This isn’t a talent show

Recently at a church service, someone from the platform hit a sour note during praise and worship.  My wife elbowed me and made a sour face, and without thinking I said “Its not a talent show!”  I didn’t intend to be rude to my wife, I was thinking the same thing that she was regarding the malformed melody.  Blurting out as I did, it seems my comment was directed as much at me as it was to Stephanie.  I have often been caught up in the audience / performer mentality.  I believe we are in an entertainment seeking culture with television, movies, the Internet, and the many other non-interactive media forms we have heaped upon us in the last several decades.  I’ve often found myself deciding on whither a preacher was ‘good’ or not based on how entertaining he was.  I have had conversations where I commented that “if they can’t sing, they shouldn’t be on the platform”.  The problem is, church as I see it was not designed to be an entertainment outlet – and I repent for treating as such.

A friend of mine recently started a house church, due in part to the condition of the traditional church model as an entertainment venue.  He has ‘meetings’ instead of ‘services’, and in a recent post on his blog he pointed out the difference.  As I understood him, services are based on an entertainment model with a platform of performers and an audience of spectators but meetings are expected to be participatory (  I’m not sure how well the ‘meeting’ model would work in the traditional church service with a few hundred people in the same room, but that’s his point (as I understand it).

Is the traditional church model effective?  How does the traditional church affect the world around it?  I believe the local church building does have importance in our world today.  It can be an anchor in a community in a way that I do not believe a home based church can.  Still, the need to connect on a personal level is very real and a home based church makes a greater demand for that connection on its members.  By reducing the size of the congregation, the entertainer/entertainee dynamic is almost completely removed. 

The problem I see is our ability to affect change on a large scale is reduced when we reduce our mass (pun intended).  Ten people in a house church are easily ignored by a politician deciding how to vote on an abortion bill, and while the outreach would be significant to those that did receive it from a small house church, the impact that can be made in the community by a larger congregation is obvious.  In either case – we need more churches, traditional, non-traditional, large and small, in homes or in buildings – we need more churches.  To quote an entertaining preacher that I once knew, Hell is real and eternality is long – so I again repent for treating the church as another entertainment source.  It’s not a talent show.

3 replies on “This isn’t a talent show”

As the friend referred to I will post the same points I did in on my site. I believe if you must have a building is should not be built to be a church but a community outreach building that happens to house your meetings.

Also there is no reason that a group of house churches can not be connected for the larger activities, but it again becomes a question of quality over quantity. Just because you have 1000 people doesn’t mean it is good outreach, one of the points of the house church model as I understand it so far is that it forces everyone to be involved, so you don’t have people sitting on the sidelines, at least in theory.

I’ll start by saying that I’ve been to few church services in the last several decades. As a child and young adult I attended many.

During my college years I attended with my family the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C.. For the most part I was very enamored – touched and challenged – by the preaching of Dr. Docherty (whose name I have no doubt just misspelled). However, I realized at some point that aside from it being a family event I went to church mainly for the music.

I did not look upon the music as entertainment. The music was another of God’s voices. That particular voice reassured a not atypically troubled college student that in spite of the alienation common to that age I was connected. Connected to Bach. Connected to a tradition of worship. Connected to the Christ. And connected to my family.

On television, but never in person, I have seen churches that give entertainment a place of prominence in the service. My view of such churches is that they make up for unchallenging sermons by adding some glitz. What comes to mind are The Crystal Cathedral of Robert Schuller and the absolute ersatz “church” of TBN’s “Praise The Lord” broadcasts.

Certainly who I am now and my particular Christian faith are products of how I was raised and the religion to which I was exposed as a youth. Who I am now wants to tell the congregation of “entertaining” churches that a well coifed pastor who knows his best camera angles might not be the best guide on your journey along the Christ’s path. And I write this because I am not moved by what I see in entertaining churches.

So, I must also write that each of us, regardless of how we became what we are today, will enrich our lives and our walks by finding the Christian fellowship and adventure – with or without entertainment – that leads us toward God.


There are “traditional” churches around who have embraced the community aspect of true Christianity. The church we are now members of (Radiant Life AG, Dublin) really has found ways to incorporate personal outreach and relationships through weekly and monthly home and church groups and through involving the church attenders in larger “outreach” events which are advertised to the public (Tribute to Veterans in July, Soccerfest in the fall, 3-4 staged productions a year, etc.). The church is growing steadily, and is currently in the 500-600 average attendance range with seating for approx. 900 available in the new facility. The solidifying factor that I have seen which sets our church apart from other “large” churches I have attended is that the pastoral staff makes it a point to be available and real. There is also a HUGE emphasis on family, and volunteer activities are structured on schedules which intentionally limit over-committing. The worship service is also unique in that leadership is shared among many different persons (while still being directed by a senior pastor) so that you have less “burn-out” and less focus on the personalities and talents of individuals (rotating worship leadership and choir solos, pastor has regular guest speakers etc.)

I think that moderation in all things has been left out in a lot of church settings and what is missing in most places of worship–be it home-based or a cathedral–is balance. The realization that our relationship with Christ and by extension our religious experience should be incorporated as an integral part of life and not just fulfillment of obligatory service–in participation or observation–is a truism which is often sited but rarely lived.

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