Shouldn’t church be fun??? No one has directly asked me that question since I have been a pastor – for which I am thankful – but several people have hinted or implied that church should or even must be fun if people are to attend. If someone did ask me, I am not exactly sure how I would answer the question. The role of fun in the life of a church is a tricky topic.
Is having fun at church wrong? By no means! But there are inherent dangers to promoting a fun church culture. Having fun, by its very nature, is an emotional, subjective response to an activity. What feels fun for one person might not feel fun for another. To complicate things further, “fun” has a broad semantic range, thus suggesting many things: “enjoyment, amusement, excitement, pleasure, joy, exuberance, entertainment, merriment, diversion.” Some of those things are fitting for church; some are not; and some are fitting in the proper context and to varying degrees. So, shouldn’t church be fun? That is not an easy question to answer because it largely depends on a person’s definition of fun.
Additionally, modern culture does not value moderation, particularly when it comes to fun. Neil Postman highlights this cultural vice in his well-known book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, which was written in 1985!!! How much more has the habit of self-indulgence grown since then? If nothing else, churches need to reconsider their emphasis on fun from a strictly practical standpoint. Is it wise for the Church to compete with the fun, amusing, self-satisfying culture surrounding us? Should the Church set up a booth in Vanity Fair alongside Disney World, Six Flags, Hollywood, and video games? Clearly, the answer is no, but the greater question remains, “Shouldn’t church be fun?” Again, this is not easy to answer. Comparatively speaking, when matched against the amusements of this world, church will never be “fun” in the same way as those activities. Unlike worldly amusements, which offer diversion or escape from reality, the Church must address and confront the realities of this fallen world and of eternity.
On a side note, please know I am not against the fun things of this world. They have arbitrary degrees of value in our lives, but the benefit we derive from them is altogether different than the benefit(s) we receive from being part of the Lord’s Church.
When answering any question, Christians must turn to Scripture – what does the Bible say? Quick word studies will prove very quickly that fun is not a major focus of God’s word. Joy, delight, blessedness, fulfillment, peace…Yes! Fun, amusement, entertainment…No. Consider the following people – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Caleb, Gideon, Samson, Elijah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezra – how many of them led “fun” lives? Consider the OT sacrificial system – its blood, bells, and smells – how many of those rituals were “fun”? Consider the NT Church – the rejection, resentment, and persecution it endured – how much of that was “fun”? Above all else, consider the Lord Jesus Christ – the man of sorrows; despised by men; acquainted with grief; the sinless Savior in a dying, sinful world; surrounded for three years by loyal disciples who never fully understood his mission; nailed to a cross where he endured the wrath of God upon sin – was his life characterized by fun?
The other major problem with the question, “Shouldn’t church be fun?” is that the question assumes “church” to be an activity (or series of activities), rather than a group of people. The Lord’s Church is not an event or a place, but it is the living body of Christ, constituted of all his elect people. Therefore, a better question might be, “Shouldn’t people at church be more fun?” That line of enquiry is more accurate and (slightly) more profitable, but the problem once again arises – who or what a person considers “fun” is wholly subjective. Furthermore, when considering all the Church’s shortcomings and sins in the Bible, did God ever say, “Because of your failure to be [or to have] fun, I am bringing judgment against you”??? Of course not!
After barely scratching the surface of this issue, look at all the problems with the original question and the difficulty in answering it. (1) What does someone mean by fun? (2) Should the Church really seek to compete against the other fun things of this world? (3) Does the Bible prioritize or value a fun life? (4) Is the Church an event or place, or is it a group of people? At this point, it should be clear that the question itself, “Shouldn’t church be fun?” is flawed and rooted in a poor understanding of Scripture.
In writing this post, I am not seeking be a killjoy. (Those of you who know me well might read the last line as tongue in cheek…LOL!) However, as our church seeks to grow, some will inevitably think: “In order to attract people, we need to __________.” Too often that blank is filled with some fun activity. In no way whatsoever am I opposed to having fun, to enjoying the blessings of this life, or even to planning “fun” events for CPC. Yet as we seek to evangelize the community and the world, is it faithful and wise on our part to appeal to people’s desire for fun? Or is it better for us to set forth the eternal benefits of Christ and his redemption, all of which far exceed the fleeting feeling of fun?
So, one last time, shouldn’t church be fun? The next time someone asks you that question – or the next time you ask yourself that question – do not limit your answer to a simple “yes” or no.” Do not answer the question as presented, “Shouldn’t church be fun?” Instead, ask and answer the bigger question, “What is the Lord’s Church, and what benefits do its members receive?” Only after considering the latter will you start to understand what it truly means to have fun at church.
Note: This post is the first in a series that will deal with some common cultural Christian assumptions about the Church and Christian living. Next week, I will seek to answer the question, “Shouldn’t Christians Be Nice?”
Here is the link to the article that prompted me to write about this topic: https://g3min.org/the-god-of-fun/.