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Entertainment Versus Emotion

Last week I took my wife to a concert.  No, it wasn’t gospel or contemporary Christian music.  In some ways it was better than that.

I took her to see Sugarland, a country music group.  Here is a video of one of the group’s more popular songs:

I have been to several concerts over the years and most of them have been of the Christian music persuasion but I have come to the conclusion that I prefer secular music concerts over Christian concerts.  And here is why:

  • Christian concerts confuse me.  The performers (and that is what they are) appear to be on stage to entertain me and that confuses me because their music is about worshiping Christ…. right?  But, hey, where else can you hear “Amazing Grace” followed up with “Jeremiah was a bullfrog”?
  • Christian concerts goers in my experience (which is limited to controlled, indoor, arenas and light rock, country, or gospel music) look and act similarly as those I see in secular venues.  Of course, the secular attendees usually need the assistance of liquid reinforcement to really start ‘getting into the music’.  But I see the same skin-tight blue jeans and halter tops at either type of event.  I know, I know.. that is judgmental of me.  But at least I am not confused by the reasons the lost lady at the Neil Diamond concert wants to highlight her cleavage for the rest of the world to see.
  • Social Justice interludes and Gospel-Lite.  Anymore, when I attend a ‘gospel-centered’ concert, I am pretty sure that I am going to have to sit through an info-commercial on some form of social justice and I am pretty much guaranteed that I will hear one of the worst renditions of a ‘gospel-presentation-bow-your-head-say-a-prayer-welcome-to-the-club-I-mean-family’ that can be made.  I was at a concert earlier this year where the people of the church I attended with went through the motions that the speaker on stage was directing the crowd through and they didn’t know until afterward that they had just been ‘resaved’.  They were probably in good company because 80% of the crowd that night was standing when the speaker asked how many had prayed to accept Jesus into their hearts.   Makes me wonder why so many lost people decided to buy a ticket to a gospel concert.
  • Finally, the entertainment factor.  When I attend a secular concert, I know that I have paid to be entertained.  I know the people on stage are there to entertain me.  And I am ok with that because that is why I bought the ticket.  But… there are moments in the concert when the entertainer connects with the crowd on a different level.  Like the video above, sometimes emotion comes through and that emotion connects people together. It goes beyond entertainment and becomes a shared experience.  I saw it happen when the crowd at the Sugarland concert sang the song from the video above along with the entertainer.  I don’t mean to make it sound like this doesn’t happen at a gospel concert, because there are times that it does, but where it appears to be a bonus at a secular concert, it becomes a question at a gospel event.  The question – isn’t the whole purpose of gospel events supposed to be about worship?  Maybe I am wrong in that assumption which could be the basis for my confusion.  I wonder if God is confused as much as I am about Christian concerts.

I titled this post ‘Entertainment Versus Emotion’ because there is something vastly different about the two approaches to connecting with people.  One seems to be about ‘I want to make you feel good’ while the other is more about ‘I want to share myself with you’.  Maybe you will disagree with me, but the video I posted above is a good example of the latter.

If you are a performer or maybe even a worship leader in a church somewhere, let me ask this question: Do you want to entertain the listener or connect with them?

  1. Amy
    September 28, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    Being confused is a similar experience I have had with Christian concerts. I think honestly we go to be entertained, knowing that the music is gospel centered (although some Christian music seems “me” centered), that the music is written and designed to bring glory to God, and encourage believers in their walk of faith. As one of those who cluelessy stood up to be “resaved” at one of the events you mentioned (i had been talking and all of the sudden saw a bunch of people stand and cheer…so blindly i followed). I am dredfully bothered by those mass savings, I am not saying mass conversions are impossible, but the way in which the gospel is presented I believe it to be misleading and incomplete. The attendee’s are often young people who come with a youth group, who are likely clueless about being followers of Christ, because they were “saved” at some mass gathering/event and they brought their lost friend who they will talk into standing or going forward for the mass conversion. I wonder once it is all over how many actually became Christ followers and how many would stand up in front of their student body and proclaim it. It’s easy to follow the crowd, whether it’s at a Christian concert or a secular one.
    As far as the secular music events and crowds, I don’t know. I haven’t attended any secular concerts for quite a number of years. On the song/video above, I will disagree that Jennifer Nettles is trying to share herself…this song wasn’t inspired by a personal experience to my knowledge. She is simply a great songwriter, and obviously a good actress as well. She may strike a cord with someone who has been “the other woman”, but I don’t see how it is sharing herself with us. It was strictly a performance based video. I have nothing against any of that, that is precisely what I would expect from secular artists. They are performers, trying to write and perform music that will make them a lot of money.

    • September 28, 2010 at 2:10 pm


      Yeah.. I don’t know what inspired Jennifer’s emotions in the video above. It may or may not be connected to the subject material of the song/video. Maybe it was all ‘an act’ but it appears that there is real emotion behind the video. That emotion comes through in the singing of the song. I can connect to the artist on an emotional level because of that.. I can feel empathy/sympathy/compassion.

      It is probably why I like country music over much of what is passed off as popular music today because the rest of it just feels lifeless.

      I agree with what you wrote here completely: “I have nothing against any of that, that is precisely what I would expect from secular artists. They are performers, trying to write and perform music that will make them a lot of money.”

      They are doing what we expect. Juxtapose that with Christian artists and that is where my confusion comes in. If they are trying to entertain me, then it is no longer about worshiping God/Jesus. It becomes about me even though I am mouthing words about God. And that confuses the matter.

  2. Amy
    September 29, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    I do understand the confusion. However, I believe they are doing both. Christians are afterall, allowed to be entertained. At least I think so? I have experienced both worship and entertainment attending Christian concerts. One reason I do attend some of these Christian events, is that while they are not perfect…I do believe them to be a much cleaner version of what is in the secular entertainment business. The artists are people who have an outspoken faith in Christ, write worshipful (yet some entertaining) music with God in mind, and I do not see Christian artists being immodest or provocative. I am not going to say I have never seen an inappropriately dressed person at one of these events, but “God’s gotta change her heart before He changes her shirt” (Casting Crowns lyrics).
    I do think the entertaining can be too much, the Christian concert you mentioned in your post was disappointing. It seemed more for entertainment than worship with a couple of the artists involved. So I do get what you are saying. I think it is connected to the bend towards the culture instead of God Himself. This is happening all over, trying to make God seem “cool” in our churches, Christian concerts, youth rallies and events, it’s geared toward pleasing the person so they will think God must be cool. I don’t know why we think we have to modernize the Creator of the Universe. It seems in the process we are making Him common, and that is dangerous.
    I will tell you while I have not led worship at a church, I do know that when I was a part of a choir, and when I sang with a ladies group or solo, my hope and prayer was absolutely to connect to those listening. I struggle in choosing music to sing because I am just waiting for God to say, “Yes, Amy…that is the one I want you to share.”

    • September 29, 2010 at 5:05 pm

      Musis (and modesty as well) have long been areas that have caused confusion within the Christian faith. Much of that comes from the fact that little is taught in the bible about social context when it comes to those things. As far as the music, here are some verses concerning music from the New Testament:

      “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16

      “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;” Ephesians 5:19

      Both verses bring up praise elements and even that the music should instruct (which I think is greatly glossed over in much of the ‘praise and worship choruses’ that we employ today). That instruction aspect is one part of music that is directed towards us rather than God. Maybe there can be an aspect of entertainment in that instruction… I don’t know that I would find admonishment all that entertaining, however.

      I say those things in order to set up this part, there is a praise element that is to be directed to God. If the music is more about what we want, is it still being directed to God? Maybe. I can’t know people’s hearts – I can only see the fruits they present. And that is where I get confused. When there is little to differentiate between a Faith vs Secular concert, something seems amiss. I could be dead wrong but if I add to that confusion the poor or even unbiblical portrayal of the gospel, I have something that I want to be very cautious about.

      I don’t mean to be a wet blanket for others that enjoy these venues because there are aspects that I enjoy as much as the next person. There are some artists who have written songs that say exactly what my heart wants to sing to the Father or about the Father.

      On a side note concerning the “God’s gotta change her heart before He changes her shirt”, I agree in part. I say that because I believe we own part of the discipleship process which incorporates teaching, in love, what is modest for our society. This is aimed at the believer (male and female).

  3. October 2, 2010 at 12:33 am

    You asked performers and/or worship leaders: Do you want to entertain the listener or connect with them?

    I would think their goal should be to glorify God, and not draw attention to themselves. I think your post and comments are very good.
    Look at how the word worship is used in the four Gospels. When a person came up to Jesus Christ to worship Him, what was their position? And then contrast that to what you see at christian concerts.

    Talking about music and modesty, the singer in the above video needs to find a better shirt to wear.

    • October 4, 2010 at 12:25 am


      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Both the old and new testaments use words for worship that correspond with people prostrating themselves in worship. I think that is one aspect of how we come before God.

      As far as Jennifer(lady in the video).. I hadn’t noticed her shirt before. I had always been drawn into the emotion on her face. That being said, I don’t have a lot to say on how she should or shouldn’t dress because I do not know her spiritual condition. We, as Christians, should be careful not to expect lost people to act like found people.

  4. Ike
    October 4, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    Hey Tony…..congratulations on the “Red’s” making the playoffs!! Thats the good news! The bad news……they won’t win the first series with the Phillies:-)

    • October 4, 2010 at 7:39 pm

      Oh ye of little faith 🙂

      I am looking forward to the series. It should be interesting and exciting. I am hoping that I can make one of the home games in Cincinnati.

  5. Ike
    October 4, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    I’m just messing with you! It wouldn’t surprize me if San Fran wins the NLCS. Hope not….but their pitching and the phillies silent bats at times….scares me. If the Reds beat Philly…..I’ll be cheering them on with you:-)

    • October 5, 2010 at 2:34 am

      I like a good ribbing when it comes to sports. I will have to root for either the Reds or the Phillies depending on which team wins this series. I am not a huge fan of the West Coast… of course Atlanta isn’t a bad team either.

      Whichever team wins is going to have a lot of work cut out for them once they reach the World Series.

  6. Ike
    October 9, 2010 at 2:08 am

    I feel your pain brother…..you can’t give the Phillies 5 outs. The best team lost tonight!!

    • October 12, 2010 at 11:41 am

      I have been working so much over the last week that I didn’t get a chance to fully ‘enjoy’ seeing the Reds in the post season.. of course it was a short stay.

      I hope your Phillies go all the way!

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