Worshiptainment: Why Heretical Methods Are as Dangerous as Heretical Messages

Is it so wrong for churchgoers to want to be entertained while they are edified?

The great heresy of the church today is that we think we’re in the entertainment business. A.W. Tozer believed this to be true back in the 1950s and ’60s. Church members “want to be entertained while they are edified.” He said that in 1962. Tozer grieved, even then, that it was “scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction was God.”*

More recently, David Platt has asked: “What if we take away the cool music and the cushioned chairs? What if the screens are gone and the stage is no longer decorated? What if the air conditioning is off and the comforts are removed? Would His Word still be enough for his people to come together?” (Radical)

Would it be enough?

Tozer got it right: “Heresy of method may be as deadly as heresy of message.”


Like Tozer, we should be concerned that so many people in our churches want to be entertained while they worship. We should be concerned when we no longer recognize the difference between the two. And we should be concerned by the growing belief that adding more entertainment value to worship is necessary for the church to accomplish its mission.

I may stand alone, but it grieves me when I see worship services characterized more by props, performances and pep rally atmospheres than by any sense of divine sacredness; and hallowedness giving way to shallowness.

This is not about worship styles. The issue is not traditional versus contemporary versus blended worship. It’s not about organ versus worship band. That discussion misses the point completely. This is about the heart and focus and intent of worship. The real issues, for me, are these:

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1. Who or what is the spotlight really on?
If the figurative spotlight in our church services is on anyone other than God, it is not worship. If the spotlight shines brighter on human performance than on the gospel of Christ, it is not worship. If anyone other than Jesus is receiving our adulation and applause, it is not God we worship.

2. What message are we communicating?
The message of the church—the message the world needs to hear from us—is not, “Come and have a good time,” “Come and be entertained” or “Come and find your best life now.”

Tozer said: “Christ calls men to carry a cross; we call them to have fun in His name.”

The message of the church is the message of the cross. Lest we forget, Jesus’ cross was a source of entertainment only for those who mocked Him as He hung on it.

3. How are lives changed?
“But our methods are attracting and winning people!” some will say.

Tozer addressed that sentiment: “Winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the world’s treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total committal to Christ?”


David Platt and the church he pastored, The Church at Brook Hills, decided to try to answer the question, “Is His Word still enough for His people to come together?” They stripped away the entertainment value and invited people to come simply to study God’s Word. They called it Secret Church. They set a date—on a Friday night—when they would gather from 6:00 in the evening until midnight, and for six hours they would do nothing but study God’s Word and pray. People came. A thousand people came the first time and it grew from that. Soon, they had to start taking reservations because the church was packed full. Secret Church now draws tens of thousands of people via simulcast in over 50 countries around the world—with no entertainment, no bells and whistles or smoke machines.

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Why do they come? Platt explained in an interview: “People are hungry for the Word. There’s really nothing special or creative about it. It’s just the study of the Word …. The Word itself does the work!”

People are hungry. They are hungry for a diet of substance, not candy. More of the Word. Deeper into the Word. Less of what Tozer called “religious toys and trifles.”

Mike Livingstone
Mike is an editor of Bible study materials at LifeWay Christian Resources, a position he has held since 1992. Prior to coming to LifeWay, he served as a pastor and as a church developer in Kenya. A graduate of Union University, Liberty University, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Mike leads a weekly Bible study at his church and blogs at mikelivingstone.com. Find him on Twitter: @m_livingstone.
  • Joe Bloggs

    Cornflake pocket theology again… Maybe we should sing all the old hymns every week and ban creativity, just like the Taliban. Can’t be doing ‘passion’ and ‘expression’ now, can we?

    • Olecolonel

      You totally missed the point. The point is focused upon The Word. If you can have a band, and video, and lights, and present the Word, go for it. I find that when you add all that together with turning off the lights in the auditorium, the people set back and seek to be entertained instead of listening and participating in worship.

    • Flamian Art

      I perceive you’re a person who enjoys contemporary worship music, nothing wrong with that as it has already been noted. My concern really is how you have responded to the article, your comment isn’t constructive in any way and I find it offensive, it makes me wonder about your spirituality. We have been given grace, which none of us has deserved so that we may extend that grace to one another. As a Christian, which I think you are, we must always strive to speak with grace, mercy and love in mind.

      Deep within the article is the call to love and commitment to the Word of God. Mike is simply saying that if we are to worship God in spirit and truth, we must then do that by not adding unnecessary things which has the potential of taking our our object of worship, God, away. How could you miss that and attack Mike like you did? That wasn’t wise of you my friend. It would have actually been better for you if you had stayed silent and kept your views to yourself. God must absolutely reign in all things.