It seemed somewhat ironic (perhaps Providential) that my brothers of the Tyndale League posted this satirical VBS poster on the Sacred Sandwich site at about the same time we were getting ready to start our own VBS.
For the last several years we’ve made the conscious effort to move away from the theme/entertainment oriented VBS material to something that is more Biblically centered. We’ve been using material from John Piper’s Desiring God Ministries, and have liked the content very much.
However, because we don’t have all the flashy theme decorations, games, snacks, etc. it seems that interest has waned. Not only among potential students, but even among some of our workers.
This year the downward trend has been especially glaring since we had the misfortune of having our VBS the same week as at least three other churches, including two of the largest in town. Of course, they have all the fun and games, and we just have some Bible teaching (there are still crafts, music, recreation time, etc. Just much more low key, with the emphasis on the Bible teaching).
Here’s my problem. I’m still convinced that we are doing the right thing. I’m still sold on the idea of placing the “Bible” part of
My brother-in-law recently pointed out some good articles from Focus on the Family about how entertainment has shaped our culture, including our church culture. (click here and here to read some of those) We’ve known for years that today’s culture is more media/entertainment oriented than ever before. And yet, our response so often has been to give in and try and compete on the world’s level. People are fixated on entertainment, then let’s make church entertaining. In the end, we have done nothing but “dumb down” the church, the gospel message, etc.
Yet, the people say, look at the crowds we draw. Show movie clips on Sunday morning and folks love it. Do rated R movie nights and they come by the droves. Hey, let’s even do Bible Study down at the local pub, folks will love that. Where does it end?
Maybe this is just one guy whining because we have smaller crowds, smaller VBS than the “other guys.” I don’t know. I don’t think so. I think I’m just thinking along the lines of C H Spurgeon when he addressed the First Conference of the Pastor’s College Evangelical Association in April of 1888. (Yes, the problem is that old). He said this:
Within suitable bounds, recreation is necessary and profitable; but it never was the business of the Christian church to supply the world with amusements. Did Christ found his church that it might offer to the public tableaux vivants, and living wax-works? … There is a bill extant which states that next week there is to be a “Punch and Judy” show in the same place of worship (so-called)! This is to go on side by side with the preaching of thy bleeding sacrifice, O Christ of God! No, brethren, let me correct myself: the preaching of Christ usually ceases when these frivolities come in. These things are so opposed in spirit, that one or the other will have to be dropped; and we know which it will be. What is to be next done in our chapels? To what length of tomfoolery will ministers of the gospel yet go? … Brethren, we are not here to play away our time, but to win souls for Jesus and eternal bliss. By the solemnities of death, and judgment, and eternity, I beseech you, keep yourselves clear of the follies, the inanities of the day.
I pray we would listen to that Prince of Preachers word of warning, whether we’re talking about VBS, worship services, or whatever. There is a time and place for fun. I would even suggest we can have some fun in church (shock of shocks). But our primary focus should always be on Christ and Him crucified and on the proclamation of His Word for His Glory in all things.