Wholesome Community Entertainment
Not long ago my daughter, Rachael, worked as an event coordinator at a historical site in California. During the holidays she came up with the cool idea to have a Christmas carol singing competition in a beautiful garden venue which was part of the historical site. She called the event “Fa-La-La: A Christmas Carol Showdown!” Secular and religious Christmas carols would be welcome.
Once the date was set, Rachael set about the task of booking singers and musicians. She also sent a message to almost fifty pastors in the community inviting them to send singers from their churches. She eagerly anticipated a strong response from the church community. She worried too many churches would want to participate and she would have to turn some away. Not one pastor responded.
Now before you pastors out there get your hackles up, I will offer these valid reasons for declining to participate in such an event: The Christmas season is an insanely busy time for pastors and congregations, including everyone who sings on church worship teams or in choirs. There is also a difference between providing religious music for worship as opposed to entertainment. Some Christians are uncomfortable with the prospect of offering the sacred as part of an atmosphere of entertainment. Also, word of mouth is probably more effective for marketing a church than participation in some types of community events. I get it! I’m sure there are other valid points I have overlooked.
My biggest concern is the message the silence from fifty pastors sends to Rachael and her generation. Will she and her generation gradually lose interest in Christian churches unwilling to participate in a variety of ways within their cities and hamlets? Church outreach can be much more than a harvest festival with free hotdogs, face painting, and bouncy houses in the park or passing out food and toiletry kits to the homeless under the bridge when The Salvation Army, the Gospel Mission, and other churches are already focused on meeting those needs. No, I don’t think bouncy houses are bad but I wonder if we often duplicate what every other church is doing. I also wonder if we church dwellers get so busy (like at Christmas) that we don’t recognize those God moments such as when someone like Rachael hands us a fun, no-cost, community outreach opportunity on a silver platter.
Yes, the Fa-La-La event was a smashing success. About two hundred people attended. Rachael booked an opera singer, a folk singer, a special-needs singer, a hip hop singer, and a big band. Everybody had a great time . . . especially Rachael’s proud father. I admit the event was all about entertainment and sentimental feelings and longing for a Norman Rockwell Christmas. But since our culture is enamored with entertainment in many forms, maybe the American church should look at entertainment as a mission opportunity to open doors, or to get people who never go to church in those doors. God can certainly turn something entertaining into something sacred and life-changing.
I do not suggest churches need to do more. Most are already too busy. My suggestion is that we church dwellers insist on building in some flexibility on the church calendar of events so that when a golden opportunity to be present in the community—and try something new—comes along, we can participate. Our young adults have oodles of ideas on how to improve the way we do church. I hope we don’t crush their enthusiasm.