In her weekly column, Grace Notes, Nancy Kennedy, the religion writer for our local Citrus County Chronicle related this story about visiting a church one Christmas Eve.
When we walked into the church we were met with people holding out trays of chocolate-dipped, oversized marshmallows.
Then, as we entered the sanctuary that was all decked out with a strobe light, disco ball and huge, red, triangular trees and found a seat, out came a robot.
The service began with a 4-foot-tall, voice-activated robot onstage with the pastor, performing tricks: “Go forward.” “Go backward.” “Dance.”
The robot was to be raffled off to some lucky person at the end of the service.
The pastor gave a message, but it was lost in all the flashy, clever videos, the loud music with synchronized lighting – and a bug-eyed robot.
Nancy said that whenever they drive by that church, which she’s dubbed the “robot church,” her husband says she starts growling.
“Why can’t we just have Jesus?” she sincerely laments. “Isn’t he enough?”
The question raised is a good one. Especially in view of mega churches that will be putting on elaborate productions.
One church in Plano Texas advertizes their annual “Gift of Christmas” production as “eye popping” and a “visually stunning multimedia event.” It has a live orchestra, featuring nearly a 1000 member cast and choir. Flying angels. Camels and Kings. “Bold lighting” and “elaborate staging.” And a State-of-the-art, high-resolution video technology with a massive LED video wall.”
Like Nancy Kennedy, we ask, “Why can’t we just have Jesus?”
Sadly, for many people His lowly birth, humble life, call for commitment and cross-bearing will be lost in the glitz and glamour of a Hollywood-type extravaganza.
Jesus came and promised His disciples an “abundant life” (Jn. 10:10). Forgiveness of sin. Peace of mind. Fellowship in His family. Access to the Father. The gift of the Holy Spirit. Hope beyond the grave. And a heavenly home.
I wonder how often those mesmerized by the hype and hoopla surrounding events like those of the Texas church lose sight of the true blessedness Jesus offers.
A carnival like approach to Christianity won’t bring one soul closer to the Lord. It won’t teach one sinner the saving message of the gospel. It won’t help a single disciple learn the cost of discipleship, or joy of service, or the need for sacrifice. It may draw large crowds. But won’t save a single soul or edify the saved.
John 6 records an occasion of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish. As a result many began following Jesus. However, He recognized their carnality and superficial interest when he said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (v. 26).
Jesus didn’t perform the miracle to satiate the appetite of hungry people. Rather it was to prove His Deity. He wasn’t trying to win their hearts by fleshly means. He wasn’t trying to attract followers with material enticements.
As a result, when he used the occasion to teach them about the spiritual bread that was more important, and imparted truths that were hard to accept, the Bible says, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (Jn. 6:66).
There’s an excellent lesson here for preachers, pastors and churches to learn. The means of attracting people to Jesus ought to be…well…Jesus.
Gimmicks and games will not replace the power of the gospel. Nor should we obscure and overshadow the person of Jesus with flashing lights and video technology.
The apostle Paul reminds us that “all spiritual blessings are in Christ (Eph. 1:3). Not in our ill-conceived promotional schemes.
“Why can’t we just have Jesus? Isn’t He enough?”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman