In the editorial, G. Jeffrey MacDonald writes:
The pastoral vocation is to help people grow spiritually, resist their lowest impulses and adopt higher, more compassionate ways. But churchgoers increasingly want pastors to soothe and entertain them....
I have faced similar pressures myself. In the early 2000s, the advisory committee of my small congregation in Massachusetts told me to keep my sermons to 10 minutes, tell funny stories and leave people feeling great about themselves. The unspoken message in such instructions is clear: give us the comforting, amusing fare we want or we’ll get our spiritual leadership from someone else.
Congregations that make such demands seem not to realize that most clergy don’t sign up to be soothsayers or entertainers.
Ah, yes. Entertainment. That vile seducer. What truly faithful Christian would settle for the milk and pablum of entertainment when the true and virtuous meat of doctrine is so much more nourishing? Take it away, Augustine:
But yes, there is a certain similarity between feeding and learning; so because so many people are fussy and fastidious, even those foodstuffs without which life cannot be supported need their pickles and spices.
One thing MacDonald seems to miss is that sound teaching and entertainment are not mutually exclusive. Yes, there are sermons that are fluff and no substance. But there are also sermons that are substantial and unpalatable, sermons that you sit through thinking, “I'm sure this is good for me” while praying for it to end.
|courtesy of The Ongoing Adventures of ASBO Jesus|
There is nothing in itself morally virtuous about an un-entertaining sermon. And there is nothing in itself morally wrong with a sermon that entertains. Jesus certainly knew that. So did theological superstar Augustine. Entertainment in preaching is hardly new. And when you want to get your point across, it can sure be helpful.