Entertained or entertaining?
We live in a world that is focused on and saturated with entertainment. People have their electronic devices - computers, tablets, smart phones, TVs, and gaming systems. You can have 250-300 cable channels, when 40 years ago there were 4 basic broadcast channels. If you enjoy sports, you can choose from football, baseball, basketball, soccer, and many others. You can choose from professional or college levels. Even high school games are televised, and there are shows about junior level. There are "reality" shows on almost any topic, and they are not very real. A generation ago you had to go a to a theater to see a movie. Now you can buy used copies on DVD over the internet for less than $1.00. In order to compare items, you use to have to spend hours going from store to store. Now you can do it in minutes online, and there are even websites that do it for you. The convenience is nice, but it is another reflection of the saturation we now experience.
This culture of entertainment has swept into the church. The time that Paul prophesied about is here. "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears (2Timothy 4:3)." People are more concerned with music than worship. Talent is good, but anointing is better. People are more concerned with the style of delivery of preaching over the substance of the content. Some people think they wish they were there for the events of the Bible, but how would they do? Moses was not eloquent (Exodus 4:10-17). Neither was Paul (1Corinthians 2:14, 2Corinthians 3:12, 2Corinthians 10:10, 2Corinthians 11:6). Yet Moses wrote the first 5 books of the Bible and gave us the ten commandments, and Paul wrote 14 of 27 books of the New Testament. Would you have stayed up all night to hear Paul's preaching, or would you have fallen asleep like Eutycus (Acts 20:7-11)? Would you stand outside for 6 hours to hear the word of God (Nehemiah 8)? Would you stand outside in the cold rain for a chance to repent (Ezra 10), or is that inconvenient?
Some people would rather have a facility that is more like a mall or conference center than a place to seek God. The megachurch model is conducive to entertainment, but not necessarily to ministry. 20 churches of 1,000 is better than one church of 20,000. The Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles in the early 1900s started out in living room of a house which it outgrew. It then moved to an old barn. People knelt in sawdust over wooden benches and repented. The power of God was manifested so strongly that people going by outside received the gift of the Holy Ghost. This revival spread all over the world, and led to renewed doctrinal truth. Being uncomfortable is not always a bad thing. That is why the church is experiencing its greatest growth in places of great poverty. Poverty is not a virtue, but hunger for God is. Are we so filled with the earthly that we are not hungry for the heavenly?
We try to soothe people into repentance when what they really need is strong conviction of sin. We give people massages instead of truth. This does not mean harshness or callousness is the way. It means that entertainment will not save souls. The preaching of the undiluted word of God will (Romans 10:14-17, 1Timothy 4:16). Have you ever read the accounts in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John of how Jesus talked to people? His evangelism technique would be severely frowned upon today
When it comes to our personal relationship with God, what is our approach? Do we want God to entertain us, or do we seek to entertain Him? Do we think it is God's job to please us, or our job to please Him? Some people's self-perception is so damaged by sin, they do not believe they can even be pleasing to God, but it is possible (Psalm 69:30-31, Proverbs 16:7, Isaiah 56:4, 1Thessalonians 4:1, Hebrews 11:5-6). That is the very reason He created us (Revelation 4:11)." While we certainly do not measure up to the perfection of God, when we are truly seeking to do His will, He finds pleasure in us. He enjoys true worship (John 4:23-24).
When we fail to fill our lives with the effort to entertain God, we attempt to fill them instead with the entertainment of the flesh. We can measure our relationship with God by how much time, effort, and money we spend trying to entertain ourselves with earthly things compared to how devoted we are to pleasing God. We should examine our places of religious gatherings to see how dedicated they are to our entertainment compared to His. God does not care about ornate decorations and symbolic representations. He wants us to have the actual substance of a relationship with Him. There is nothing wrong with nice, accommodating facilities. The facilities dedicated to God (and everything else done unto God) should be done with excellence; but God does not need palaces. Jesus was laid in a manger when He was born (Luke 2:7), and unlike the birds had no home of His own during His ministry (Matthew 8:20). The church of the book of Acts had no building of its own. They used the court of the temple, peoples' homes, the streets, Jewish synagogues, and the auditoriums and facilities of the world to preach. Could you imagine John the Baptizer coming today? He lived in the wilderness, ate locusts, and wore animal skins (Matthew 3:1-12, Matthew 11:7-15). He preached repentance, and did not mince his words. Yet the spiritually hungry came out to hear him, repent, and be baptized. Are we feeding the hunger of our soul, or the desire of our flesh to be entertained?