Clinton Chisholm | Cruel choice : education or entertainment?
After 34 years in the ordained Christian ministry, plus a prior 13 years of leadership in Youth For Christ and 40 years as a trained/lettered Christian musician, I have discovered that most Christians are more excited about entertainment in church than about being educated/edified. This from my ministry locally, regionally and internationally!
If you doubt me, pick any pastor of your choosing and ask him about this issue and you will get ready confirmation or, at worst, a reluctant wavering "not so sure about that in our church", betraying more hubris (empty pride) than honesty.
Check the attendance records of any church responsible enough to document same and you will be struck with the stark reality that Bible study is arguably the worst-attended church meeting, possibly exceeded only by prayer meeting (if the meetings are not combined on the same evening).
Plan a music concert for any day of the week, morning or night, and you may have to bring in extra seats, even if it is a paid concert!
By the way, the basic fee for any crowd-attracting Christian artiste is about a quarter-million dollars.
Yet, Bible study is free, but to avert the weekly shame by getting the meeting place looking decent in attendance, you would have to comb the highways and hedges nearby that church and compel\anyone you meet to come because you would be serving free ëcooked foodí at the end of the meeting.
I speak the truth in Christ and lie not! The exception to this rule/pattern concerning churches islandwide\would not exceed the number of fingers you have.
ARE PASTORS TO BE BLAMED?
So what explains this malady within Christendom? Maybe we pastors are to blame, because when we are too busy (read: lazy) to prepare and provide proper food, we offer our people a circus! Church members are indicted here, too, because far too many are more obsessed with 'feeling' than with 'thinking' and prefer preachers who have more style than substance. Don't get me wrong. Both style and substance are necessary. As the late Howard Hendricks used to say, "It's a sin to bore people with the Word of God. If you want to bore them, do so with Shakespeare or nuclear physics."
If you are not careful, modern church folk tend to love speakers (religious or otherwise) who 'say nothing nicely'. I lose friends and irritate many believers when I say occasionally, "God has given you a head (with a brain) to think, not simply to 'buck' and wear hat or cap."
Painful memory. Many years ago, after I had done my usual teaching/preaching sermon one Sunday morning in a church and then proceeded to open for questions and asking the audience a few, too, one young woman, whom I knew as a university graduate with a first degree, said to me: "You know, Rev, when I come to church, I donít come to think and hot up my brain." The Holy Spirit, I am sure, had a hard time holding my tongue from saying what was in my mind, namely, "The university that wasted its degree on you should retake it because 'yuh a eediat'."
Thankfully, the Spirit overruled my blunt tendency and led me to show a little teeth and walk away from her.
PREACHERS RUNNING OUT OF CONTENT
Preachers who are eager to get responses of 'Amen' and 'Hallelujah' to their sermons will often stir up congregations by quoting sections of popular hymns or choruses, and this not while serving up a properly prepared sermon but as a substitute for missing content.
I have listened to preachers who run out of content and rather than close the sermon, they proceed to shout repeated epithets of 'Praise the Lord, brethren', and the odd ones will even get into bogus tongues! And church folk warm up to this and describe such preachers as 'hot'. Ask them at the end of such sermons what the preacher's main points were and you get nothing much beyond a waffle and "him hot, hot, mi nuh memba wah him seh, but him hot, mi tell yu."
This hardly helps one to grow in knowledge about the faith or the Bible. Congregants should know by now (but many don't) that you live by the light that the preacher sheds on the Word of God and not on the heat that the preacher generates by being loud, long, and light in content.
This is a major dilemma within modern Christianity. Biblical illiteracy is widespread in churches, and too few Christians are troubled by this dismal reality.
We neglect at our peril the fact that one of Jesus' stated ways of making disciples is "teaching\them to observe all things I have commanded you ... " (Mt 28:20).
Let us, therefore, give Christian education primacy of focus and relegate Christian entertainment to a much lower place of importance.
- Clinton Chisholm is a theologian. Email feedback \to firstname.lastname@example.org\and email@example.com.