Church is not entertainment…
Those of us who live out of town sometimes take for granted just the ability to see the stars. There are many places in the world where you cannot see even a single star for the lights of the city, there are people who have never seen the milky way, the Big dipper, Orion’s belt or even the planets of our own solar system—have never seen a falling star or even a satellite streaking across the sky.
I’ve been camping even with people from Billings who marveled at seeing the Milky Way for the first time and I think: “How sad that you grew up not knowing what you were missing right above your head.” I know I never stop being amazed at the glory of the heavens as we are blessed to live far from any bright lights up on our hill in the middle of nowhere. Often we’ll come home late from somewhere, or when I’m leaving for work in the early morning and just look up on a clear night and say: “Wow.”
There is just nothing on this earth that compares to the grandeur of the lights the Lord has put in the heavens, especially knowing just how unimaginably far away and spread out all those lights are—and we are seeing but a tiny fraction of them.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1
Back on the Heyu-cow Ranch I used to go out in the evenings just before I went to bed during calving season to make the rounds to see if anything was calving. I would do a head count as the cows would all be bedded down in or near the barn for the night and if there were any missing I would know that they had gone off somewhere to calve so I would go look for them to make sure they didn’t need help.
I always loved being out there in the night because it just seemed like I could see every star in the heavens and after my eyes adjusted to the dark. Even without a moon I was always amazed at how much even just the stars would light things up. There was even a couple of years there when we had a couple of comets in the sky that were visible for weeks on end it. One year it was Hale Bopp and I don’t remember the name of the other one but they were both pretty awesome— this huge star with a big illuminated blur behind it that was the tail.
It must have been the late 90’s I guess. But anyway, I would head out into the pasture to find the cow with my flashlight and the moon and stars for a guide. I remember always wishing I could turn off the big security light we had near the house because, as nice as it was to have light right near the house, it just messed me up everywhere else.
I always had to be careful not to look back towards the house when I was out searching in the dark because even from a few hundred yards away, once my eyes had become good and adjusted to the dark, if I looked at that bright pinpoint of light in the distance it would hinder my ability to see anything between me and that light.
All I could see was that light of the lights from the house and nothing more than a few feet beyond. I really like not having one of those obnoxious security lights where we live now because I can walk right out the door and look up and see the stars, I don’t have to walk out away from that fake light.
When I had the power company install that light back at the ranch I thought: “Yeah, it will be nice to have a nice bright light out here.” And it is nice to be able to walk out and see the car or look out and see what might be prowling around too near the house, but what it really did was prevent us from being able to see the big picture. Ironically— the bigger the light the less you can see.
That’s why the big cites can’t see a single star in the heavens, they just have bright light after bright light on top of bright light: “Isn’t this grand, we have the whole city lit up and we can see everything!” No, you can’t. All you can see is what you have created, and what you have created is pretty paltry and pathetic compared to the glory of the heavens and the beauty of nature that has yet to be spoiled by anything that needs an artificial light to illuminate it with your garish light.
Maybe you’ve figured out where I’m going here. We build our churches and we build‘em big and beautiful. We do research and hire experts to figure out the best lighting to set the right mood in the various parts of the church, the best way to illuminate the worship team, the preacher. We spend thousands of dollars on spot lights, lasers, and things that go flash and change colors and create an environment that makes you say Wow! —as we appear out of the smoke like we just descended from heaven itself.
Many churches do not want any windows in the sanctuary because heaven forbid we should have any light coming in that we cannot control. And what do we get? An artificial glory, a pale representation of what is available if the Lord would just be welcome to reveal his glory.
Our paltry little lights leave us ignorant of the real glory of the heavens and even diminish our view. Our best attempts to glorify God are paltry and pathetic in comparison to what the Spirit of God can do himself if we just get out of the way.
…will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 2 Cor 2:8
The ministry of man is nothing compared to the ministry of the Spirit, the temple of this earth is but a representation of the true temple in heaven just as we are nothing but representatives of God. Sincere though we may be, empowered and anointed though we may be, it is still just a shadow of the real thing—no matter how hard we try to conjure up glory and inspire glory, we are looking through a glass darkly.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 1 Cor 13:12
I don’t fault the pastor or worship leaders for this, it’s the culture, and it is easy to get caught up in the technology of putting on the best show you can. But that’s the problem, it’s become a show, because that is what people expect, and pastors have come to believe that that is what keeps people coming back. It’s not just church leaders who need to rethink what it means to see the glory, so does the rest of the church.
Next time you are in church ask yourself: Why am I here?— Church is not entertainment, church is Jesus’ time to minister to us, so that we can be Jesus to the rest of the world—get out of his way and let him.