Part 1 of this brief series–”The Prolonged Suicide of the SBC”–can be found here.
1. What will virtually fix the Problem – Let me be clear about what I am saying and what I am not saying. I am saying that fun should not be part of our worship services or any other time when the word of God is being taught. This does not mean that a joke is out of the question, but the joke should point to truth instead of entertaining the people because “they have short attention spans” or because they will not listen otherwise. Now, this does not mean that we cannot have fun in learning about the Lord, but it does mean that the enjoyment that takes place must be because of the LORD, not because of something else we have brought in because our people will not listen to the word of God without it. In other words, we do our people no good, actually great harm, when we cater to their idolatry, regardless their age. When a Christian says, “I will not listen to the Word of God, unless ___________,” he reveals his idolatry.
Now, I’m not ridiculous. I realize that a two to six year old is going to have a hard time sitting and listening to detailed exposition for very long. What I am simply suggesting is that they have at least 5-10 minutes of exposition in their classes. The rest of the time can be spent having fellowship, doing crafts, coloring Bible stories, praying, and learning songs that bring glory to the Lord. There is nothing inherently wrong with the various fun activities in and of themselves; the problem is that we are not preparing these children to eventually love the word of God because it’s the word of God. Furthermore, this amount of time that emphasizes God’s word alone should increase as these children get older. Once children understand their responsibility to listen to God’s word because it is God’s word, the teaching time must be as much like a normal worship service as possible.
Now, I am not saying that having fun is wrong at every other activity of the church. I think churches should have an awesome time in fellowship, encouraging one another in the Lord. The problem is that we think our worship services and teaching times should be fun for the same reason a stand-up comedian is fun to watch. The word of God demands our attention… and to preach and teach it as if people are “incapable of listening” is something the world has taught us. I believe we can have a blast in every other area of church life, including our evangelistic activities, but the secular fun must not touch our teaching or our worship. This is not arbitrary for God has told us in His word the source of salvation and the means of salvation; and the salvation of souls and growth of Christians are not bound up in how much fun they have in the worship services or classes, but in how much they understand and submit to the word of God. When God’s word is not the emphasis, how can this possibly help us arrive at pointing the lost and Christians to a love for God and His word? Don’t misunderstand me, I want people walking away from our worship services and study times having enjoyed the Lord, but I have failed my people if they leave thinking, “what a funny guy,” or “what a great preacher,” etc. To those who use “secular fun” in their teaching and/or preaching, do you believe you succeed when people enjoy the lesson, but not the word of God and not the God who the lesson is about? God must be on their thoughts and hearts when they leave our worship services and classes. That should be the goal.
2. What will help the problem – Even if you disagree with my emphasis on taking “secular fun” out of worship and teaching, can we at least agree that the word of God must be studied because it’s the word of God, not because it is somehow tied into or similar to a Seinfeld episode? If we change nothing about our worship services and how we teach our children and adults, but we at least start demanding–based on the authority of the Word of God–that Christians listen to God’s word because when it speaks God Speaks, then we will be taking a step in the right direction.
Furthermore, we have learned from the world that children only have a 10 to 20 minute attention span. Listen to me, and listen good… at the point their attention span runs out, that is when they must make themselves listen. “Children have short attention spans” simply means that they can listen with little effort for a short length of time. Thus, the emphasis must be that once their effortless listening runs out, they need to make the effort to continue listening, for “thus says the Lord”! I mean, do we really believe that listening to God’s word and Christianity as a whole in general is effortless? The Scriptures do not compel us to pursue obedience in only the areas of our lives that take little effort. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). We must teach our children to follow the Jesus of Scripture, not some pseudo-jesus we’ve created so that unrepentant sinners will find him easier to believe in.
I hope this article has encouraged you to examine the methods you use in teaching and preaching.
What are your thoughts?