Entertainment Vs Worship
“Smells like a Teen spirit” was the American rock band Nirvana biggest song. It was dubbed “anthem for apathetic kids” of Generation X. Of interest to this article is the refrain of the song whose lyrics read;
With the lights out, it’s less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us
This week, I focus on the fourth of the five internal conflicts of a gospel artiste (based on my own experience) which is the entertainment versus worship dilemma.
As with the other conflicts I have already written about i.e. ministry vs industry, spirit led vs market driven and fame vs faith, this one too can be termed as a no-contest matter. Gospel music is meant to, above all else, deliver worship to the God of the Bible, the God of the gospel otherwise it is no gospel at all.
Nowhere in the Bible is entertainment forbidden. To laugh, sing, dance and be generally happy seem like a natural, God given desire lurking deep inside all of us and waiting for the slightest of moment in order to be expressed outwardly. Proverbs 17:22 says ‘A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.’ Part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is actually joy (Galatians 5:22) and it can be argued that entertainment serves to deposit joy in the otherwise humdrum life of the average Christian.
A few years back, it became apparent that churches (particularly metropolitan ones) needed to re-brand in an effort to attract more people for their services. The church was ‘boring’ to say the least and old ways of doing things i.e. a hymn here, a testimony there, a composed sermon, amateur worship leader and the self-taught, one-key-serves-all-songs keyboard players etc was not having the desired effect. Some ‘groove’ needed to be injected into the way things are done in order to provide some impetus to the house of God. Education and mass media (radio, TV and print) was transforming the average Kenyan into a complex individual with quickly evolving tastes and the church needed to play catch-up real quick or else it was doomed. One solution was to appeal to one of man’s most ubiquitous need; entertainment. Lo and behold the gospel artiste new role in this new order was that of a celebrity entertainer whose job is to lure the crowds back to church and the pastor will do the rest. It worked. The pews were filled with people expectant and eager only that their posture and predisposition can easily be captured in Smell Like a Teen Spirit refrain ‘here we are now, entertain us’.
Who am I kidding, we are African and the drums seem to resonate with our hips, sometime too perfectly. We have the rhythm built in us (save for one or two people I know whom I will not mention for obvious reason). The music is in us and it doesn’t take much to get us moving in sync with the beat. This is by all means God given. Right? So why don’t we, as gospel artistes appeal to the instinctive dance in all of us in the name of the Lord and while at it, fill the church with happy congregants? In any case King David danced before the Lord until his clothes fell off (though I am yet to find a scripture in the Bible that authenticate his clothes falling off).
Worship centered on the Triune God of the Bible is the highest undertaking of all creation, not just humans (Psalms 19:1-4). The first five commandments in Exodus 20:1-11 are to do with proper worship which God expected from His people Israel. God is not only worthy of worship (Revelation 4:11), but He expect… no… demand it (Romans 1:21) with dire consequences when we fail to deliver.
As gospel artistes our primary call is to use our gift of music to facilitate worship under the unction of the Holy Spirit. It does not get more gospel than that. Obviously worship is much more than singing emotionally charged songs. There is no doubt that dancing and celebration are included in worship according to the Holy Scriptures King David being a case in point 2 Samuel 6:14 but worship goes deeper. It is the dethroning of self, the capitulation of the body, soul and spirit at the feet of the all conquering Jesus Christ. It is the heart of man coming to terms with its meagerness and frailty in contrast with the awesomeness of God’s grandness, His power, love and truth. In a culture that abhors silence (the show must go on!), worship at times calls for stillness (Revelation 8:1) a silence that screams of the greatness of God beyond any human language or comprehension.
Though this is easier said and done, I challenge all gospel artistes (myself included) to leave entertainment to entertainers and focus on giving oneself to worship God. It is probably not as lucrative as entertaining but that’s because we are only taking into consideration our present life and not factoring eternity.
How do you tell the difference between entertainment and worship? Again, I do not have all the answers but if the people we are ministering to are more tired as a result of all the dancing rather than sick and tired of their sins, repentant and convicted by the Holy Spirit, we probably have been entertaining them. If the people we are ministering to end up being more enamored with themselves rather than consumed with a death-defying passion for Jesus Christ, we probably just entertained them. If they remember our names, lyrics, fashion e.t.c. more than they know scriptures then it is probably entertainment. It is a tragedy when those who love, enjoy and consume our music remain the same; song after song, album after album, concert after concert singing along and dancing to lyrics that have no life-transforming, destiny-defining, cross-embracing, eternity-securing, Christ-exalting, God-glorifying effect.
I speak, not as one who has already made it. I have my entertainment versus worship wars too. I came to the realisation that the world already has all the entertainment it needs (Nirvana and the like). They seek something else. Something that the world, money, power, pleasure, position can never offer. This is an encounter with the true God. Our job as gospel artistes is to organize a rendezvous. John 4:23 says “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers”. The assumption here is that as gospel artiste we have already met HIM prior otherwise we will gravitate to entertainers, spiritual baby sitters, keeping people occupied as they wait for the real thing – WORSHIP.
Join me next week for the last installment of the five internal conflicts of a gospel artiste.
Entertainment Vs Worship