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
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
After a couple of video announcements, it was time for
the sermon. The pastor, pre-recorded 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 non-fat 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
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
- 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?