Berean cogitations

Saturday, March 18, 2006

John MacArthur on entertainment within the church

I'd like to quote the following comments from John MacArthur regarding the pervasive use of entertainment within the church. Many churches use entertainment-oriented gimmicks—dance troupes, elaborate MTVesque video productions, and even secular rock music—during worship. The goal is supposedly to draw people into the church and capture their attention.

While I applaud the motive behind such tactics, I have to question their wisdom. Worship, after all, should be about God, first and foremost. If we engage in tactics that are designed to entertain, then we have watered down the purpose of worship. In addition, if we use tactics such as long, bombastic guitar riffs or drum solos, then we are drawing attention to the performers rather than to God. People might enjoy such spectaculars, and they might even feel that they have "worshipped," but God is no longer at the center.

Many churches also try to attract larger crowds by keeping the sermons light and fluffy, or by filling the sermons with humor and jocularity. Now, I don't object to the use of humor; I myself try to use it whenever I get a chance to speak. However, I believe that we should never let the humor get in the way of the message itself, which is what can happen when we turn these Sunday meetings into elaborate story sessions or joke-a-thons.

Again, I want to emphasize that these churches are probably acting with a great deal of sincerity. In addition, there's nothing wrong with wanting more people to come to church. However, I think these tactics are both unbiblical and unwise.

As John MacArthur said,

“You see, that’s what the strategy in so many churches has become. The pastor thinks to himself, "When I just preach what God told me to preach, I don’t get good results. People are bored, they don’t respond in large numbers, etc. But when I add a little gratuitous humor or build a cappuccino café or lighten up the message a little bit, voila – large crowds!” And so, even they begin to water down the message in a well-intentioned effort to meet people where they’re at and to stay relatable. And when those same pastors and churches do compromise, guess what happens? Success. Albeit pragmatic, shallow, hollow, external success in numbers and positive response only… but success!

“Now again, don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing inherently evil with appropriate humor in a sermon or a cup of coffee afterwards. But when those things become the bait to a trap and hold the attention of otherwise disinterested crowds, then all it’s doing is propping up a ministry that has no real spiritual power to transform lives.”

- John MacArthur, “Does the Truth Matter Anymore?” video series,