They cheered when the band walked on stage. Without prompting, the fans sprang to their feet.
I watched from the back of this large, high-profile church as the Sunday morning service unfolded. The professional musicians performed with precision. Their sound was flawless. Their attractive faces were projected larger than life on the huge overhead screens.
Though the screens showed the songs’ lyrics, I heard no voices from the audience. I noticed that only about 10 percent of the crowd was singing along. Most gazed in silence at the talent on the stage. They applauded warmly as the band wrapped their 20-minute set.
After a couple of video announcements, it was time for the sermon. The pastor, prerecorded on video, told us we were “in for a real blessing” — a guest speaker who would tell us how to live a better life. The speaker strode to the center of the stage and delivered a well rehearsed half-hour speech on how God desires his people to be slender.
After several weight loss tips, a couple of light hearted stories and a scripture, the speaker concluded with an exhortation to buy his book after the service at the sales area just outside the sanctuary. “In addition to a special discount, I’ll be happy to give you a nonfat autograph this morning,” he said. The corpulent couple in front of me grinned, nodded and politely applauded as the fit author trotted off stage.
After a very efficient offering time, the worship announcer told us he had a special surprise for us. Then, with a lively fanfare from the band, a current contestant from television’s American Idol emerged onto the stage. The crowd erupted into wild cheering, jumped to their feet, and craned to get a better view of the Idol.
I couldn’t help but notice that after some 60 minutes of regular worship, it was the Idol that electrified the congregation.
As I drove away from this popular church, I wondered what this morning’s worshippers would remember, what they would tell others about the service this day. Thinking about the congregation’s response, I guessed it was the Idol.
Idols have a way of snatching our attention, our admiration, our adoration. And I suspect that’s exactly why God warned us so clearly about the allure of idols. They distract our devotion to him.
But it’s not just television stars that hijack a congregation’s worship. Other, more common, religiously correct things upstage what should be the true object of our devotion. How often have you seen these things command more adoration than the Savior himself?
- The music
- The musicians
- The sermon
- The preacher
- The famous preacher
- The famous preacher’s book
- The liturgy
- The Bible
- The denomination
- The building
- The offerings
- The attendance
What or who most frequently captures your attention, your imagination, your admiration?