Hello Pastor Jim,
I pray that this email finds you and your ministry well. I was recently asked if I would allow MIME ministry in the church. My sense is that this activity does nothing for the body of Christ and opens the door for all sort of other forms of entertainment. Would you explain your position on this ‘ministry’? Maybe I’m wrong in my assessment, but I just want to be right in what I expose to the people of the living God. Thanks in advance.
Thanks for taking the time to write. It’s always a great pleasure to hear from my preaching brethren.
Let me start by assuring you that you are not wrong in your assessment of entertainment-based activity in church. I contend that the encroachment of plays, mimes, clowns, jugglers, dance troops, etc. into church services has weakened our collective understanding of why we gather as a body in the first place.
The purpose of the church is twofold:
- The worship of God
- The edification of the saints.
So, what we have to ask ourselves is how something like mime can accomplish either task. I conclude that it cannot.
As for point number 1:
I realize that most of these so-called “ministries” claim that they create or present a “worship experience.” But, that’s logically impossible, since the attention of the congregation is focused on the performers, not on God In order to truly worship God, you must be able to concentrate your thoughts on Him. These days, the concept of worship has been replaced by the idea of “having an experience.” But, any exciting circumstance can create an experience. When a congregation is excited by a presentation of lights, music, smoke machines, special effects, etc. they leave thinking that they’ve “experienced” worship. What they’ve actually had was an emotional reaction to sensory stimuli. Their emotions were over-loaded (much like what happens to all of us when we watch television).
But, worship is active. Worship engages our hearts, our minds, our intellect, and our emotions. Worship is dependent on knowing whom we are worshiping and why we worship Him. Watching someone perform is the exact opposite of engaging in worship. Therefore, it is impossible for a performer to claim that his stage-act is a form of worship.
As for point number 2:
Entertaining the congregation is not the same as edifying the saints. Despite the fact that amusement has replaced education in most of our society, the church should be a place of edification where the saints are challenged to think, to consider the propositions of Scripture, and to consider the depth and breadth of God’s Word. And, as I like to point out, our English word “amuse” is simply the word for “think” — muse, with the alpha-negative before it — a-muse. It literally means “without thinking.” And there’s plenty of stuff happening in the modern evangelical church that fits that description.
I think what has happened historically within the church is that their ever-increasing budgets and huge overhead derailed their sense of purpose. Raising money is now more important than teaching/preaching or worship. Many, many churches live under the burden of keeping themselves afloat financially month-to-month, so they are forced to bring in every dollar they can lay claim to. And now they are fighting for the disposable income that families spend on entertainment. As a consequence, newer church buildings look more like Las Vegas theaters than they do places of worship. The platform doubles as a stage for Broadway-style productions. And that, sadly, is what people have come to expect. So, the bar is raised ever-higher as churches compete to attract new attendees who will pay premium prices to belong to the hippest church in town.
Of course, all that is diametrically opposite to the purpose of the church. While we are in the world, we are not to be of the world. And nowhere in Scripture do any of the authors endorse or engage in entertainment as a form of spreading the good news. To them, preaching the truth was of utmost importance. And, there is simply no way to contend that the gospel can be preached by people in white face make-up saying absolutely nothing. Plus, because no words are used in mime, the message is open to the interpretation of the individual audience member. So, there is no way to assure that the congregation received any consistent telling of any gospel truth.
I recall a few years ago, one of the big entertainment churches here in Nashville advertised that they would be having a mime troupe appearing at their Easter Sunday service to mime the Easter story. This event was the banner headline in the Tennessean newspaper. “Two Rivers Baptist Church Welcomes Mime For Easter Sunday!” That was when I knew the church had completely lost its focus. After all, the Bible tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10:17). So, on Easter Sunday, the most popular church-going Sunday of the year, the one day when the most visitors were likely to attend, one of Nashville’s largest churches had a guy on the platform who said nothing at all. It was unbelievable.
Consequent to all this, we have huge church buildings in every city that are filled with Biblically-ignorant folk who actually think Christianity is about feeling good and being entertained. The message of redemption from sin has all-but-disappeared and the need of a Savior has become secondary to simply feeling positively about yourself.
So, I’ve taken a firm stand against “showbiz church.” There is no room for performing in church. The focus and center of attention must remain on God and His Christ. Everywhere else in the world we have people vying to be celebrities. The church is the last place where that sort of activity ought to go on. I don’t even like it when the man in the pulpit starts performing. And most of these traveling entertainment troupes want to sell their CD’s or DVD’s in the foyer of the church after the performance in order to raise more money. I can only imagine what Jesus would say. He chased out the money changers and the church invited them back in. According to 2 Peter 2, one of the evidences that a man is a false prophet is that he will “make merchandise” of the church. That practice now runs rampant and the biblically-ignorant congregations gladly throw their money at the very people who are leading them astray. It’s a mess.
I don’t mean to sound harsh, but I sometimes wonder what goes on in the minds and hearts of pastors who chase after every new trend in the modern church. At what point did they decide that the gospel of Jesus Christ was not sufficient to attract and maintain a congregation of believers? What made them think that plays, dancers, puppets, surround-sound, mimes, clowns, stick-ministry, and all that other silly stuff would improve the simple and profound message of the gospel? And, to my way of thinking, people who will not attend church unless they get worldly entertainment are not truly seeking Christ. They’re seeking those things that satisfy their flesh.
It comes down to this:
“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent? even as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good things!” (Rom. 10:14-15)
If people are not being told about Christ and the necessity of His work then they will never call on Him. No matter how professionally a mime does his work, he can never replace the necessity of preaching. And if a mime cannot adequately and clearly convey the message of the gospel (which he can’t), then what is he doing in front of a church congregation? Let him sell his wares out in the marketplace of entertainment. Let the church preach the Word.
And I agree with you that opening the door a little can let in all sorts of diverse programs that are very hard to extricate once the congregation has become accustomed to them. A little leaven, as we know, leavens the whole lump. I would rather fight the unpopular fight of maintaining Christian integrity.
My words to you would be the same as Paul’s to Timothy:
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2Tim. 4:1-5)
Yours for His sake,