Lights. Cameras. Action.

I could be talking about the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon;  I could be talking about U2 in concert;  Or, I could be talking about your local Sunday morning worship service.

And in many ways these days, there's an increasing lack of difference between the two.

A dozen or so people may appear on stage on any given Sunday.  But for those dozen people appearing on stage, there is a supporting cast consisting of dozens more that are making the entire performance possible week after week.

Increasingly, churches no longer just have worship leaders and choir directors.  They have executive musicians, creative directors, audio/video technicians, graphic artists, and just about everything else that you need to pull off a full blown live production of a TV quality show or musical concert.

Worship has become a form of entertainment.

You may not pick up on it, but you hear it in the voice of every pastor who stands up and says "We guarantee the exact same experience at all 5 of our worship experiences this weekend!"

Oh really?  I'm glad.  Jesus and the apostles never did such a thing.  And with my busy life, I wouldn't want to miss out on something, as if coming to church were no different than watching my favorite TV show.  I would hate to think another church service heard a different set of songs than I got to hear.

And churches know that in order to compete with the church down the street, they will have to pull out a more elaborate production.  These are the "worship wars" of the early 21st century.

Worship has become an event to be performed and a commodity to be packaged and sold instead of a faithful expression of the locally gathered communion of the saints, who corporately assemble together to worship the Lord, and to allow heaven and earth to be bridged together in Him as they stand in His presence and minister.

Worship has become a thing for young hipster artists to perform, instead of a service offered to God by consecrated priests who know what it is like to minister to the Lord and to one another.

Gone are the little old ladies with a special song in their heart.  Instead, American Idol rejects literally dot our church stages all across the country and have taken their place.  Many of them know how to perform, and they will gladly do so for a few bucks (because it's probably one of the few musical "gigs" that they can make regular money from), but few understand how to minister as a priest standing before God.  Few understand how to bring heaven and earth together.  Instead, they know how to create sensual and emotionally manipulative environments, in which they substitute fog machines for the Holy Spirit.  And they measure success by the size of the crowd, how many people put their arms up in the air and sing along, and how many people bought this year's CD...  just like you would at a U2 concert.

Real priests aren't fooled by such things.  They know there is an utter simplicity in worship, and that God shows up powerfully in the everyday normal-ness of life.  They aren't as concerned about the size of the crowd as they are about what happens whenever two or three gather together in the name of the Lord.

They know stories involving guys like the biblical patriarch Jacob, who was simply camping out one night while on a journey, and woke up the next morning after having an amazing dream in which he saw a stairway linking heaven and earth together, and concluding "the Lord is in this place."  As a result, he built a makeshift altar of sacrifice from the rock he was sleeping on from the night before.  He used what was simply on hand and what was what was just laying around.  And he called that place Bethel, or "The House of God." It became a notable place of worship for centuries to come, yet it was very unassuming and unimpressive in every sense of the word.  But God was there!

Simplicity, not extravagance, should be the hallmark of our churches and our worship experiences.  

Worship services should consist, not of elaborate productions with professional musicians and top talent imported from afar, but of amateur saints who have grown up together in the local community, and simply want to share Christ together in mutual celebration.

Anything else might just be worship-tainment.

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