Disney Church

By Wayne Jackson

There was a time in most churches when the services were focused upon worship that glorified God, and the preaching consisted of reverent instruction from the Scriptures. In some places, it’s still that way. On the other hand, drastic changes are underway in hundreds of churches across the land.

A recent article in World magazine addressed this phenomenon. Note this quote:

Nothing is more characteristic of evangelical church meetings at the end of the 20th century than their orientation to the consumer, especially the unchurched one. Churches decide what their “market niche” is; they study their “target audience”; they design the services to appeal to the consumer.

In a word, “worship” services have become “us-centered,” rather than “God-centered.”

Would you rather have your Sundays free to camp, play golf, or visit with family? Fine, we’ll implement a “quickie,” convenience-service for you at some other time so your conscience will be molified, and you can enjoy your weekends. A news program recently featured one group that has a Sunday drive-through communion facility to accommodate those who prefer not to get out of the car on their way to the beach, etc.!

Do you find the Lord’s supper too musty with tradition? Hey, that can be fixed. How about some Coke? One minister has written that he has no problem with Coca-Cola on the Lord’s table. Why not make it a bit more sophisticated and have Dr. Pepper? Many feel we need not be manacled to a beverage that was vogueish in Palestine twenty centuries ago!

Are the old songs boring? Are you sick of “Rock of Ages” and “Amazing Grace”? We understand. We’ll jazz it up for you. How about: “Me and Jesus – Got Our Own Thing Going”? Let’s get rhythm—with some hand-clapping, foot-stomping, swaying, get-with-it gospel boogie. Fan those emotions!

Tired of being “preached to”? How would you like some “sharing” sessions where everyone can relate their personal experiences, air their frustrations, and share their “opinions” on a variety of topics? We could talk about unsafe conditions on the job, how to control your weight, dysfunctional sexual problems, how to take advantage of tax laws, etc. After all, this is the practical side of life. Great therapy!

Do references to “sin” and “repentance” turn you off? Okay, we can restrict ourselves to sessions on self-esteem, how to have healing in your life for emotional distress, skills in effective conversation, and so on.

A recent issue of The Christian Chronicle tells of an Alabama church that uses videos of the “Andy Griffith Show” as a part of their Sunday school curriculum. They spend the first portion of the class watching Andy and Barney, and then talk about moral lessons learned from the eipsodes.

Have we totally forgotten there is a book called the Bible that is the most exciting volume in the world? It is from Heaven—not Hollywood.

The “new church” for the coming millennium in many cases may well be a “Disney Church,” (i.e., entertainment-oriented). Snap, crackle, and pop. Feel good, laid back, play it cool. A church in Amarillo, Texas has what they call a “casual” dress, “high energy” Sunday morning service, with lots of “testimonies.” Do you dig it, dude? They claim eight hundred members—three hundred of whom have been baptized! (Can you do math?)

Is this what God intended? Such “worship” ideology is as far from the New Testament pattern as it could be. It is what an inspired apostle called “will-worship” (Colossians 2:23), and it’s carnal to the core.

Spiritual people will make God and his Word the center of their worship life.

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.