The Masquerade of Giant Church Inc

The lights faded to black. The place was dark except for the mini floor lights lining the aisles. Ashley, Kim, and Anna stood in front of their seats and stared at the stage. The crowd was quiet for the most part. Anna looked over at the other two, “Where’s the band?” Finally, the spotlights hit the stage, smoke swirled around the band members, and the music started. 

Kim screamed, “Oh my God, I love this song!” The girls sang every word to the top of their lungs like the rest of the crowd. The music blared over the audience; the drumbeat thumped in every heart. A faint smell of vanilla filled the place. The stage backdrop looked like an ode to the old school video game of Tetris. Huge square tiles of glowing purple, green, blue, and teal flashed in sync with the music. 

Merch and Everything

Some of the younger people stood right in front of the stage and reached their hands out toward the band members. The band leader yelled to the crowd, “Clap your hands, jump for joy!” The crowd moved together as one. When it was over they each bought band t-shirts and stickers. The music was awesome. The girls told their friends about it and went back again.  

We now have a Christian entertainment industry that is masquerading as worship. How do we attend in reverence and awe before the Holy One of Israel when so much of our worship culture focuses on amusement, diversion, and gratification? I don’t know the answer, but it is clearly one of the realities of our congregational life.

Richard Foster, Christianity today, February 4, 2009

Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline, wrote that twelve years ago in an article for Christianity Today. Twelve years ago! Since then, this kind of worship has grown exponentially. Giant Church Inc is even more entertaining today. The newest technologies in video, sound, and other creative elements turn our sanctuaries into concert venues. In the same article, Foster points out another issue: the consumeristic mentality that plagues the church. He wrote, “It is a mentality that keeps the individual front and center: ‘I want what I want, when I want it, and to the measure I want it.'” 

No Smoke and Flashing Lights Necessary

I spent time with new friends recently. Each morning and evening we gathered in the chapel. When the time came to sing, the leader walked to the back of the chapel to play the piano. She led the rest of us in praise as we glanced back and forth from lyrics in our worship guides to the high circular window centered at the front of the chapel or to the cross underneath. The purity of the piano with our voices, the truth and beauty of the lyrics, the way we entered into the reading of Scripture, and our corporate prayer helped turn my heart toward Jesus.

We ended our time singing the Doxology. Just our voices…. singing praise to the One from whom all blessings flow.

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
John 4:23-24 ESV

Photo by Pien Muller on Unsplash

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  1. Dyann Shepard on December 2, 2021 at 2:53 pm

    Thank you, Marie for addressing this issue. I am saddened by the stirring of emotions in place of stirring the heart to follow Jesus and Him only. Dyann

    • marieg on December 2, 2021 at 3:00 pm

      Me too, Dyann. It’s all some of us within the church have ever known. Emotion equals worship and they can’t imagine it any other way. I know because I did it, too.

  2. Paul Tuttle on December 5, 2021 at 8:33 pm

    You’re raising good and important questions. Beware smug self-righteousness as it could derail the effectiveness of your contributions to a much larger conversation.

    • marieg on December 5, 2021 at 8:52 pm

      Thank you for your comment and for understanding that I write to prompt questions and helpful conversations about how we are making disciples.

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