Monday, May 26, 2014

Seduced Church II: The Entertainment Church

Isaiah 28: 7- 10 ~ 7- But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment. 8-For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean. 9-Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. 10-For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:

In my previous post "The Seduced Church: The Prostitution & Sale Of The Psalmist" I point out the problem of the secularization of those who claim to be worship and praise leaders within the body of Christ. As we can see, to whatever degree, this need to be secular is vast and is taking in almost as many praise leaders as there are that come up. Everyone is for sale to the next bidder and a "sanctified musician" is nearly an oximoron. In and for what is deemed "ministry" we have praise leaders and musicians following secular artists and producers hoping for their "big break" or to become "Sunday's Best" at the expense of the anointing of God and true union and fellowship with HIS Spirit. 

In this post I would like to look at another aspect of the problem very briefly. It is twofold. It is the need for the church to align itself with "entertainment" for success and the failure of the church as it seeks and prefers entertainment oriented "experiences" over sound teaching, instruction and leadership, contained within the word of God and set forth by his servants. 

Let The Sideshow Begin!

In the mid 70's the group named Blue Magic produced and sang the song called "Sideshow" which sold over 1 million copies and was #1 on R&B charts. The song contained the following lyrics:
"So let the sideshow begin
Hurry, hurry, step right on in
Can't afford to pass it by
Guaranteed to make you cry
Let the sideshow begin
(Hurry, hurry)
Hurry, hurry, step right on in
Can't afford to pass it by
Guaranteed to make you cry"
Well, what is happening to and within the modern day church is guaranteed to make you cry, if you knew what the church once was and what it once represented to the world and the community. In many places, Sunday morning is not only a circus where there are many sideshows, but it is also a place where academy award winning acting takes place. Sunday morning worship services are the place of top ranked entertainment and top ranked entertainment companies. 

Along with ordinary Sunday morning services, there are now various special events such as Easter, Christmas and other special holidays productions that will take your breath away. Our worship gatherings which look more like Broadway musicals and events rather than services, in many places all over the country are more dynamic than ever. In fact, members of some churches can not imagine what church would be like without elaborate stage presentations, beginning with "lights, cameras and action". It would seem that "speaking the word" is a less and nearly lost art of communication and does not satisfy the modern need and desire to "connect" in worship services. There must be an entertainment hook, and activity to keep all members and prospective members occupied and engaged. I believe much of this can be laid at the feet of the lazy, disinterested and self serving minister, who has lost touch with God, but that is another post and something that other parts of this blog go into much greater detail on. So I will simply continue with this examination. 

Dance, Musical & Comedy Entertainment In The Name Of The Gospel

From "rock star" like gospel concerts, many of which only present rehearsed praise and synchronized shouting and dance routines, to comedy shows led by some of them deemed to be "gospel" comedians, many of whom are given the title "gospel" because they curse "less" and accept more engagements in church related venues than their secular counterparts and entertainers, the church is the place for it all. If it happens in society, you will find it in church.  

The church is seemingly on a diet that, according to many of its adherents and leaders, is designed to "draw" the unchurched and make the sinner "feel comfortable" about coming to the church and being in a Christian environment. But it is the mix of both secular and spiritual that disturbs me as I cover in the conclusion of this article. I will not be picking on people and or organizations in this post, but I do want to examine practices that some of the companies have outlined as it pertains to the use of dance and various forms of entertainment within the church. 

Recently, I received an advertisement which focused on one particular gospel and church related event in which liturgical dance will be highlighted. The company plans to not only provide "praise dance" but will also offer the following classes to attendees:
"Modern Jazz, African Mime, Hip Hop, Pageantry, & Limited Movement"
According to the website of a particular dance company, whose primary ministry is to offer a service to the church, they offer: 
"(Name Withheld) is a place where the saints can learn all styles of dance without compromising their faith. The classes offered through the Center will consist of the following: Ballet, Jazz, Horton, Modern, Hip Hop, Flags & Banners (worship tools) and Mime." 
Obviously, neither of these groups view either "jazz" or "hip-hop" dance as being in conflict or a "compromise" of faith. To that I say, to each his or her own. I simply still believe that teaching people to do what was done under sin is a compromise of faith. However, in a desire to be fair, I believe the question is however, what elements of all of those styles are making it into the presentation of believers as they seek to "minister" for whatever purpose within the service of the Lord? In other words, what of the "faith" of those of us who do not believe that either hip-hop, or jazz is spiritually edifying or consistent with salvation? In those cases it would seem that the unknowing believer is having a lifestyle premise (hip-hop or jazz dance) placed on them unknowingly. If that is the case, and I believe the premise would hold, how can dance be reconciled with the faith and practice of believers? Further, how can we say that any of that would be pleasing or honorific to God?  

The Rise & Promotion Of "Gospel" Entertainment

All across the country even the small, midsized and upstart church has been affected by this need to entertain. In some cases the simple and ordinary art of model dancing or what has now been deemed "praise dance", is being accepted in the name of "giving the youth something to do" and yet other churches are striving to not be outdone by presenting Sunday morning stage and dramatic presentations. One particular church has no outreach or evangelism plan or outreach department, but has a choreographer, an entertainment ministry, and a public relations department even prior to the first service. 

Much of this entertainment and need to entertain the church and church folk has come from the rise in popularity and presentation of some of the more affluent TV presentations such as the television network TBN, which presents its "Holy Land Experience" in Orlando, FL., Dr. Bobby Jones and his "Bobby Jones Gospel Show", which is the longest running cable TV gospel show in history, and more recently TV megachurch entertainment such as that of Bishop TD Jakes Potter's House and Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church, for example, and others who have been able to command the attention of the entertainment industry and have the cash flow to produce elaborate presentations. 

All of this has a "trickle down" affect as it seems that for many, church ain't church, unless there is a full blown entertainment experience associated with or attached to it. In other words the entertainment church is considered by many to be the marquee or the gold standard by which church should be measured. I believe that is a wrong move and something that will continue to have a devastating affect on the body of Christ. Many in the megachurch world also know this as well. As I noted in my post from April 2013, Bishop T D Jakes suggested that God was against the Hollywood church and that he himself was sick of it by saying: 
“I am so sick of this Hollywood spirit that has overtaken the church!”... “We do not have to have big names to have a big move of God.”... “I was saved for years and didn’t see anybody who was on TV,”... “We gotta put this Hollywood spirit out of the church and go back to moving in the power of the Holy Ghost."
It is funny that in the "old days" none of these folk were dancing around in leotards, we had no stage presentations, big screens or any of that, but folk were getting healed, saved and delivered. So the case cannot be successfully made that what is being promoted is bringing God;s presence closer to the people. That is a false premise and a statement which cannot be borne out by the evidence. 

Unfortunately, as I have noted, Bishop Jakes is a Hollywood producer and entertainment figure himself, and one that puts on very elaborate stage productions at his church The Potter's House. It seems that none of that has deterred him from requiring and accepting $50,000 per speaking engagement at the local churches and venues seeking his ministry. While that may simply be a way to separate those who are serious about seeking his ministry, from those just kicking the tires and wasting time, the fact is that Jakes himself, through his ministry, has contributed quite healthily to the "entertainment" aspect of the modern church. Please be clear about what I am saying, although Jakes is most visible, he is certainly not to solely to blame for what we are seeing and or experiencing in the modern church and has many aspects of his ministry which serves the needs of people outside of the stage and bright lights. All of that is highly appreciated and needed.  

The Rationality Of Entertainment

Carrying this out further, do you notice how everything that the church has allowed and wanted to do "in the name of the Lord" has some sort of justification attached to it? People are quick to justify the means and the methods that are being used today, but I want to know has God ORDERED and SANCTIFIED these moves and the use of these items in HIS worship? The modern rationale is as follows: 
  • The model dancing is done to "give the kids something to do" and help the Saints have a better "worship experience"
  • The gospel comic is employed to "help the Saints relax and enjoy themselves"
  • The stage show presentation is to "draw those and give them a visual aid in understanding the message"
  • The choreographed choir and chorales presentations are to "make church more appealing to the lost" 

In other words, the methods that are used are self validating methods. In essence we are being told that we should entertain because "there is a need or void" that this sort of entertainment fills. We entertain because others, (some of the most popular) have allowed this sort of thing to occur in their churches and ministries, and "look how successful they are" and "therefore, it must be right for us"...We allow this because it seems that the "Lord has led these ministers, therefore the Lord has made these actions acceptable for us as well."

In essence the validation for these practices and others comes as a result of human rationale and understanding and not so much because of a validation or direction from God. I have asked, and there may be a scriptural theology forthcoming, but I see no scriptural commendation to any of these things within the church, yet the church is engaged hook, line and sinker without question. There is no root or foundation for the implementation of these practices within the WORD of God and we are dependent upon the producers of these practices for direction of their application in the environment of the Saints and believers.

Believe me, I am not beating up on praise dancers, or those who train them, BUT we must look at what we are doing in a biblically critical manner and not just swallow what is set before us. So we should ask the following:  

What Does The Word Say About This And Practices Such As This?

Expediency can be defined as something that may be convenient, and practical, but also may be immoral or unjust. In other words, just because something can be done does not mean that it should be done or that God is calling for it to be done, no matter who is doing it. Paul said that "all things are lawful but not expedient" (1 Cor. 6:12, 1 Cor. 10:22-23) This is the overarching premise under which the modern church has sought to expand its influence and promote the gospel message, only to become more weak and less influential than ever by the mingling of secularism. The church has simply become a part of the landscape of the world, or sideshow; another prism or lens by which the world is viewed. 

Wrong Leadership

I believe that the primary error of these practices can be found in the fact that at no other time in history has the church been led by worship leaders and entertainers. For certain, preachers leading the church does not guarantee a right direction. Yes, we can see failure on almost every hand and I certainly don;t mean to replace what may be a problem with yet another problem and call it a solution. The problem is that Christ has been relegated to being someone who is following us around instead of someone whom we should be following and led by. I can certainly understand the desire to "draw" the lost (at least in many cases) but the end certainly does not justify the means. There are no entertainers, worship leaders or any other individual which has been called to deal with the spiritual condition of men and mankind except for the preacher and the minister of God upon whom that mantle has been placed. Though folk can encourage and bless one another and find Jesus on their own, as God is God and not man, the job of the pastoral leader is to give direction and leadership to the flock which God has placed him over:  

Jeremiah 3:15 ~ And I will give you pastors according 
to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.

In the New Testament, this same sort of order and directive exists. Paul said to the Ephesian Elders:

Acts 20:28 ~ Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

Further we can examine Peter's instructions to the Elders:

1 Peter 5:1-4 ~ 1-The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2-Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3-Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4-And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

At no time and in any form was an "entertainer", praise leader or worship leader (as in singer) or dancer commissioned to oversee and or direct the people of God in spiritual matters. That instruction was given to them who had been called to do so and none of those instructions included adding things such as praise dance, comedy shows, or Broadway styled passion plays to distinguish or make known the works of Christ. 

If anything, the people of God were clearly commanded to preserve the mode, method and order of the Saints or what God had set forth or instituted among them. Dagon, the Philistine god of dance (squirming of the tail aka: fish god) was worshiped in Canaan. In the system of worship to him was all kinds of dance and dance moves. In fact dance was the method of worshiping gods of all kinds and telling historical stories about the gods. Josephus records that the Philistines rejoiced when they had captured Sampson crediting Dagon with the capture and blinding. He says this:
"...for they said, our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hands; for though Samson's harlot had done it, and they had paid her for it, yet they attribute it to their god, such was their blindness and stupidity; and yet this may shame us believers in the true God, who are so backward to ascribe to him the great things he does for us, when such Heathens were so forward to give glory to their false deities, without any foundation for it. ~ Josephus Antiqu. l. 5. c. 8. sect. 12.
I thought it was interesting that the Philistines gave their god, the god of dance, the credit for blinding the people (man) of God. 

Although Miriam took up a timbrel, sang and danced (Ex. 15:20) the people of God were instructed to not do things after the order of them that had been cast out of the land before them. (Deut. 4) So we can be confident that the dance she danced wasn't mingled with Egyptian seduction of any of the practices whereby the heathen had used. David danced. However, there is no evidence that he danced a secular dance or a dance that was either choreographed or displeasing to the Lord. It was not the dance that pleased God, it was the heart and what he had accomplished whereby God was pleased.

Conclusion

I have asked a few Christian dance companies to chime in on this issue and provide a biblical theology for their practices. I look forward to examining their answer, but I believe that we must examine our practices and why we do what we do, asking ourselves, is this something that God has ordered, or is it something that we simply want to give God? If it is the latter, is God pleased with what we are offering? 

Without a biblical theology on the issue, I cannot endorse practices within the church that only seek to serve our needs or to make people feel more comfortable or accepting of the Christ environment. It is either you want Christ or you don't. None of these things will draw a person to be saved or a better servant for HIM. They are fleshly inspired and fleshly carried out, even if the claim is that they are dedicated to God spiritually. Certainly entertainment has its place, however, is that place within the Church? 

Comedy and entertainment can be good. I love to laugh and catch me on a good Sunday, and you will be rollin' at some of the things I say, however, I am NOT an entertainer nor am I seeking to entertain. The Lord has called me to PREACH the GOSPEL of Jesus for it is the power of God unto salvation. (Rom. 1:16) Dance too, may be good and it certainly may have its place, but we should ask is that place at the alter of God and what methods are being used to praise God at HIS alter? The same goes with any other practice that the believer seeks to use in the modern day church and are not simply limited to those I have outlined. 

We must be careful that we do not offer "strange fire" to the Lord.

Lev. 10: 1-3 ~ 1-And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. 2-And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. 3-Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.    

In offering "strange fire" that God did not order, Nadab and Abihu lost their lives. It seems that the life of the church is being lost among the world nearly every day. This is a time when we are told that one has to be sophisticated and trained in order to serve the Lord but we should remind ourselves that all that sophistication and training does not please God in an of itself.

Believe me, I believe in giving God excellence in all that we do, however, we must give him our HEARTS first as the expression of a sincere heart is the only thing that moves God. Certainly dancers, comedians and entertainers can be sincere in heart and greatly used of God. That is not the question. The question is do any of these things provide glory to God as he has required, or do they simply satisfy our needs of expression?

Our need of expression may be acceptable to God, but then we are faced with giving God something that is acceptable to HIM. Often what is acceptable with the world is in conflict with God. Looking at the success, or lack of success of the modern church, we simply must ask the question and better examine who we are and what we are doing and find if we are being faithful to the word of God. The "show" of church is certainly not unfamiliar to many of us. We have seen it over and over for years. However, we need the POWER of God within our churches and that has nothing to do with the show, the crowd or the amenities of the church or building. 

I would like to hear thoughts on this topic. How far off are we, or is this simply a progression of the church that needs to be made? What is the biblical theology of entertainment within the church of any sort. I would like to examine it, if one can be found.

Blessed!

PUSHBACKS:

COMMENT: 

Pastor you have spent a lot of time talking about what we can't or shouldn't do, but the bible is clear. It says Psalms 143:9 - Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp. and if you don't like that it says Psalms 150:4 - Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. We play the timbrel or tambourine in church and some churches even play the harp. What can't we dance? These scriptures alone should be enough for you to know that God has no problem with dancing. It is simply those like you, who want to destroy the celebration of the Saints. I don't understand.  

My Response & Answer:

OK. I would agree with the last statement that you don't understand. I will also agree with the statement of scripture that the Saints danced and praised to honor God. The problem is that you misrepresent what I write about and what I am actually saying.

I am not endorsing that dance should be banned dance from the church. I believe in the HOLY DANCE. Like a "new song", a song of redemption, I believe in a new dance, not just a change of partners, like Carlton Pearson was popular for saying some years ago. When the scripture says praise him in "the dance", how do you get that he was suggesting the "nae-nae" or one of the other popular hip hop moves? How do you get that ballet moves and model dance moves, were what the scripture was taking about? Do you honestly believe that we can "pop-n-lock" our way to HIS presence? Those things and delivering those things to God, make no sense and is simply contrary to HIS nature.

Praise in the dance, was not merely moving our body and gyrating to the beat of music. In Judaism, every dance move had a honorific and glorifying meaning. From the lifting of hands, to the bowing down, they were not popular, model dance or hip-hop moves.  What we see is that THIS church has arisen to offer God what was given to the devil in the world and have changed the recipient and placed God's name on the box...That is a rather CHEAP GIFT!

Get this...A gift, let's say a wedding ring, bought for one person, and then, given to another out of convenience??? This is the equivalent of what many are giving God through dance and the way it is implemented in the church today. In addition, we certainly do play tambourines and also harps, but there is no tambourine department and the harp is simply another stringed instrument to use for HIS glory. In dance, we have now dance departments, and drama departments as a result and or included. This isn;t spontaneous spirituality, it is practiced and rehearsed spirituality.

I simply believe we should examine and question ALL that we offer God to make sure it is both HOLY and ACCEPTABLE unto him (Rom. 12:1)

Ooh, one more thing. Remember this:

Judges 11:34-35 ~ 34-And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. 35-And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back

I only point this out to mention that dance was common and had no special power when it was implemented. These modern day folk feel that dance brings the Spirit of the Lord closer. I see evidence of no such thing. When it came down to it, the WORD of promise was held and considered to be greater than the dance or anything else. This was Jephthah's plight.


Thank you. 

5 comments:

  1. Well written as the church is the biggest fad follower I know. I predicted in the 90's that P&W will move away from getting into the mode of worship to something that the church will have because everyone else is doing it but the heart won't be in it and the flow of the Holy Spirit won't be there. While some of the modern things are ok, make sure it is for the right reasons. Like the author says we have these thing but where is the power of God from the days of old that delivered people. Mixing with secular is not good. I am tired of listening to Gospel station and hear them talk about what Beyonce and hubby are doing. The saints should care less.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Keith,

      That to me is the issue...if those doing this and promoting this contend that it should be done to move us closer to the Lord, I would contend that based on the evidence of our experience that we are further away now than ever from that. We see "people power" but very little Holy Ghost power whereby lives are drastically and on the spot changed, and folk are being delivered and filled by the droves. We have reverted to a cognitive and entertainment centered faith at the expense of a true god relationship.

      Folk have to be reasoned with to give up their sins in too many cases. Folk have to be shown line upon line why they should quit drinking, doing what the world does and all kinds of things. Even the ones on the stage supporting this type of stuff are some of the same ones who believe that fornication is ok, that homosexuality should be accepted and abortion is simply a choice. In other words, they have been drawn no closer to God than anyone else, and especially them that are lost and unsaved.

      So there is a lot to think about when considering these actions and displays, but I can;t see where any of this has made the church better and or more sensitive to God and or HIS will.

      Delete
  2. Speaking of which, what do you think of Rev Jamal Harrison's sermon in which he quoted Chris Brown https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IufLfZ6bpE ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. FM,

      Thanks and I hear ya...do you even need to ask what I think of Jamal's commentary? I don;t know if he was trying to say that "all women" are hoes that aren't loyal or that just certain women, who have played themselves the part of being a hoe aren't loyal (so I am unsure of context), but either way, he has proven that he is a hoe that can't be trusted so what is the point of his commentary?

      Last I knew he was still denying that he had got another woman pregnant and that his infidelity caused Gizelle (I believe that's how his former wife's name is spelled) to leave the marriage....So I am at a loss for what he is or was trying to say, but he doesn't seem to have any power in saying any of it...

      Delete
  3. Excellent article!! I believe that the "church" has just stopped believing that the preaching of the Gospel is enough!!! The Gospel is no longer powerful enough to bring salvation, healing, deliverance etc, so WE need to do something to help people out! What Jesus did at calvary is totally and all sufficient, yet the church no longer believes that and must fill the space with worldly entertainment just to have something to offer people. These churches are entertaining people to death!!! Where is the true call to repentance??? Where is the real pointing to Jesus Christ and Him crucified ONLY as the answer??? He is no longer the emphasis, but HE (Jesus) is like a piece of jewelry around their neck that brings no change. They add Him to what they already have and are not making Him LORD!! He is NOT calling the shots in the individuals lives and that is blatantly clear!!!! Lord God help us that have ourselves anchored in Jesus Christ alone to continue to contend for the faith!! Love you my Brother!

    ReplyDelete

Please send me an email if you try to post a comment and cannot do so. Dunamis1@netzero.com. Thanks.