In too many churches today, comfort is replacing conviction, pragmatism is replacing preaching, and entertainment has replaced doctrine. We have "Christian" comedians, improv groups, clowns, mimes and magicians.
To bring in crowds, the pulpit has been changed into a stage, messages are kept short, upbeat and non-judgmental. The preacher no longer warns of hell, nor does he encourage holy separated living. He no longer addresses specific sins, lest he offend someone in the congregation. Congregations have been audiences to entertain. The offense of the cross has been replaced with an all-accepting church without standards.
As a "Gospel Magician," it may seem hypocritical for me to criticize entertainment in the church. I do not see my self as a "Christian entertainer," an oxymoron if I ever heard one. I do use object lessons, even "magical ones," to illustrate Bible truths and to create memorable messages. Our Lord Jesus used many object lessons. What I am against is the many churches that use entertainment, highly charged music programs and "motivational messages" to fill their church houses.
The church is a place set apart to worship the Lord and equip the saints. To make Sunday Morning a "celebration," and replace Wednesday evening prayer meeting with a show, defeats the purpose of the church to make disciples.
If you must use entertainment to fill your church, you are also going to need to keep upgrading your "shows" to keep them. There is always a better show up the street.
The church needs strong preaching of the Word of God. It should edify the believer, and bring conviction and action as the Holy Spirit speaks to broken hearts. Non-believers should feel welcome at our services, but never should they feel comfortable. Our services should glorify God, not satisfy the flesh.
Hymn sings, family programs, seminars and tasteful entertainment are great ways to reach out to our communities. It allows our neighbors to meet us in a relaxed atmosphere. It can open many doors to witness. But, when we come together as a church, it is to worship our Lord, not to make lost neighbors feel good about themselves and soft-sell the cross.
As a gospel magician, I see myself first and foremost as a preacher of the word, and a witness for my Lord. Sure, I'll do block parties and socials for churches, always finishing with the gospel. However, when teaching Sunday school, doing a vacation Bible school or other devotion, my message comes first. To teach, encourage, reprove and correct, I pick out appropriate verses and craft the message I believe the Lord would have me give. A few specifically selected illusions or other object lessons are chosen to help young people remember the message and to create better understanding. If they remember the tricks and not the message, I have failed the Lord, the church and myself.
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17 > Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
If your church is built on worldly things, be sure it is not of God. If your ministry as a "Gospel magician," "Christian conjurer," or evangelist is built on your talent and a good show, be sure also, this is not of God. All of us must strive to use our talents and gifts to glorify the Lord and lead sinners to repentance. May God bless you as you serve him faithfully.
Dennis Regling is a full-time youth evangelist. His website is http://www.bibledefender.com