Within the context of church, entertainment and worship blend about as well as oil and water.
There's a shift in the winds of worship today that, although years in the making, is distinguishing truly Spirit-led churches from flesh-dominated ones. The schism isn't about what's the most effective style or model, though we continue to expend much time and energy arguing over these things. Instead, I believe it's a matter of offering.
In Leviticus 10:1-2, Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu "offered profane fire before the Lord" (NKJV) during a worship service. Other translations describe this fire as "strange," "unauthorized" or "unholy." Essentially, it didn't originate from God's manifest glory that dwelled in the tabernacle, as required by the Lord. Rather, the fire they used was common and everyday.
I fear too many churches in America today are acting like Aaron's careless sons when it comes to corporate times of worship. In the name of relevance and outreach, we've dragged into our houses the same "everyday" element that saturates our cultureÑnamely, a spirit of entertainment. The result is a church entertained by worship rather than enthralled in it.
Before I continue, let me clarify two things: First, we stand on the other side of our great High Priest's ultimate sacrifice, which means believers need not fear getting fried to a crispÑas Nadab and Abihu wereÑwhen we accidentally mistake what's birthed in God's glory for what isn't. Second, entertainment isn't inherently evil. But in this day, churches would do well to seek after God's glory rather than bigger audiences. This glory has never filled His house after people "entertained" Him (or others, for that matter), but when they worshiped Him. In fact, within the context of church, entertainment and worship blend about as well as oil and water.
For years seeker-sensitive churches have tried this mix, using weekend servicesÑand an "entertain 'em" approach to churchÑas evangelistic tools. There's nothing wrong with this outreach approach, as long as the core element of corporate worship isn't forsaken. Unfortunately, Willow Creek Community Church's recent re-evaluation of its model sheds light on how difficult this actually is to do over the long haul.
Seeker-sensitive churches aren't the only ones offering mixed fire. I know plenty of charismatically inclined congregations that, despite having powerful anointings for worship, prophecy and intercession, have turned these very things into performance and routine. What sent holy hushes over their congregations 10 years ago is now treated as everyday. Sadly, we've become experts at judging God's glory "falling" by the well-rehearsed swell or silence of music.
What excites me is the emerging generation of radical worshipers bent on seeing the real deal. Youths around the country are crying out for God's glory to change our nation, and they refuse to be numbed by the cultural entertainment blitz they face every day (see p. 36 for some great examples). But let me offer a warning: These young worshipers need fathers and mothers. They need mentors to model a lifestyle of worship rather than a stage performance of it.
We don't know exactly why Nadab and Abihu did what they did. What we do know is that, as appointed priests, they became so familiar with the atmosphere of worship that they treated it as everyday. Let's learn from their mistake and keep our worship pure, as an invitation to God's glory, rather than as entertainment.
Marcus Yoars is the editor of Ministry Today.