I wrote the following article nearly 20 years ago. I recently reviewed it. I might write it a little differently were I writing it today, but I still object to bringing entertainment and recreation into the church.
WHY I OBJECT TO ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION IN THE CHURCH
Entertainment and recreation are popular means of bringing unchurched people in contact with a church and of enticing members to stay at a church. I object! Why do I object to entertainment and recreation in the church?
First, because it is not in our commission. The purpose and work of a church is clearly spelled out in Matthew 28:18-20 - evangelize, baptize, and teach. There is neither direct command, precept, nor example for us to be busily entertaining a lost crowd or providing recreation for carnal Christians.
Second, because it confuses our purpose. When we branch out into areas of work not described nor commanded in the Bible, the world becomes confused as to what a church is, and what it is doing. Not only does the world become confused, even church members are adrift without a compass. Let it be clearly understood by all that we are on a spiritual mission of preaching a gospel that begets new creatures and conforms to the image of the Son of God!
Third, because it exalts carnality. Entertainment and recreation are temporal and fleshly as opposed to eternal and spiritual. The born again individual possesses both a regenerated spirit and the old flesh nature. Which one must be entertained? It is obvious that it is our flesh nature that clamors to be entertained. The spiritual man finds appeal in spiritual things. With the constant appeal of the churches to the flesh, it is no wonder there are so many carnal Christians and worldly churches. Yet our thinking has become so warped, we cannot imagine anything is possibly wrong.
Fourth, because it targets the youth. Most of the entertainment and recreational programs target young people (although many are finding if profitable to target other age groups as well). The general sell is that it gets young people to come. In the strict sense, a church is not for the youth, but for converted baptized adults. We see no Bible records of the apostles or the early churches evangelizing any but adults; but today it is an ever increasing trend among Baptists to baptize small children.
Fifth, because it creates a cycle that can’t be controlled. Once a church uses recreation and entertainment to grab and keep members, it cannot turn back. More, bigger, and better things must be offered to keep the carnals gained happy. Competition must be kept up so as to not lose them to someone who is better at the game. It is like the proverbial snowball rolling downhill that continues to grow until it becomes a massive force that obliterates all that gets in its path.
Four Arguments for Entertainment & Recreation Answered
1. “There is nothing wrong with it.” I will concede that some of the things are not wrong in themselves, but they become wrong when attached to the church. Refer to the five objections.
2. “It gives children something to do.” When did it become the churches’ duty to occupy their time and keep them off the streets? The early churches never tried such an approach. Parents should take their responsibility. If they will not, then relatives, then concerned friends. We could supply this need as concerned Christian individuals, but let us not transform the church into a baby-sitter.
3. “It will get some to come to church, and if they come we can preach to them.” First, actions speak louder than words. Will they hear your preaching or your entertainment? Second, the end does not justify the means. Alcohol, dances, and prostitutes would get some to come. Surely you would not resort to that; would you?
4. “Success, Success, Success!” Success in numbers added to the churches is the deafening argument which silences all reason. Yes, your programmed, recreated, entertained churches are filled and overflowing. Who could object to your success? First, I am convinced that the majority added by these means are not happily converted. Test their conversion experience and it comes up empty. Test their lives and they come out carnal. No new creatures. Your success is a phantom - merely numerical and not spiritual. Second, even if many are converted, again, this does not vindicate the use of such means. Two powerful Baptist preachers --B. H. Carroll and Charles Spurgeon -- both testified of their conversion under Methodist preaching. Recreationalist reasoning would drive us to recognize that we need Methodist preaching in all our churches.
Can we not recognize that God is mighty, sovereign, and omnipotent and that He is accomplishing His purpose in saving sinners in the midst of our failures, mistakes, sins, and flawed means? Will we determine to simply preach the gospel and leave the saving up to God?
The Baptist Waymark, Vol. III, No. 6 November-December 1995