During my sophomore year in college, I saw a movie that quickly became my favorite -- Gladiator. It's the story of Maximus, a former general in the Roman army who loses everything when Cesar Commodus murders his father, Marcus Aurelius, and takes over the Roman empire. It's a movie where Russell Crow brings to life the struggle, glory, and pain of the gladiator.
My favorite scene in the movie happens when Maximus mutilates the opposing fighters in the stadium. The crowd then reacts to Maximus’ barbaric act in an underwhelming shrug because of how commonplace blood lust was to them. Seeing the apathy of the crowd, Maximus throws his sword toward the box of noble men, screaming, “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!” Maximus understood at that moment that life and death had become shrug-worthy entertainment to the crowd.
As a pastor, I loathe the feeling of being an entertainer. Week after week, I pour my heart out from the pulpit to our church. I work hard to present Scripture in an intriguing way to both the young and old of our church. In many ways, stepping down from the pulpit on Sunday morning, I measure myself on whether or not I entertained the crowd. I know -- my job is to preach, reprove, rebuke, and train the people of God week in and out. I also know that if I am not interesting, if I do not entertain, then many people will not hear the truth of Scripture.
A few weeks ago, I invited a younger adult to our Wednesday night prayer meeting/Bible study. They responded by telling me that it was an old person’s event.
Our Wednesday night service is a bare bones service. We start by praying for our church, country, church needs, students, children, and many other things. After twenty minutes of prayer, we move to a verse by verse study through a book of the Bible.
There is nothing flashy about this service. It is a meat and potatoes worship experience.
I guess hearing that a bare bones time of prayer and study of Scripture was an old person’s event brought a bit sadness to my heart.
Deep in my emotions I wanted to take my iPad, toss it across the room, and scream, “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?! IS THIS NOT WHY YOU ARE HERE?!”
When did value of church become about the experience we have? When did the quality of church rest on the entertainment value it provided? When did the meat and potatoes of Scripture and prayer cease to be enough?
Perhaps the powerlessness of the American church is direct result of the fact that we find our power in experience of entertainment over the substance of God’s Spirit.
Here is a challenge for you this week… go to church to pray. Listen to your pastor to hear God’s Word, not just another funny illustration. Attend prayer meeting to join other saints in seeking God’s face.
If simple prayer and Bible study make for an old person’s service, it is done at the shame of the young. It’s time for a new generation to grow up. My generation, stop seeking to be entertained and start embracing the meat and potatoes of church.