I enjoy watching a good movie and listening to good music as much as the next guy; but sometimes I wonder if our longing for entertainment has snuffed out our desire for the truth. Ezekiel 33:30-32 tells us, “As for you, son of man, your countrymen are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the Lord.’ My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice” (NIV).
Sometimes I think church services have become more like theater. Don’t get me wrong I don’t want to sit through a church “service” that is boring or dry anymore than you do, but if I constantly have to be entertained in order to attend, I may need to check my spiritual condition.
I don’t think God ever intended for our gatherings to be one or two people doing all the singing, preaching or teaching and the rest sitting there watching and critiquing the performance. In fact, as I have been studying 1 Corinthians lately, it seems the church in Corinth may have had the opposite problem. Paul told them in 14:26-27 “When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” He goes on to tell us, whether it’s speaking in tongues or prophesying, two or three should participate. “For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirit of the prophets are subject to prophets…” 1 Corinthians 14:31-32 (NAS).
So whereas nowadays we tend to have one person speaking or “prophesying”, back in Paul’s day there were many who wanted to share something with the church. Of course we know this may become a bit difficult if you have a hundred people, and they all want to say something, but that’s when wisdom comes in, after all Paul did say, “the spirit of the prophet is subject to prophets.” In other words, we may have to show restraint from time to time and learn to keep our mouths shut in order to let the whole body participate.
I say all this not to ridicule anyone but rather to bring attention to what the church “gathered” is really for. It isn’t for a small few to entertain the rest but it’s for the body as a whole to edify one another. If the church really is in a battle with “the world forces of this darkness and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places”, entertainment is not a sufficient weapon. While I agree there isn’t a particular formula for conducting church “services”, and variety is to be expected, one thing is for sure. When I drive away with the family after a church service, I want it to generate a little more than just “Wasn’t that a lovely service?”