“[It] is not that television is entertaining but that it has made entertainment itself the natural format for the representation of all experience. […] The problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject matter but that all subject matter is presented as entertaining. (87)”
–Amusing Ourselves To Death by Neil Postman
These words by Neil Postman have proven to be characteristic of our age. We long for entertainment and fear boredom. This has dramatically affected the way we educate. Material must be presented in ways that grab and keep the attention.
I don’t believe we should ever seek to be boring, but the reality is that if everything we deliver or teach has to be exciting, then its relevancy will be based not on truth, but on whether it entertained. The topic which is most exciting will be deemed as the topic that is most important.
Our entertainment driven culture has no doubt affected the way we do church. And in some ways, it should. We should learn to be engaging and learn how to tell better stories from the pulpit. The danger however, is when we feel the need to make the next church service more enthralling than the last one. When we do so, we forget the purpose of why we are at church to begin with as well as portray a false image of what it means to follow Christ.
The reality of life, and even the Christian life, is that it is not all entertainment. Some of it is rather ordinary. And some of it is a bit of work. On a Sunday morning, the sermon you hear in church might not be as exciting as the one you heard the week before. This is okay and needed. If we begin to think that Christianity and church is about a quick enjoyment of a worship service, then we have missed the heart of what it means to follow Christ.
Following Christ is about being conformed into his image (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 4:24). This means we live a life formed by the cross as we walk humbly in obedience to God, sacrificially loving and serving those around us. This is not always easy nor glamourous. As Tim Chester has written, living for Christ involves learning to wash the dishes.
You should not think however, that though our lives are filled with the ordinary, that they will be void of joy. Christ has come to give us life. And when we see the life he has given us, we will recognize all things we do as permeated by His grace. Washing dishes provides us with the opportunity to consider others. Being obedient, though difficult, will be seen in light of God’s purpose for all of humanity. Our lives will become ones in which we trust God with the mundane and understand that it is through the ordinary that God sometimes chooses to do the extraordinary.
Christianity is more than an entertaining experience. I’m not saying that we don’t or can’t experience God, but if we begin to buy into our media saturated culture and reduce following Christ to just an experience which is valued only by it’s entertainment value, then I’m afraid we will begin to stop making disciples. Instead, we will be producing consumers.
We must therefore, move beyond amusement into amazement; amazement of what God has done for us through Christ. And for this to happen, we must trust, beyond our methods, the Spirit of God. Paul, when he preached in Corinth, made the following statement: And my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (1 Cor. 2:4-5). We do well to do the same!