Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Should Church Be "Showy"?

The more a church grows and the more emphasis they put on the logistics of the service, the more the chance exists that some are going to see it as their being "showy" or "performance driven."  Is this bad, good, or does it really not matter?  I am certainly no authority, but here are some thoughts on the subject after 27 years of full-time ministry, all within the local church.

To accuse any church or person of being "showy" is to assume that one knows the motive behind the leadership of that church or service.  Though it may look or seem "showy" to a person does not mean that "being showy" is the factual motive behind the planning and carrying out of the service.  It is always a dangerous step when we presume to know another person's motives when, in fact, only God really does.

What may seem to one person to be "showy" could just be a drive to do things with excellence.  Scripture does tell us to do what we do heartily as to the Lord.  As my High School Band Director use to always tell us at the Christian High School I attended, "Just because it's Christian doesn't mean you settle for mediocrity - shoot for excellence in everything you do."  Or as one of my spiritual heroes, Dr Jerry Falwell, would often say, "If it's Christian, it ought to be better!"  In my mind, shooting for excellence can be a spiritual virtue.

We cannot underestimate the power of the visual.  In fact, we live in a visually stimulated culture.  Today people connect with and remember what they see far easier and quicker than what they hear.  When what they see matches what they hear, the communication increases in effectiveness.  Shouldn't effective communication be one of our goals, especially when it comes to communicating the Word of God?  There seems to me to be great validity in taking time to plan carefully not just what people will hear on Sunday, but also what they will see.

It reminds me of when I was in Bible College taking preaching classes.  We would have to preach one sermon a week in our preaching lab.  The professor didn't just listen to our sermon, he also video taped them.  We then had to go back and watch the video tape to evaluate if our facial expressions and our body language matched what we were communicating with our words.  This was done, not to teach us to be "showy" but rather to teach us that the most effective communication involves more than our words and more than our listeners' ears.  In fact, I have never met a choir director yet at any level that did not coach their choir members to smile and to work on making sure their facial expressions matched the meaning and heart behind what they were singing.

I intentionally make this an important part of my sermon preparation.  I don't just prepare what I am going to say, I also take time to carefully and prayerfully plan out how I am going to say it.  I practice it at least three times before I actually preach it because I want my body language and my facial expressions to match what I am saying.  I strategically think through visual and creative elements that I can use to help communicate the Scriptural principle in a way that will help all who hear me preach connect with and remember the content of my message.

I'm not saying that there aren't preachers, worship leaders and churches that cross the line into being "showy."  I'm sure there are.  I just think we should be careful that we don't use the idea of someone or something being "too showy" as our default reasoning any time that a church or a leader's style is unlike what we are use to or what we are comfortable with.  The truth is we need all kinds of churches and leaders.  We need those who are more laid back and casual when it comes to details and we need those who are more focused on the logistical aspects.  In the same way that it would be out of line to accuse someone more laid back of being "apathetic," it is just as out of line to accuse someone focused on details and visuals as being "showy."

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