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Entertaining Worship

A few years ago, we went on a great vacation in Branson, Missouri, with family. It was fun, restful, and replenishing – everything a good break needs to be.

Branson is a great town full of clean family entertainment that perpetuates two vital ingredients of a country's culture – its patriotism and faith. (Sadly, two traits we have detrimentally interchanged). One evening we went to a special show at Silver Dollar City, where I was confronted with something that made me a little uncomfortable and requires that I unpack why. The show's centerpiece was the Silver Dollar singers performing some of "your favorite gospel songs." As they came to the stage, fully dressed in appropriate costumes and makeup, they sang some very familiar songs that have shaped my heart, allowed God to speak to me, and challenged me to follow Jesus more intimately. The songs they sang were both traditional and contemporary. I loved these songs, but hearing them through this medium didn't sit well with me. My concern was that these songs had moved away from the arena of worship to the arena of entertainment… and as they moved, something got lost.

As I waded through several hundred E-Mails on my return, I came across the following story – a hyperbole of my Branson concert – on Reuters.

Turkish television station Kanal T hopes the answer is a ratings success as it prepares to launch a game show where spiritual guides from the four faiths will seek to convert a group of non-believers. The prize for converts will be a pilgrimage to a holy site of their chosen religion -- Mecca for Muslims, the Vatican for Christians, and Jerusalem for Jews, and Tibet for Buddhists. "Doing something like this for the sake of ratings is disrespectful to all religions. Religion should not be a subject for entertainment programs," High Board of Religious Affairs Chairman Hamza Aktan told state news agency Anatolian after news of the planned program emerged. "We are giving the biggest prize in the world, the gift of belief in God," Kanal T chief executive Seyhan Soylu told Reuters.

While this story seems so scandalous to us, it is not too different from what happens week after week as people in our culture look for and attend our Churches. Somehow God has become entertainment. Somehow, we have created a culture that needs their experiences of God to cause them to feel good - to entertain. Because such things implore the name of Jesus, we tend to put them in the "Good" category.

The problem? Worship is about God, and entertainment is about us. When we use worship as another form of entertainment, we are, in essence, worshiping ourselves, saying that our needs, feelings, and pleasure are of priority. And they are not. Jesus is the one who needs to be at the center of our lives. Jesus exists not for our pleasure, but us for His.

Worship as entertainment is big business in our culture, but it bankrupts our soul. He, not we is the object of worship.

Worship Jesus.

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