The Church Is Not A Show

March 25, 2012

David Sorn

When we treat the church like a show, we act like patrons instead of participants.

The Church Is Not A Show

March 25, 2012

David Sorn

When we treat the church like a show, we act like patrons instead of participants.


Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.

I’ve learned over time that I have a love/hate relationship with Action movies.

I like them. I like when stuff happens in movies. The plot moves along…there’s adventure, suspense, etc.

But, you ever watch a movie where there was too much action?

Like, one of the main characters gets killed, and you don’t even care, cuz you can’t even remember what his name was or who he was anyway?

Some action movies are like that.

Non-stop action…and no substance.

I like manly movies just as much as the next guy, but I also like movies that are well done.

Don’t hate me for saying this, but I remember watching Transformers 2 in the theater and being bored.

I’m pretty sure there were 25 minutes of nonstop intergalactic robot killing…and often all action and no substance doesn’t’ work.


Sometimes…I feel like our churches in America have just become a bad action movie.

A lot of stuff going on in the service… But no substance.

We draw the people in…but then we just entertain them.

It’s been one of the more interesting movements on the church in the last 25 years.

The exponential growth of technology is well documented in today’s world.

Anybody familiar with “Moore’s Law?

It’s the concept that technology (esp. computer technology) doubles every 18-24 months

And, in a way, change in the church has looked fairly similar…because a lot of what we are able to do is connected with technology.

Let’s go back in time 50 years.

Some of you can do that literally and remember it.

Others of you have to imagine.

But what the average church looked like 50 years ago is fairly different from the average church looks like today.

But, let’s go back to the year 1200.

How much do you think the church changed from 1200 to 1250?

Not as much.

Now, I don’t want to downplay church history because at certain times, there were key theological changes that happened, which resulted in major changes.

For instance, the church looked incredibly different in 1550 than it did in 1500.

Because in 1517, Martin Luther famously posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg, and The Protestant Reformation began.

But we are living right now the in a “Technology Reformation.”

Which has given churches an incredible amount of options to look and act differently.

And with all of this technology available to us…I’m not so sure the church in America has stewarded it all that well.

Because we went to come to church and Encounter God.

To come into his presence

(Psalm 16:11) – NIV

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

The fullness of joy is IN HIS PRESENCE.

That’s where we find joy and life.

But instead of bringing people directly into the presence of God, all too often, churches in America are merely entertaining people on Sunday mornings.

Smoke and light shows, hilarious videos with out a point, and some funny stand up routine.

And people leave feeling good about it.

Well, that was fun!

We’re not letting people find the fullness of joy in HIS presence, we’re letting them find the cheapness of temporary happiness via entertainment

Unlike in previous generations, we have an ability to entertain people today more than we ever have before.

The Church can easily become an entertainment complex…and merely A SHOW for people to watch.

But it’s not A SHOW

And when we let it become an entertainment complex, when we let it become A SHOW, people forget the purpose of church.

We forget what it’s all about.

I think part of the problem is we’ve walked too far away from the concept of reverence in worship.

We want to make it fun and upbeat and engaging.

And like in a lot of things, we overreact.

It’s the pendulum theory.

I taught this theory a lot in the first year of the church, but it’s the theory that essentially all throughout history, humans overreact.

We overcorrect like a teenager driving in the snow

You can see it in American politics, fashion, style, cars, anything.

We swing to one side, and then we go, “Well that’s not right, that’s not cool….”

And we quickly swing all the way back to the other side without ever just living in the middle

And much of the evangelical church is REACTING to REVERENCE being boring.

The idea that to just sit and honor God in Holy Fear and Reverence is boring!

“Let’s ROCK OUT!!!!”

And too much of the Evangelical church in America has swung so far away from Silent Reverence, that they ended up at the complete other side: ENTERTAINMENT

It’s like an action movie with no substance.

We allow people to just WATCH A SHOW and not have to encounter the majesty of God.

But look at this principle from Jeremiah

(Jeremiah 29:13) – NIV

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

But if we’re just letting our people watch a show, they aren’t seeking Him, they’re not encountering Him and then nothing’s happening!

(Psalm 19:14) – NIV

14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

But we barely even let people’s hearts mediate on God any more because they’re so distracted by the nonstop glam & glitz

I had the opportunity last Friday to go to a Greek Orthodox service

The Orthodox Church split with the Catholic Church in the year 1054, about 500 years before the Protestant Reformation.

It’s incredibly traditional.

The service was in a beautiful church, and was mostly chantings and readings done by the priest or a reader/chanter.

There was no band, no starbucks coffee, no videos, no SCREEN, no computers…

Just a priest, a lot of incense being waved around, lot of icons, and lot of readings.

Now, are there some holes in this system? Sure.

First and foremost: It’s unbelievably hard to reach people with the Gospel when the service is so foreign from anything in their normal life, and they can’t follow along with the most basic things

And it wasn’t the most engaging thing in the world.

However, the idea that I was there to worship a big and holy God was easily communicated.

There weren’t a lot of things to distract me from it in worship.

It was easy to be reverent for God.

But all too often in America, the Evangelical church has swung so far to the other side that we can’t even remember what worship is all about

Let me read you a passage from the Bible that describes a moment of worship (helpful to get Biblical perspective and picture of the sort of worship we should have)

This is when Solomon finished building the temple and God’s presence came down to dwell among them.

They’ve been worshipping and saying, “He is good! His love endures forever!”

And then this happens:

(2 Chronicles 7:6) - NIV

6 The priests took their positions, as did the Levites with the LORD’s musical instruments, which King David had made for praising the LORD and which were used when he gave thanks, saying, “His love endures forever.” Opposite the Levites, the priests blew their trumpets, and all the Israelites were standing.


Then someone from the crowd stood up and declared, “I don’t really like this song…could we sing a different one?”

Ok, that last verse was fake. J

That’s ridiculous right?!?

It’s God’s moment! He’s coming down to the Temple. It’s about Him. It’s not about us. And what we would like.

But here’s the deal: It’s always God’s moment.

The Church revolves around Him. Worship revolves around Him. Not us and our preferences.

When we walk into worship, it’s never been about us and what we would like to see or hear or sing.

It’s just simply the fact that we’re here to worship the king of the world who redeemed us from hell

But when we think church is A SHOW…it’s pretty easy to quickly forget that we’re HERE to WORSHIP HIM…not for someone else to entertain us.


But you could say, well then, why don’t we get rid of it all? Get rid of the screens! The guitars! Let’s just put up a cross and sing acapella together!

That’s REAL WORSHIP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m not gonna say a lot on this because I’ve talked about this before, but I want to address it briefly.

In fact, I believe maybe my favorite message I ever gave at this church was on this subject.

You can watch it online at our website if you want.

We did a series called “Church Teeter Totters” where we talked about how to balance issues in the church

And in our message called, “Entertainment vs. Authenticity” we talked about the balance of reverence in worship with what people call Entertainment.

But here’s the thing, and I’ll keep this point brief.

This is missions 101. Whenever you go into a culture, you use the culture to reach people.

Missionaries don’t go to Indonesia and just have everyone sing accapella because it’s MORE REVERANT.

NO, they use the music and culture of Indonesia.

It’s no different here. Absolutely no different.

We’ve got to ask. What’s the music culture of Minnesota in 2012?

That’s how we are going to best connect people in this culture to worship in church.

However, then…THEN…we walk this incredibly thin line of using the culture (it’s a teeter totter), of using the music and media of the culture while still creating a space for people to worship God.

Because as soon as we GET IN THE WAY, and start to just entertain…then we’ve gone too far.

And I know a lot of people aren’t saying this, but I believe a balance is possible.

I believe we can use the tools of this culture and still powerfully worship God.

And it’s a balance…

Zach’s probably not going to ever jump off the stage and into the crowd here.

We’re not going to be using fog machines anytime soon.

We’re not gonna be doing videos just because they’re funny, or secular songs just be they’re cool.

Because we’re NOT here to entertain you. It’s not a SHOW

We’re here to connect you with the LIVING GOD!

But are we going to use current music? Yeah. Current styles? Current instruments? Current media? Yes!

We’re trying to reach people for Christ in 2012, not 1974.

Does that make sense? It’s a balance!


But there’s another serious implication of thinking church is A SHOW

On the one hand, thinking it’s a show or entertainment to be watched seriously diminishes our ability to engage God in worship.

It really limits the chances of you engaging your mind, your heart, your soul on an amazing God in worship.

It limits the chances of you truly Encountering Him.

But there’s another negative ramification as well.

Let me explain.

I may or may not have went to a certain “all the rage” movie at Coon Rapids Showplace Theater yesterday.

Now, when you go to a Movie Theater, a SHOW if you will…, you’re a patron…a customer.

So, when I show up there. I’m not expecting to jump behind the counter and make my own popcorn.

I’m gonna hand you some money and make me some popcorn!

And, I’ll take a 74 ounce Mello Yello. Now!

And when I get in the theater, I’m NOT gonna walk up to the tiny room that no one’s ever seen and start the movie myself.

Start it for me!

It’s a patron mentality.

Some of you, in the theater, even go as far as, it’s too much for you to take your ginormo-sized popcorn bucket and throw it away on the way out. “Oh, They’ll pick it up. It’s their job.”

I’m a patron!

And here’s what happens.

When we start thinking the church is a show, we’re going to treat it like a show.

“OH…it’s entertainment. I don’t need to do anything. This is a production they’re putting on for MY benefit.”

But this is a NOT a SHOW. It’s a CHURCH.

And God is not calling you to be a PATRON, but a PARTICIPANT!

I mentioned last week that I feel that we actually are doing decent at Renovation Church on some of these subjects, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t slip back on it.

Especially in a growing church with a lot of new people.

And in the past year, we’ve done a pretty good job of establishing a PARTICIPANT Culture here at Renovation.

There are a lot of people serving here on a Sunday morning.

On an average Sunday, it takes 61 different volunteers to make all of this happen.

And when we go to 3 services for 4 weeks starting April 8th, it’ll take 80.

But hear me on this. We can’t get lazy.


The more success people have, the lazier they get.

This is a well-documented principle.

You can see it in sports.

Once teams win a championship a few times, they don’t practice as hard…they don’t try as hard.

Then there’s always another team that wants it more, and they lose.

You see it with different countries.

Part of the reason America isn’t as successful in education, in business, in you name it anymore, is because we’ve been on top for so long, we got a little lazy.

Success made us lazy.

And that can’t be Renovation Church.

We can’t sit back and say, “This is an incredible. 20 people to 250 in just over 2 years. Wow. It’s unreal. “

“You know…we worked really hard at this for 2 years, and now that it’s all coming together…let’s just sit back and enjoy the SHOW”

But it’s NOT A SHOW. This is a CHURCH.

And you are not a PATRON, you are a PARTICIPANT here.

And this is Not A CLUB, but a church with a VISION!

As you’ve maybe heard by now, we are fervently praying that God would awaken dormant hearts of this city in April.

We feel like God is calling us, starting on Easter on April 8th to go to 3 services for 4 weeks (9:00, 10:15, & 11:30), to reach as many people as possible.

It’s a bold call. And a bold step.

But something is disconcerting to me.

We’ve gotten so much positive feedback from our people on this.

“That’s amazing! I’m so pumped! It’s gonna be awesome!”

But yet, when we say, “Hey, this call of God on us is going to require more of us.. We need help. We need people in the parking lot, handing out Bibles afterwards, putting up signs…”

Only a handful of people respond.

Well, what is that?

That says to me…that even though we might think we’re not, we’re still stuck in a SHOW mentality.

That “THIS” is just just something that goes on that benefits…ME.

That everybody’s loving it and enjoying it and excited for it…but I’M not gonna do anything.

Someone else can get me popcorn and thrown away my bucket.

But we can not fulfill our vision, we can not reach this city on a “SHOW mentality”

What God is calling us to is going to take all of us…not just a few of us…while the rest of us sit back and enjoy THE SHOW.

We CAN NOT let success make us lazy.

So, here’s what I want you do. Right now. I know we never do this, but look under chair right now, and pick up the connection card.

If you’re a visitor today, tune me out for a moment. Just start working on your grocery list for later today or something.

But if you’ve been here a little while, if you would call Renovation home

Let me talk to you.

In fact, first, I need yet another group to tune me out

If you serve here… a lot…some of you on multiple teams, etc. Play Tetris on your phone or something.

But if you don’t, (or at least not much) and this is YOUR church, I want to ask you…what does that mean to you? The fact that “THIS is YOUR Church?”

Could you be stuck in “The SHOW” mentality?

Are you a Patron or a Participant?

OK, do you still have that connection card

Flip, your card over to where it says Prayer Requests.

I want you to write down where you’re gonna be a Participant

If you can help with our Parking Lot Team during April (it’s just April), write “Parking lot team”

If you can help hand out a Bible and a follow-up sheet to new believers in April, write “Follow-up team

If you can help put up street signs on the weekends (again, just in April), write “Street Signs”

If you will do anything, write, “Put me where you need me.”

And for those of you that have been here for a while, but you’re not serving anywhere yet…

If you want to start doing children’s ministry at our church, or ushering, or prayer team, or café, set-up, or lighting, or greeting.

Write it down.

Or for any of these things, stop by the table on the way out to get more info

I don’t know if I’ve been this direct on something like this before, but I don’t know if the timing has EVER...been…this…Critical before.

We simply are not going to change the world if we’re stuck in a SHOW mentality. It is not going to happen.

If we’re going to change the world. This HAS TO BE A CHURCH…NOT A SHOW.

YOU have to be a participant, not a patron.

There are no patrons in church. Just parts of the body doing different tasks.

We are 2 weeks away from asking God to do something crazy in our church.

Let’s not foolishly expect it’s gonna happen because everybody ELSE made it happen.

Let’s be the church that walks away from this 21st century “CHURCH IS A SHOW” mentality and walk into the old-school, Book of Acts, the Church is a Body of people ALL, ALL, ALL working together to change the world.

Cuz I’m not asking you just to fill slots here.

I’m asking you, I’m INVITING you, to be a part of something amazing. To be A PART of a church that’s changing the world.

I want to close my message this morning with a video on our vision for this city for next month.

Again, using the medium of the day… to craft a message. Not just to entertain. But a message worth following.

Let’s watch.


Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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