Saturday, July 30, 2016

The First Church of Entertain Me

There is nothing inherently wrong with a little sweets here and there.  Sometimes "junk food" just hits the right spot.  It lights up those pleasure centers and can make a dark day just a little less dark.  The problem comes in when that same food becomes our everyday diet.  Every meal has a dessert, every snack is a candy bar.  When donuts show up at work, we are the first to grab two or three.  Water with our burger and fries? Blick!  Give me that cola and yes, supersize it!  I remember there was a time when I hated eating vegetables and fruit was actually too sweet for me.  Give me that Snickers bar, instead.

But moderate those things and see what happens.  Stop having dessert after every meal.  Forgot the soda and start drinking more water.  Instead of the burger and fries try some salads and homemade meals.  Your taste buds will begin to adjust.  I've watched children go from junk-food-junkies to actually fighting over the vegetables and fruit, disappointed when they were all gone.  Homemade bread  a treat on par with cake.  Even I have found a new love for fruit.

The human body is funny that way.  Give it enough junk and it will always want that junk.  Take the junk away and it will start to crave what it really needs: nutrition.  I have found something similar happens when it comes to Christianity.  It has been the habit of many over the past few decades to try and entertain people into the kingdom of God.  To, as it were, cover the vegetables in cheese sauce and the fruit in chocolate in hopes the children will get the nutrition in spite of themselves.  Unfortunately all we succeed in doing is to make them more addicted to the junk and when we take the gooey covering away they find they don't really want the stuff they really need.  They want the junk and they will eventually go were they can get that rather than "suffer" through eating what is good for them.

People come into the church expecting to be entertained.  But we are finding out that when we take that entertainment away they really rather not stay.  They find an excuse to head to the nearest source of entertainment.  Even when we keep entertaining them, if we don't keep it new and fresh they get bored and move on. As if every service must start with the announcement, "Now for something completely different".  However, in the end if they can't have their dessert as often as they want and on their own terms they go to where their demands can be met.

Truly there aren't many church goers who think consciously on these terms.  We are so good at fooling ourselves.  "One more doughnut, I'll skip dessert later" (but we don't) or  "I must have the sugar or I feel sick to my stomach" or even "I have low blood sugar" and more.  "This new church has a worship band that is more to my liking", "The preacher is a really good speaker", "This new church has more programs for me and the kids", "The people are very attentive to my needs" and so on.  Notice how none of these last excuses have anything to do with what should be the most important thing to believers: The truth.  They are more about me, me, me.

It amazes me in reading church history how little "entertainment" had anything to do with drawing people to Christ.  In fact, it had nothing to do with it.  They lived and died as witnesses to the faith and they spoke the truth about who Jesus is.  Even the music wasn't written to entertain the people, but rather to worship God.  I often hear people say, "I wish we could have church like the first believers did."  I feel like screaming, "You can!".  However, I would have to warn them that the withdrawal symptoms would be tough and ultimately living like the early Christians could result in great suffering and a premature death.

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