Monday, September 20, 2010

Are We Having Fun Yet?

"He who loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and oil will never be rich." Proverbs 21:17

We live in a society that is completely enamored with entertainment. From American Idol to the News, we are constantly looking for someone to entertain us. We celebrate athletes, actors and singers because they entertain us. Our educational system is based around making learning "fun" and people often focus on whether they enjoy their jobs. Let's face it, we are so busy having fun that it is a wonder that anything gets done in this world.

However, if this is indeed the world in which we live, then it has to affect our view of God and how we serve Him. Instead of worship, we have productions. Instead of fasting, we have feasts. Instead of discipleship, we have recreational small groups. Fun is the order of the day and we are getting plenty of it.

The issues stated above are just the symptoms of a larger problem. Worship is my response to what I value most. If I most value entertainment and "fun" in my life, then I will naturally order my priorities and values around it. Even God will become a source of entertainment to me. Fun becomes and idol.

So we have to ask, "What do worship and service at the altar of fun look like?" First, it must bring fun into my own life, so I will demand that my church and my God make me happy. If my church does not "meet my needs" then it is perfectly suitable for me to find a better source of entertainment and say "God was leading me  to this church" when what was really meant was "I really liked the coffee bar, basketball court, entertaining praise band and motivational speaking that is passed off as preaching."

Second, after my needs are met and I am being entertained, I will naturally want to serve my "god" and thus will want to bring entertainment into another person's life. So, I will learn guitar, sing specials at church, start a recreational small group, and hang-out as much as possible with others so I can prove just how "fun" Jesus really is to those who don't know Him.

Third, my discipleship will not consist in quoting and understanding scripture, but in following the latest pop-Christian singer. We will trade our theologians for those who are especially gifted at entertaining us and marvel at how God is using them in miraculous ways.

The problem with all of this is that it doesn't look or function any different than the world. We just chose a different kind of entertainment. Less sex, less materialism, more God talk, more positive thoughts, but in the end, it is based on the same value system: my entertainment.

Now, don't get me wrong, I enjoy Christian artists and creativity as much as the next person. Truly using a talent that God has given you is what we all should be doing. What I am talking about is our value system as American Christians. Do we strive to achieve "virtue" or fame? Do we serve humbly or do we look for celebrity status. There is a line between enjoying a Christian artist, field, or art form and making it into an idol and currently I fear that the church in America is on the wrong side of the issue. Worship is about far more than having a killer praise band, a slick visual presentation and an entertaining message. Worship is about giving ourselves to God, praising Him and serving Him according to His desires and not ours.

Lets look at a couple of people in scripture and see how much fun they had.

The Apostle Paul
Whipped, stoned, beaten, shipwrecked, starved, imprisoned, abandoned, and killed for his faith in Jesus Christ. Somehow, I don't think he would be too impressed with the worship wars over contemporary and traditional music. Paul's concern was not with being entertained nor with entertaining others. In fact, Paul went out of his way to make sure that he preached the Gospel, "not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power." Paul made sure people were not drawn to his entertaining speech (as was custom in his day) but to the actual message of the cross.

The Prophet Jeremiah
Jeremiah was a young man when God called him. He spoke about the sins of Judah and warned them of impending disaster. He was hated, maligned, thrown into a pit, blamed, and ultimately alone because of God's message. He saw the destruction of the city that he loved and wrote a lament over the city that became a part of our Bible. (Lamentations)

Now, I am not saying that fun is bad. I like to have fun. But it cannot be at the expense of discipleship. We cannot refuse to STUDY our Bibles because it is "boring." We cannot church-hop because we aren't being entertained enough. We cannot allow our worship of God to be hindered because it isn't the style of music we prefer. If you can't worship God to a particular style of music, then you aren't worshiping God. You should be able to sing praises to the creator, sustainer, savior God to the sound of an out of tune piano and a banjo and mean it just as much as you would if it were your favorite artists in the world.

We must repent of this dependence upon entertainment as the driving force behind our worship and service. It is absolutely the truth that God is going to call you to a lot of things that are not fun at all in your life. You must submit to them. God is going to call you to sacrifice. God is going to call you to serve in tangible ways and not just in ways that spread more entertainment.

Read again what Proverbs 21:17 says about over-valuing entertainment "He who loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and oil will never be rich." Spiritually we are becoming poorer and poorer all the time in this country. It is time to shift our values back to the pursuit of God and virtue and rise Above Reality.

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