Entertainment has always been associated with either the superficial side of Christian living or the downright worldly side but it is never officially associated with serious Christian living. We all crave entertainment, but, alongside charisma, money and creativity, it’s been sabotaged by the spirit of religion and made to pay a debt it did not owe.
I’m on a mission to make church entertaining! It’s a mission worth fighting for because ‘Boring’ has seeped its way into the heart of church life with long winded preaching, worn out songs, unrehearsed items and uninspiring leadership – especially the elders. We’ve accepted it as the norm and lack of inspiration has been seen as par for the journey. In reality, it’s leadership that’s lost its faith, bad communication, lazy musicianship as well as an inverted resentment against all of the fun we’ve missed out on since being a Christian.
Bring back good old fashioned entertainment. To entertain is to inspire, provoke interest, arrest and take people on a heartbeat lifting journey into the way, the truth and the life of Christ.
‘Boring’ is a state that should be banned forever in church life. Fair enough if it’s a bored 15 year old who has no intention of pressing forward in God, but if it’s the inner third of your church – whoever is leading the church and its services and events needs to be rebuked, retrained or retired.
Let’s talk about communication. Truth alone is not enough to influence a generation, let alone a hundred people on a Sunday. Revelation truth is better but still not enough. It needs to be communicated in a way that opens the hearts and minds of the listeners.
Communication is the bridge that spans the diversity of age, culture and maturity and changes churches from being ineffective catapult specialists that chuck things at people, to being excellent distributors of pallets of wisdom and power.
Why do we put up with teachers who can’t teach, preachers who can’t preach and people devoid of inspiration? If they’re on the curve of learning – fair enough, but if it’s out of our lack of ability to correct them, there is something seriously wrong. They might be lovin’ it, but we’re not. Sometimes, however, we allow boring to continue simply out of respect for the person who’s making us bored! Respect is one thing that ought not singlehandedly dominate the landscape of our church, creating untouchable people who have lost their inability to be corrected. ‘That’s what they’ve always done’, and ‘Don’t you know who it is?’ doesn’t mean that the people have to put up with it. People end up voting with their feet, so it’s time for a crackdown!
The prime enemies of communication are …
1. Lack of passion. We don’t want 21 points of information. We want to see a heart empassioned by the subject that’s being taught.
2. Lack of windows. Each point needs an observational illustration or ultimately a personal illustration. Our services need that personal touch.
3. Lack of focus. We don’t like longwinded and we don’t like pet doctrines and phobias and philosophies. We want focus, not dribble.
4. Lack of humour. We want to swallow a truth and then have a little drink – NOT swallow, swallow, swallow.
5. Lack of sincerity. There is no such thing as a boring personality. Every person, whether they represent the rolling hills of Sweden or the Alps of Switzerland, are captivating to the human race. It’s the lack of sincerity to their God-given personality that people can easily sniff out and then switch off to. People want and need authenticity.
Song Sung Blue
99% of songs we use in church services are disposable. Like a good razorblade, they’re great for a season then simply need throwing away. An overused song is a blunt song and a blunt song is an ineffective tool for worship. Why is it that so many churches insist on dragging out songs that took a minute to write, have lost their magic and no longer trigger a fresh response to God? Often laziness is the answer! A lazy church is a boring church – no sharpness to sharpen, no zippiness to zip and no excellence to excel.
It’s time for new songs to roll off the production line – fresh great lyrics, great new chord progressions and great new orchestration. It doesn’t have to be rocket science – just doing the best with what’s available.
How to draw a crowd
‘Same old same old’ is often the recipe for the day – same songs, same prayers, same announcements and the same people doing the same things. Variety is the spice of life. Being unpredictably unpredictable is the recipe for creativity. Creativity is a gift that needs to rise from the ashes of church life. I don’t mean bring back Christian mime artists being trapped in boxes, or weird prophetic dance – just simple, intelligent, applicable creativity that creates freshness, sharpness and an immediacy that makes people sit up and listen.
Jesus said repeatedly “To those who have ears to hear, let them hear what the Spirit is saying!” Our leadership must apply itself to that connection between the message, the messenger and the man. We’ve got to help people listen.
Here’s a list of 10 golden rules for pastors and leaders that are designed to ban ‘boring’ forever. They deal specifically with the issues of freshness, originality, creativity and gripping authenticity.
1. You must immediately stop faking it!
You must be the same person in public as you are in private – and the other way round – you must be the same in private as you are in public! No more changing your voice with an American twang upon entering the pulpit. I know it’s tempting – but the best stuff comes from being the real you!
2. You must immediately stop doing karaoke!
Stop nicking other people’s thoughts, scriptures, ideas and strategies – get your own (or at least give them time to become your own!). Stop saying stuff that isn’t really true – it’s someone else’s spin to get people to do their own pet doctrines. Get your own attitude, slant, agenda and revelation!
3. You must immediately stop being so limp!
Stop being so nice, so accommodating, so accepting and so accessible! There’s a lot of stuff in church life that just shouldn’t be going on. Sure, we’re called to think the best, but as leaders we’re also called to protect the flock. It’s time to reel in the vagrants and say no to the super spirituals amongst us. A bit of discernment wouldn’t go astray.
4. You must immediately stop saying ‘someday’!
It’s all ‘yes’ unless God says ‘no’. What are you waiting for? Nothing in the kingdom costs that much that you can’t make a start on it! Nothing is too difficult that you can’t simplify and make the first step towards its completion. You don’t need another feasibility study, community survey or fundraising venture. Just get started and if you get wind of God’s disapproval – then stop … but not until!
5. You must immediately stop doubting your call!
Sure, we’ve all got a huge list of unfulfilled prophecies – some of which it is actually too late to fulfil. The truth, however, is that God’s word has never come unstuck, never had an error in it and never been given without a forthcoming accomplishment. It is for us then to conclude that some prophecies that people have been given have not come from God! Let’s not get hung up on that. It was their sheer enthusiasm to bless you that made them slip into ‘imagination mode’. Does it really matter? God’s real word will be fulfilled – and there’s enough of that to satisfy everyone. Don’t lose faith! Get your zip back and let’s stir up some of those creative juices for another fresh season in God.
6. You must immediately stop looking so nerdy!
Why is it that pastors and elders look so bad? Unhealthy, overweight, badly dressed … it’s time to get reinvented! It all comes from our modern day version of ‘spirituality’. True spirituality actually incorporates personal health and well being! Often a fresh start in life is required not only internally but externally. Everyone else is joining the 21st century – why not you? Time to bin those boring suits and go for something with a zing!
7. You must immediately say what needs to be said!
There is someone right now who is on your core team who is either dragging their feet, doubting the vision, acting independently or not in right spirit. If you don’t address it – it will get worse, not better. Get some courage and a faithful supporter and go for it – you’ve nothing to lose. There’s nothing more dulling than leaders not leading!
8. You must immediately stop comparing yourself to others!
It’s not helpful. You are a frontier minister operating where no man or woman has gone before! If you’ve been called to break open the wild west, why compare yourself to someone called to build on already populated fields? Who’s the best – Timothy, Eunice or Lois? Answer – all are equal parts of the chain.
9. You must immediately stop being a conference junky!
Conferences are good but too many are a waste! If you’re like me – the temptation to imitate becomes too strong if you’re always inundated with other voices. Leaders aren’t just listeners or readers – they’re thinkers! It’s time to do some original thinking.
10. You must immediately stop being so serious!
It’s time to not be overly sincere, a little too worthy and a bit too overly serious. You’ll burn out! A sense of humour is God’s release valve to help you overcome the emotional intensity of some pretty serious stuff. Maybe it’s time to switch off God Channel and switch on Catherine Tait. Some light relief will bring back the sparkle you’ve been desperately lacking in!
The best primary teachers are also the best entertainers. The best university lecturers are also the best entertainers. The best preachers are also the best entertainers. Jesus was thoroughly entertaining. He captured people’s attention, created intrigue, drew crowds wherever He went, then went on to create disciples.
The one thing our church ministries lack is the one thing that Jesus was a master of – attracting the crowds. It’s time to mix our life giving, wisdom enhanced, anointed ministries with a good dose of entertainment. There are boxes full of creative ideas that are yet to be unlocked over every single thing we do that will in turn attract a whole new batch of listeners and learners. It’s your prerogative to find those boxes and pour out their contents.
It’s time to entertain!