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March 28th, 2007

by Craig Groeschel

40 comments (+ Add)

It Shouldn’t Matter, But… (Part 3)

In the church world, entertainment shouldn’t even be a consideration. God’s Word and His presence should be enough. I want to believe that with all my heart. (And my wife would stand by the statement forever.)

Entertainment shouldn’t matter. But sometimes it does.

The Church must recognize that we are competing for people’s attention. If you’re a church leader, your competition isn’t First Baptist Church, Shadow Valley Community Church or Holy Zion Apostolic Temple of Praise.

Your competition is:

  • The golf course
  • Snow skiing
  • The lake house
  • Sunday soccer games
  • Second Life
  • Mountain climbing
  • Sleeping in
  • American idol, Desperate Housewives, and 24
  • And a million other entertaining things

In the 1950’s, people were paying attention to the church and our message about Christ. We didn’t have to work to gain attention. The year is 2007 and things have changed.

I’ll be honest, I don’t like to think about how to gain and keep people’s attention with humor, suspense, stories, video etc. But a wise communicator and leader understands that in today’s world, even though entertainment shouldn’t matter, when it comes to getting and keeping someone’s attention to hear about Jesus, it often does.

(For the record, I’m not saying entertainment changes lives. It doesn’t and never will.)

I know many of you disagree. Let it rip!

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  1. Mar 28, 2007 at 6:47 am


    I completely get what you’re saying. In fact, I’d really make a case for needing to know about and understand all of the things you’ve mentioned. However, I think that to understand the church in ‘competition’ with those things could potentially fail to communicate the centrality of the gospel.

    The gospel stands alone and nothing else can compare or compete with its power to change lives. I think in proclaiming the gospel, we should be culturally aware and engaging, absolutely. However, while not being against having quality and enjoyment in a gathering of the believers and not killing people with unnecessary boredom, it has a danger to ask the question at the end of your services: “How did we compete?” v. “Were we faithful to Jesus?”

    Again, being faithful to Jesus means not just holding theological convictions, but taking those convictions in a practical, culturally relevant way to the people you’re called to reach, as the person God gifted you to be. I hope you understand and am not suggesting you don’t think these things, just that there is a danger (even if just for the readers of this post) to lean more toward the mindset of competition than faithfulness.


  2. Mar 28, 2007 at 6:54 am

    Craig, though many will disagree, I think you are right on. The church does compete with so many other things, especially in the lives of people who don’t know or love Jesus. To give up part of the weekend to come hear a boring message is not attractive to people. Of course the Spirit can overcome this and capture people’s hearts regardless, but why shouldn’t we remove as many roadblocks as possible.

  3. Mar 28, 2007 at 8:01 am

    I think entertainment value is an important asset to have to encourage Christ followers to invite their friends to church. I also feel sometimes it is important even for the very young believer to have his/her attention held until he/she has been firmly rooted in their faith.

  4. 4Phil Rapp
    Mar 28, 2007 at 8:29 am

    I have to agree with your comment that the church is “competing for people’s attention”. We are not competing with the message, but for people to hear the message you have to first have their attention. I don’t see that there is anything wrong with doing anything short of sin to get their attention so that they will hear the gospel.

    Pastors and church goers are always concerned about losing people to other churches, so they don’t like it when someone else has found something that attracts people. But shouldn’t our concern be more for the people who are not already in the church? They are the ones for whom we have to work the hardest at competing for their attention.

  5. 5Rocket
    Mar 28, 2007 at 8:34 am

    Who says being entertained is a bad thing. I think we kind of start with this preconceived idea that it is a wrongful act to entertain someone. It is true that Jesus refused to perform miracles on demand for the religious types just to entertain them. But on the other hand, He told entertaining stories to the common people to gain their attention and teach His message. I believe the biggest problem with entertaining today is that the entertainers (preachers, singers and worship leaders) become idols for the crowd.

  6. 6Larry Clayton
    Mar 28, 2007 at 8:37 am

    I was a kid that “grew up” in church, but most of the time, I was bored out of my mind. I drew pictures on the offering envelopes and daydreamed. I fought sleep every service. I never took much, if anything away from a Sunday.

    I totally agree that we need to do whatever possible to capture and keep people’s attention. Anything short of sin!

    People have different pathways that they connect with God. For me, it’s worship. So any enhancement (lights, affects, even a guitar solo), makes the experience that much better for me. For many others, their pathway is through people, so when we use jokes and stories, they relate, and they are connecting with God.

  7. Mar 28, 2007 at 8:43 am

    If one person needs a more entertaining message, filled with humor and poignant insight, to recognize his or her longing to be made whole through Christ…then an entertainer we all should be. If someone wouldn’t listen to the gospel of Christ but loved tap-dancing, I’d make clickity-clack noises while I talked.

    But Paul certainly said it better:

    “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” 1 Cor. 22 - 23

    Even though we may all not want something to matter in regards to helping someone become a disciple of Christ, odds are it matters and coule help at least one person.

    And knowing that, it should matter and become important to all of us. Ultimately, it often comes down to humility and an eagerness to do the work of God.

  8. Mar 28, 2007 at 8:45 am

    Right on! Entertain can be defined as “to hold the attention of an audience or participants.” I hope many would agree this is what we must do as we present the Truth. Let’s hold their attention, drive them to the Truth, and allow God to do what only He can… change lives. Thanks for the reminder Craig.

  9. 9brandon
    Mar 28, 2007 at 8:45 am

    The gospel is both beautiful and offensive. I wonder if trying to entertain people and trying to keep their attention has come in the way of telling the true gospel. There is no one righteous, no one is good enough, no one deserves heaven. The wages of sin is death, that is what we deserve, DEATH. That is offensive. So many people package up Jesus in a pretty little package and say “try Jesus, he will make your life better” People must know that they are a sinner in order to know their need for a saviour. I dont know what this has to do with entertainment accept i think we focus to much on our ability to win people for Christ instead of the supernatural power of God.

  10. Mar 28, 2007 at 9:00 am

    I think the opposite of entertainment is boredom. I think it was Rick Warren who said it is a sin to bore people with the gospel. Jesus was the most interesting attention getting speaker there ever was. He was captivating. And when you read how worship was done in the old testament you see how it was rehearsed and polished you cant help but conclude that it was awe inspiring. We have the greatest story every told - are we striving to tell it with excellence and in a captivating way? If not - we should look for another job.

  11. Mar 28, 2007 at 9:01 am

    Truth is always the truth. If we change it… it is no longer truth. I guess the question is. Do we want to give them the truth and hope they stay awake to get it? Or do we want to give them the truth and keep them engaged with the Truth. It really is up to us.
    God just gave us the Truth, He expects us to communicate it. We can’t blame God if people fall asleep during our presentations of His truth. In fact… it might be close to a sin to turn the amazing Word of God into a sleeping pill. I don’t know.

  12. 13Rocket
    Mar 28, 2007 at 9:06 am

    I agree that preaching an uncompromising message and keeping peoples’ attention do NOt have to be mutually exclusive. One best things I learned in college was that the first and only unforgivable sin in public speaking was to be boring.

  13. Mar 28, 2007 at 9:13 am

    [...] In the third post he deals with entertainment and says, “In the church world, entertainment shouldn’t even be a consideration. God’s Word and His presence should be enough.” But our culture and people’s infatuation with entertainment has changed things. I’ll be honest, I don’t like to think about how to gain and keep people’s attention with humor, suspense, stories, video etc. But a wise communicator and leader understands that in today’s world, even though entertainment shouldn’t matter, when it comes to getting and keeping someone’s attention to hear about Jesus, it often does. [...]

  14. 15Danny
    Mar 28, 2007 at 9:26 am

    I quess the question then is entertainment a sin? If not then can it be used as a tool? If its only a tool it is ment to make life easier, such as get the gospel out more easily to the public.

    The way things look and feel has always influenced people Christian or non christian. In history I hear it tell of a Tzar that sent out representatives to all known parts of the world in his day. They happen to come across one relgion to them that seemed to be like heaven, and no other religion compared to it they described it like heaven it so impressed them they decided to turn the whole nation towards that one religion. I do not remember from the history listen if they were concern about beliefs just what they saw and felt. I understand there is a story of the Queen of Sheba in the bible that states the very same thing.

    I think God wanted everything boring He would have made heaven a boring place, but from its description its anything but that.

  15. Mar 28, 2007 at 9:43 am

    Craig, I could not agree more. When the light bulb went off in our minds that the competition was not other churches but was sleeping late, the golf course, shopping, etc., the game changed for us. For people to give up their Sunday habits to come to Catalyst means they have to see us as better and more valuable than what they normally do during that time. That is a huge challenge. Call it entertainment or creativity or strategy, or whatever you want. We’ll do what it takes to get people to church. And when they get there, they don’t want it soft and feel good. They want it to make a difference.

  16. Mar 28, 2007 at 9:52 am

    Totally agree that we are competing with the kinds of things you list. But a real question to consider is ‘HOW do we compete with these things?’ We shouldn’t necessarily compete by relying on the same tools. E.g. Gideon’s army was competing against a rival army, but they didn’t go ‘head to head.’ They came at them through the side door, so to speak.

    One problem (of several) with competing against entertainment by using the tools of entertainment is that American Idol and 24 will always have bigger budgets. Churches in general will lose the arms race to studios if the tools of the competition are the same for both sides.

  17. Mar 28, 2007 at 10:02 am

    I really think one of the big downsides to Scripture is we never get a really good look at Jesus sense of humor. I bet He used it from time to time. I bet He commented alot on the culture of the day. I bet He used any and every source available to Him at that time as a teaching tool. He obviously told stories. He pointed things out. He forced people to engage the word in light of the culture. Some may view it as entertainment. But everything, and I mean everything, can and will be used as a method to help people engage Jesus and the word of God and the way of Biblical living. Great post and threads.

  18. 19Robert
    Mar 28, 2007 at 10:26 am

    Whether we like it or not, we find ourselves in a culture that values consumerism and entertainment above almost everything. Our culture constantly says entertain me, because if I’m bored I will find something else. Often a product doesn’t have to be the best in its market, simply the most entertaining or appealing. Take for instance Starbucks. I enjoy great coffee, and while Starbucks has good coffee, there are dozens of other coffee places that have better coffee, yet most people pay $4 for the mediocre coffee, and great atmosphere and marketing of Starbucks.

    How do we wrestle with this in the church culture? Thats a difficult one. I have seen MANY churches take the idea of entertaining too far. And when the personality driving the entertainment leaves, for whatever reason, the church implodes. I’ve also seen churches react in the other direction, not trying to make there services appealing, and they don’t draw a crowd or the crowd they have leaves for something else. So in a word we have to stop riding the pendulum from 1 side to the other, and find the happy middle; where the entertainment is not the draw, but the support for the message. Yeah provide a reason for people to come, but ensure the message doesn’t get lost in the hype…

  19. Mar 28, 2007 at 10:30 am

    This reminds me of the story of the man driving down a country road when he saw a farmer hit his donkey between the eyes with a 2X4. He stopped and asked, “You mean you have to do that to get him to do what you want?” The farmer replied, “No, I have to do that to get his attention.” We have to compete with other options people have for their discretionary time. But as I said in a post to a previous entry in this series, once you have their attention you must present the TRUTH in love and a “non-boring” way.

  20. Mar 28, 2007 at 10:45 am

    I have heard you say before, (and it is something I try to live by as a speaker)…to take the life changing message of Jesus and put people to sleep with it, is a sin.

    Right on!!

  21. Mar 28, 2007 at 10:52 am

    At the risk of sounding like a charismatic (oh wait, I am), I think the entertainment vs. not-entertainment issue is somewhat beside the point. Yes, using multimedia, good space design, catchy marketing, effective presentation, quality music, etc. is all important from the perspective of human communication and organization methods. But, really, our #1 job as the Church isn’t to convince people of anything through mere words. Our job is to pray, pray, pray, pray, and then pray some more, for the Holy Spirit’s awesome Presence to permeate not only our church services but our very lives every day. It’s the Spirit’s job to convict people of sin, reveal to them God’s Glory, and bring them into fruitful relationship with the Creator. We can’t do that ourselves.

    If a church service is boring, then something is missing. Let me tell you this: when God shows up, it’s never, ever boring.

  22. 23Nate Neben
    Mar 28, 2007 at 10:54 am

    I agree that this is a tough issue. I can understand both sides. I know Jesus was a very powerful speaker, and the fact that he healed people and fed them for free didn’t hurt his following and could be construed as ‘manipulation’ by some. And Paul says, (1 Corinthians 9:19 )

    19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

    But by our standards today, some would say, “What he(Jesus) needed to do back then was to rent out the Colosseum, hire a few gladiators, put on a show (aka ‘Medival Times’) then preach the Gospel. Wouldn’t that reach more people??????? Think of the crowds he could draw on a Saturday night!!! (and if only 1 were saved it would be worth it)

    Think about it.

    Jesus didn’t do that. All he had was the truth. And he didn’t go to to get the best and brightest marketing people to run his campaign either. He picked out fishermen, nobodys and even one who was PERSECUTING his own message. These people did not only become loyal, they DIED for his truth. We have to be very careful when we doubt God’s power to bring people to himself through the WORD alone.

    Think about it…

  23. 24Jason
    Mar 28, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    Interesting post — definitely some stuff to chew on.

    Dave — it was Jim Rayburn who said, “It’s a sin to bore a kid with the Gospel”. Rayburn was the founder of Young Life.

  24. Mar 28, 2007 at 1:55 pm


    The Holy Spirit works through people also to compel others to become Christ followers. When we fail to recognize what is going on around us (most churches do), we lose out to more interesting and exciting things people choose to do.

  25. Mar 28, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    I’m in school right now finishing a business degree and a college student…buddy of mine…posted this to a discussion I was having on marketing…

    Here is what he said…

    Churches not only have to compete against other churches, they also have to compete with the myriad of other activities that people could be engaging in (instead of going to church).

    People are looking for an experience, they want to feel good about where they are and what they are doing and who they are doing it with. When the event is over, they want to have positive reflections about it. This is true about going to church, going out to dinner, hanging with friends, or participating in a social group. If it isn’t fun, interesting or personally enriching or if it doesn’t “feel right”, most people won’t continue the activity.

  26. Mar 28, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    I think that entertainment is nothing more than being relevant. A compelling moving service that is not only inspiring but enjoyable will hopefully convince those who don’t regularly attend church to come back. Probably the most controversial part about entertainment in the church is the aspect of performance. This is where we all strive to make sure that it’s all about Jesus and not about how talented we are. Unfortunately there are many church folk that hop from church to church out of preference for the way the service is conducted. Or what about how church folks respond after a good or bad sermon or worship time?

    Quite frankly I think that the only people that would have a problem with entertainment in the church are those whose salvation is already secure. Those who aren’t following Christ wouldn’t have a problem with it because they haven’t been properly schooled by church folk that it’s a bad thing.

  27. Mar 28, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    It used to drive me crazy that my youngest son would start looking past me with eyes wandering about the room when i was trying to discuss a serious topic with him … he loved Lego building blocks at the time…. so in desperation once, i grabbed a bright colored Lego block and stuck it on top my head. I immediately had his attention. He ultimately got the truth that i was trying to convey as well as a little entertainment from dad… i think the same principle applies here.

  28. Mar 28, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    I think everyone would have to agree that being boring on any level is unacceptable. I think the real dilemma arises when we attempt to define how far away from boring we physically or mentally allow the Church, our Pastor, or friends to go…

    I find it amusing that there is an imaginary boring vs. entertainment scale that exists in the minds of some Church members. I also find it amusing that within this imaginary scale there are appropriate and inappropriate man made zones in which Churches apparently have the right and authority to operate.

    All of us have a fleshly desire to be comfortable. I think we all have a tendency, at times, to force our own agendas on those around us for our own self protecting purposes.

    It has been my experience that the majority of criticisms against entertainment in the church have to due with one’s own personal comfort zones. It rarely has much to do with the target audience…

  29. Mar 28, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    This is a great series! The fact is none of this should matter. But when we are reaching out to the lost we are not reaching born-again, baptized believers who are theological scholars that have mastered the art of righteous living. We are reaching out to a carnal nation who have found the pleasures of American society and the vast of array of entertainment sources to occupy their time, talents and treasures.

    The people here in Nashville, TN are accustomed to the most excellent choices avalable for entertainment, hobbies and activities. If we the church completely ignore the expectations people have grown accustomed to we are setting ourselves up to speak to a very empty crowd. I know you, and many of us, believe that the extracurriculars won’t save this generation, but it may gain their attention until they hear the saving Grace that will.

    Thanks Brother


  30. Mar 28, 2007 at 6:05 pm

    If you are surrendered to Jesus, there is no competition. Chirst is number 1, and always will be. There is only competition in the life of the un-saved and non believer, which is sad but true. I suspect that is why you are correct, Craig.

    ps: Don’t look now Craig, but you are becoming quite the blogging guru! I’m impressed, brother! :)

  31. 32chris
    Mar 28, 2007 at 8:05 pm

    While there is some great dialogue going on here, I thought I might show you this link:

    It’s about a church in the UK that is doing church in a nightclub. People attending are free to drink and eat while the service runs. The Pastor is saying it’s a way to connect with young people in todays world and in current culture. Have a read of the article to get a better description.

    Personally, I’m not sure about the whole drinking thing while doing church - not that I have a problem with having a beer. I just think that in today’s society where there are major alcohol problems - ruining lives, families and friends, I wouldn’t want to encourage more of it.

    Doing church in a nightclub - sounds interesting - not sure how it would work but sounds interesting! I know of a lot of young adult ministries that go to clubs simply to connect with other young adults, build a relationship with them and hopefully see them connect to God.

    Is this entertainment gone to far? Or is it fine? Where do you draw the line? What are your thoughts?


  32. Mar 28, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    This has been mentioned in other replies, but I want to reiterate the fact that enteraining people in church is not a bad thing. However, when the entertainers (musicians, speaker, creative elements, etc.) become the focus of attention, that’s where the true problem is found.

    That’s where it is absolutely critical to have leaders on both sides of the lights who consistently point people to Christ and take the focus off themselves. It only takes one “atta boy” for some people to puff up and become proud.

    It’s not about entertaining or not entertaining…Jesus entertained with parables and creative teaching. But, Jesus always pointed people back to His heavenly Father. So, the real issue is, are our “entertainers” in the local church pointing people back to the heavenly Father? Sadly, there are way too many church leaders today who are enjoying their own huge success and not giving credit where credit is due.

  33. 34Terry G
    Mar 28, 2007 at 9:47 pm

    Speaking just for myself, the reason I keep coming back to LifeChurch is not the entertainment or the worship leaders or any of the other things that can be found there in the way of perks.

    The thing that drew me in and addicted me is the fact that I get the unvarnished and sometimes Ugly truth..(by Ugly I mean I’m a sinner in desperate need of a savior). The messages are delivered in a way that I can understand, absorb and use to make changes.

    Fasting as an example. Chris did a fantastic job of helping me understand the purposes of Fasting. I’ve been able to absorb and understand more in the 2 years I’ve been a member than any other time in my life.

    I think deep down people know there’s a void in their lives and it’s a Christ shaped void… keep giving them the information they need about that void and they’ll keep wanting more information.

  34. Mar 29, 2007 at 9:43 am

    Absolutely agree.

    Jesus told parables. Did he do this to be all mysterious? No, he did it because he knew people would listen to stories better than they would straight teaching.

  35. Mar 31, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    I appreciate this post. I completely agree, and this seems to be a common area of tension in the church. You summed it up very well.

  36. Apr 1, 2007 at 7:15 am

    I guess I get to be the one to disagree…

    I really don’t have a problem with the church designing the services to be entertaining, but what is the driving reason behind doing so? Is it because of a perceived competition with, say, the golf course?

    I really don’t think we are in competition with anything…well, maybe with our own desires to be good at what we do. I don’t see the golf course as competition, I see it as a mission field. Rather than try to get people to come in off of the golf course with clever marketing tricks and entertainment, why not do what Jesus commissioned us to do and go to the golf course and spread the good news? Better yet, why not teach our people to do the the same?

    I guess that it is, possibly, a matter of perspective. I simply don’t see the golf course, or anything else for that matter, as competition for the church. I see these things as a mission field, our mission field. Let’s go and make disciples first, then we can worry about their fellowship and whatnot.

  37. Apr 2, 2007 at 2:22 am

    The problem I found is:

    “Most Christians are happier said than done”.

    We always hold back on the joy factor in Church like it’s such a big sin to let it out. Of course we get that being in God’s presence, but God uses the music and etc. to make it fun or etertaining even. I believe God gave the music for instance so people wouldn’t be so uptight and be more relaxed when coming to Him.

    So what’s wrong with a Church being etertaining? It would only be wrong if it had no difference with the world’s entertainment and that our message was not getting across. We just need to stay true to our calling. I myself backslid out of Church years ago because it simply bored me to death. I thought it was hypocrisy that these Christians were telling me there was real joy in being one but found myself asking “oh yeah, where?” when inside the Church.

    I’m in the Philippines btw. and here, it’s a real battle to combat dead worship or dry and boring services. Everyone seems to ignore or not admit that it’s there or they just try and live with it. Well I say no to that. At my Church, we get stoned alot for using entertainment. How do we fight this deadness if we’re not gonna be more etertaining? When we leaders do what we do at our church youth service(make noise, jump, get holy crazy etc.), it’s not just because we want to entertain the young people, but we ourselves are finding it etertaining to us so that’s why we’re like that.I think a good lesson I saw was that you don’t just do it for them(those you’re reaching out to) but you do it also for yourself, I mean like how you gonna etertain them if you’re not happy yourself? So you’re suppose to get some sort of kick out of it too without being too selfish bout it. I also figured, at least we’d be more convincing when we say there is joy in God’s presence when we look like it. I realy found that people find it more etertaining seeing something real.

    I hope whatever I shared made sense because theres sure alot of things I’ve got to say about the matter. I’ll just end by saying I totally agree Ptr. Craig. It shouldn’t matter, but it sure really does look like it.

  38. Apr 2, 2007 at 10:04 pm

    I think entertainment plays a huge role in delivering the message. It allows people to relate to the message better and gives the listeners a better understanding of what the preacher is trying to say.

    Back in Jesus’ time he used stories (parables) to preach to the people, because that’s what they would listen to and it helped them to understand the message.

    I think when we share it’s important that we go down to their level of understanding (and most of the time this will involve their interests or what they do), rather than sticking to our ‘holy thy art’ language. (Taking it to the extreme here to convey my point.)

  39. Apr 5, 2007 at 8:48 pm

    [...] A couple of weeks ago, Craig Groeschel from had a series of posts entitled “It Shouldn’t Matter, But…?  Craig referred to the worship environment, clothes, and yes – entertainment. (more here)  In an over-crowded world of consumerism, sometimes you have to entertain to capture people’s attention.  Gimmicks, coffee, donuts, music… isn’t it worth it to lead others to Christ?  [...]