, takes Instagram selfies with Justin Bieber, and shies away from “controversial” subjects like gay marriage and abortion, because, as he explains, he wants people to like him. Pastor Rich brags of being “great friends” with Kanye West, and even officiated his wedding a few years ago.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with befriending a sinner — we’re all sinners, to be sure — but maybe a pastor ought to exercise some prudence. It might be wise to avoid creating scandal among your flock by publicly hobnobbing with a blasphemous egomaniac who claims to be God and made his fortune rapping about getting high and having sex with hookers. But Pastor Rich is super cool, and super cool people are supposed to hang out with famous rappers.
Remember, a good Christian must always be awesome, fun, and trendy, no matter what. As Jesus proclaimed, “The only rule in life is have fun, don’t be boring, and dress cute wherever you go.”
Sorry I think that was actually Paris Hilton. It can be easy to get those two confused, depending on which church you attend.
The preview for his new reality show (of course) intersperses clips of Pastor Rich cavorting on the beach with his scantily clad wife with footage of him shouting self-help cliches – “Nothing will be impossible!.. We’re gonna do life together!” – to a mosh pit of cheering fans at a rock festival. Er, I mean, a congregation of Christian disciples at “church.” At one point, Rich reveals to the viewing audience his insightful pastoral motto: “I don’t think people are interested in a bunch of religion — like, yo, tell me what I can and can’t do — but I think people are interested in a relationship with a higher power.”
In the article, he explains that the Gospel does not demand ”behavior modification.” Because, yo, we shouldn’t have to, like, modify our behavior or, like, you know, do stuff. Just remember that old Christian saying, yo: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”
Sorry I think that’s actually the official slogan of Satanism. Again, some churches make it easy to conflate the two.
Unfortunately, the heresy Rich represents is not in the least unique to him. After all, Rich is just like any of the countless Christian apostates who profess a particularly comfortable, stylish, hip, fun perversion of the faith.
These days, churches increasingly cater to Christians who hate Christianity but still want to be “spiritual.” These people desire the feeling of fulfillment and purpose found in devout religious practice without any of the actual practice, nor for that matter the doctrines, teachings, constraints, discipline, obedience, observance, challenges, commandments, suffering, or sacrifice. They want the appearance of the dish but none of the ingredients whatsoever. What they end up with, then, is a meal similar to the kind my 2-year-old daughter serves after she’s “made dinner” in her Fisher-Price kitchenette: a colorful plate filled with plastic fruit and imagination.
I think the phrase “personal relationship with Jesus” (or “a higher power,” as Pastor Rich so fashionably put it) has been especially useful to the practitioners of Plastic Fruit Christianity. Now don’t get me wrong, although the saying appears nowhere in the Bible, there is a deep and important truth to it. Yes we should desire an intimate connection with Our Lord, we should know that He loves us each individually, and we should recognize and give thanks that He died for all of our sins. We should develop a “personal relationship” in that we should be affected and changed personally by Christ. We should come, personally, to believe in Him and follow Him.
Our Lord himself is “personal” in the sense that he is not detached from the world. He is not a Lord who sits off at a distance, nor is He some kind of pantheistic, amorphous blob of energy composed of all of the elements of the universe, like a Kabbalist or Buddhist or Joel Osteen might talk about.
So, yes, Jesus is “personal” and we must come to know Him, love Him, and serve Him personally. But if we’re using “personal” in this context, it’s redundant. Of course we have to love and follow Jesus personally. Of course loving Jesus isn’t a cumulative task where each member of the world contributes a percentage. We must, individually and personally, believe in Christ and obey his commandments. Definitely. This is self-evident.

He concludes:

Jesus never promised that faith would be comfortable, much less fashionable or fun. So if you’re sitting around right now and thinking this “being a Christian” thing is pretty relaxing and easy, you’re doing it wrong. Yes — doing. And if your church is putting these ideas in your head, rebuke the pastor and run away as fast as you can. That place is a pagan temple, not a church.

He also reminds us of the hard sayings of Jesus, like taking up our cross and following him, of denying self, of crucifying the flesh, etc. You know, all the stuff no one wants to hear any more, and all the stuff our cool, entertainment-obsessed churches never mention. This is a good way to send millions of people to hell. And that is exactly what is happening.

As Tozer said about entertainment in general: “I believe that entertainment and amusements are the work of the Enemy to keep dying men from knowing they’re dying; and to keep enemies of God from remembering that they’re enemies.”

So today Silent Night is a bawdy cabaret number in these trendy churches. Tomorrow it will just be bawdy songs with no Christian content at all. After all, we need to bring the worldlings into church. But when the world does a better job of entertaining, and when the world is already good at sending people to hell, it is odd that the churches should want to follow suit.

It is not just odd, it is downright demonic.

[1560 words]

25 Replies to “Today’s Churches: Entertainment Heavy, Holiness Light”

  1. I read this post on the church of the pastor David Skinner mentioned earlier. It is very well written –

    “The format of our Sunday services is simple and easily accessible to the total newcomer. The New Testament pattern for worship is serious, formal (in the best sense of the word) and structured. Such an approach in no way quenches the power of the Holy Spirit, for God is a God of order. We contend that casualness and jokey informality do not provide the right context for the worship of Him who is all holy. Previous generations were well able to understand that seriousness and joy can happily co-exist. In recent decades, however, there has been a revolution in worship styles. The result can generally be described as a ‘dumbing-down’. Everything now has to be ‘fun’; the lighter it all is the better. We here at PFMC have consciously resisted these regrettable trends.

    So, in pursuit of an appropriate reverence, we have felt no need to ‘update’ our worship, choosing rather the restrained, thoughtful and dignified approach exemplified by the Biblical principles of the Protestant Reformation. We argue that it is wrong to introduce the world’s musical idioms into the church in order to appear ‘contemporary’ and ‘relevant’. Being a Christian means leaving behind the world and its culture. The Gospel is powerful enough to change the hearts of the young without the aid of secular cultural trappings. In any case, it is a wrong premise to design worship to make it attractive to the non-Christian. It is a futile task, for only truly saved believers have the necessary spiritual faculties to engage in spiritual worship (1 Corinthians 2:14). The unbeliever must first believe the Gospel, before he can ever begin properly to worship God.

    Our position here at PFMC is that worship must never be allowed to degenerate into ‘theatre’, with individuals standing on a platform at the front displaying their artistic talents, doing so, as it is argued, “to the glory of God”We do not impugn anyone’s sincerity, but the dangers of such an approach are enormous. Proceedings can so easily drift into ‘performance’ and entertainment. The congregation is given artistic excellence, and they enjoy it; but would the ‘enjoyment’ of worship be as great without the musical aids? Would the desire to worship be as strong, if the musicians were not there? There is the real danger of trying to satisfy people’s feelings on an emotional, aesthetic and ‘fleshly’ level, but not on the vital spiritual level.

    We courteously ask, Is there any New Testament precedent for worship being conducted by talented musicians? Are not the electric guitars and the drum kits a marketing ploy, an attempt to prove ‘cultural relevance’, a statement that you can be ‘cool’ and be a Christian? However, people must be drawn to church by the power of God’s word alone, by its objective truth, and by God’s Spirit working in their hearts. If they are drawn by churches majoring on their familiarity with contemporary secular culture, they will be drawn for the wrong reasons.

    So, to summarise, PFMC’s position is that it is the church’s pastor who must lead Christian worship, not musicians. This is the pastor’s calling before God. Yes, music is an integral part of worship, but it must never be allowed to take over, reducing the minister, and the ministry of God’s word, to a secondary role. Furthermore, great care must be taken to ensure that music is not used to manipulate emotions and produce feelings of exhilaration, which are then misinterpreted as genuine spiritual experiences. We feel that an over-reliance on music is far too common on the church scene today. The joy which God desires us to have in our worship can only occur if there is first a true work of the Holy Spirit in the heart, as a man uses his mind to think through the implications of the Gospel.

    In accordance with the above principles we here at PFMC use the hymns from the reverent and evangelical tradition of English hymnody as represented by men such as Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, John Newton and William Cowper.”

  2. I couldn’t bring myself to watch more than one minute of that video. Not only have they ruined a beautiful carol but the lead singer is not much of a singer. But even worse, what will they hear when they meet God face to face?

  3. On this line my local church put up “Christmas decorations”, not a mention of Jesus anywhere. It will be interesting to see what our corol service is like.

  4. My husband calls it ‘the world lite”. Just like we have lite beer and lite coke and lite cheese…..this is the world lite. It’s just the teeniest, tiniest bit better for you than the original.

  5. God put an appetite for excitement into all of us (though some crave more than others).
    However, the excitement God wants us to experience comes from doing exploits for his name’s sake.
    Give more than you can afford.
    Go on a mission trip.
    Pray for the sick…in public.
    Preach the gospel in public.
    All of these & more generate quite a buzz.
    But the world, & the worldly, prefer cheesy Vegas-style versions of a once-holy song for a thrill.

  6. I. Cannot. Absorb. That. “Silent Night” video.
    This interview went out worldwide on TruNews. With the different postings its been listened to over 25,000 times and translated into several languages.
    The interview is the prophetic word to those who stand in the pulpits and the BEHAVIOR of what is going on in the churches.

    It is very, very dangerous to claim making holiness “appealing” to a seeker thus dropping the bar in an effort to grab a lost straggler. It’s one thing to go to the pig pen to appeal to the pigs telling them of their filth and helping them journey to knowledge of the clean shower. It’s a completely different ballgame to become a pig pen thinking the pigs will come running.

    No where in scripture was holiness compromised…ever.

  7. Many thanks Bill for all your hard work and effort in seeking to promote the truth of Christ. You have contributed greatly to the font of knowledge in this household. My wife and I wish you and your family a safe and blessed Christmas and may the birthday of the Christ child be a time of joy and peace to you and all those you love. BT and Lan Ying.

  8. Man centred theology. Man pleasing entertainment. The word of the Cross is the power of God for salvation to those who believe. The Cross is a scandal and foolishness to worldliness.

  9. Yeah, that was tacky at best. Great band, didn’t like the arrangement, singing or dancing. Definitely out of place for me. It’s fair to ask what was the rest of the meeting like? Did anyone get saved, and are they being appropriately discipled?
    In my opinion, entertaining and Godly don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but that was not an example. I once attended Hillsong Sydney and couldn’t fault that service, but I didn’t like it as much as my own church.

  10. Appalling, I couldn’t watch it. Sadly I have family members that attend there and others following because they cannot find a better church.

  11. Wow, good musos!
    And to think what they could have done with that band…
    Shame about the artistic director having an Xmas meltdown. (It feels wrong to type that word, but I guess it suits here)
    Actually, it feels like a Hollywood sequel gone wrong – loads of talent and hard work, but a cheap script.
    I watched a bit more and there were some stunning dance pieces where some 30 girls were the same height within an inch or two. They would have turned away dozens of wrong-height dancers. Very accurate synch too. That takes hard work.
    Unfortunately, the sort of dance training and choreography that people grow their talents on is either ballet or raunch. Maybe Christianity needs to invent a new style of its own, because it sure is in the Bible.
    Christendom has quite a lot of books, a reasonable supply of music, a handful of movies, a fistful of science writers, and hardly any dance that requires similar years of training. So choreographers just automatically flip into the known territory of the way the world does it.
    Can someone please to some work on the repertoire of high level dance performance of Christendom please? Anyone?
    Looks to me like the field is wide open – like a Hollywood blockbuster with contracts signed and still looking for a script writer.

  12. It sounds like a group called ‘Post-Modern Jukebox”, but they are clearly a secular group and generally they focus of modern songs, but I don’t even think they would go down that path for a Christmas song. That was even sleazy for the world to do, let alone a “Christian” group.

  13. Do yourself a favour and listen to the Elisabeth Schwarzkopf Stille Nacht CD, to see how far we have fallen.

  14. I thought that Hillsong had sunk too far long ago. Clearly they have continued their descent. I have family members in a local church which I refuse to visit due to their “productions”, but Hillsong makes that church look good in comparison.

    This sort of thing would be appalling at Melbourne’s Carols by Candle Light, and that is secular, let alone in a supposed church.

  15. This kind of entertainment posing as worship is symptomatic of the invasion of Christianity by self-absorbed secular humanism. As James Hitchcock wrote in _What is Secular Humanism_ (pp.77–8), “Whereas practically all the religions of the world have demanded that the individual submit himself to something greater than himself, Cox [Harvey Cox, _The Seduction of the Spirit_, published in 1973] reverses the process. The individual becomes the final test of everything, and all religion is subordinated to the authority of the self seeking instant gratification”. Cox’s influential book promoted the idea that religion can be fun, and implied that we can have Christianity without the cross.

  16. Finally started watching the video and it’s just horribly, depressingly blasphemous. Couldn’t watch any more.

    A railway station near me was playing classical versions of hymns like “O Come All ye Faithful” last Friday and I stopped and thanked the staff. They were Government employees who seemed to know and understand reverence while a “church” produces and endorses such rubbish.

  17. Jo Dellar makes some good points in her comments on 18/12 about music in worship. But let’s not get legalistic about there being no musicians (and presumably instruments) in the N.T. There are plenty of references in the psalms, notably psalm 150, with some dancing as well.
    Again, how old are the great pipe organs, popular in their day and still loved by many?
    Hence I see no problem using today’s instruments to lead worship offered to the Lord.
    I really love the hymn writers Jo lists. But let’s not forget that Charles Wesley used some of the secular tunes of his day because people already knew them.
    I believe that he once said, “Why should the devil have all the good tunes?”

  18. Hi Graham, I copied the post from the website of this church mentioned above and think the writer is saying that the music should accompany the worship but not dominate rather than a flat out “no music” rule.

    You are right, in Psalm 149 it says “Let them praise His name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.”
    and in Psalm 150 it says “Praise Him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.” and “Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.”

  19. I wonder if this video would have been such a big deal if Hillsong hadn’t tried to leverage off their name when they started a local church in London?

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