I recently saw a sign outside a church that was listing off all the qualities that made it great and one of them was that it was “fun”.
This got me thinking about this mentality because there have definitely been times when I’ve seen church leaders try to make moves towards embracing a more sacred appreciation of Sunday worship only to get this kind of push back that says, “if we do that, then it won’t be as much fun.” I don’t think Church is supposed to be fun for a variety of reasons that all seem to boil down to this one reason: life, itself, isn’t about having fun. The only people who seem to have this idea that they are entitled to fun and entertainment wherever they go are people who have become excessively exposed to it and if I’m going to be really honest with you, that demographic is a very, VERY, small and very privileged minority when you consider the scope of humankind .
Most people, when compared to a middle class Westerner like me, have lived lives marked by poverty, political oppression, a lack of medical care, higher mortality, war, and on and on. What their lives aren’t contextualized by is a whole lot of fun. And because their lives don’t revolve around the pursuit of fun and pleasure, they don’t anticipate it or expect it. They have more important things to worry about. We who are accustomed to fun are the only ones who think we’re entitled to it wherever we go and whatever we do. The average person’s life is marked by struggle and adversity and if we can appreciate that, truly, then our relentless and entitled expectation for fun, should subside to some degree. And if we’re honest with ourselves we should be able to recognize that our biggest steps forward in maturity and personal growth have almost always come through adversity. Self discipline, wisdom, courage, strength, nobility, compassion; these are the kinds of qualities that are wrought from overcoming struggle and hardship… not pleasure. So knowing that we are so abnormally saturated in pleasure as a quality of our unprecedented privilege among human society, we should also be willing to try to find opportunities to withdraw from that lifestyle to think about the important questions around meaning and purpose. Going to Church is one of the few times we can stop and reflect on what really matters. Ultimate questions about life, death, faith, hope, and love. This is not a time to insist that we be distracted by entertainment and fun as we are throughout the rest of the week. This is a time for serious contemplation. And that doesn’t even begin to address that the breaking of bread on Sundays is a commemoration of the sacrifice of Jesus on the alter. It’s a kind of re presentation of the cross. If you ask me, it’s not really the occasion for us to be saying, hey, this isn’t fun enough for me. When kids come to Church, we often create separate programming for them that is about playing games, singing songs, and coloring pictures of Jesus. The time of life that they enjoy is punctuated by innocence and fun and so it should be. They aren’t culpable for their decisions the way we as adults are. But if, once you’re an adult, you still expect to be served a child’s version of your religion, one flavored with fun and entertainment, then I think you need to re evaluate your faith. If nothing else, maybe immerse yourself in the Bible a bit and ask yourself how much fun the cast of characters portrayed there are having.
Just so there’s less potential misunderstanding in what I’m saying, I’m not saying that we aren’t supposed to ever have fun and express ourselves joyfully. I’m not saying that we can’t have ecstatically pleasurable experiences in the context of prayer and devotion. I’m also not saying Church has to be boring or that we can’t have good music. On the contrary. I think everything we do should be as well done and conscientious as possible. I just don’t think we should be judging our church experience on a scale of fun. Instead, we should see it as an encounter with God who is Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. In remembering Christ’s sacrifice on Sundays, which is what he told us to do at the last supper, I think we can set aside our pursuit of fun and pleasure, at least for that one hour.