Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord. And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not. Ezekiel 33:30-33
What we need in the church today is the development of a culture that understands the danger of entertainment. We need to clarify the truth that a crowd of people is not an indication of ministry success nor God’s movement. Certainly, what was happening in Ezekiel’s day is being repeated in our day.
It seems from the text that Ezekiel was a popular preacher. The people were buzzing about him. They were telling others about him. They were inviting others to come and hear him preach. They themselves were attending the services. They greatly enjoyed his preaching. He must have been a great orator. They might have liked his style of preaching. Ezekiel describes it like a concert. They come to hear the pleasant voice and the preforming instruments. What He is saying is that they were enthusiastic about the entertainment value of the service. They came, they invited others, and they were excited only because they received some entertainment benefit.
Many churches draw crowds by appealing to this desire in humanity. People desire entertainment. They desire to have a good time and to feel happy. Churches provide the entertainment for the crowd because it will attract. They offer magicians, activities, preachers that are more comedians than truth tellers, and sermons that are nothing more than story after story. Youth groups are all about lock-ins, snowboarding, bowling, and any kind of entertainment that will attract young people. The theme seems to be “throw candy at them and they will come.” So we give them plays, movies, dramas, dance, anything to get them to come.
Maybe Ezekiel was a “James” preacher. Maybe he told them straight. Maybe he stepped on toes and he really “gave it to them.” Some folks like that kind of entertaining preaching as well. They come so that they can hear a man tell them what is wrong with everybody else.
Notice that the indictment on all of this is that while the crowd desires entertainment, they have no appetite for instruction. They hear but they do not do. They say how much they enjoy it but their hearts are not in it. They are filled with selfish desires and when the church ceases to provide the scratching for their itch, they are done and gone. They hear the words but they do not do them. Why? Because they came to be entertained not instructed. They came to get, not to give. They have no interest in doing what God commands of them.
They leave happy, entertained, and satisfied but what long-term effect will it have? What life-changing transformation takes place? The answer to both questions is none! Nothing changes. They leave the same spiritual way that they came. They go home, talking about how good it was, they invite others to come, they prepare for the next service, but they fail to obey the Word of God. They are so shallow. They come simply for the spectacle of it all.
As a pastor, I constantly am involved in self-evaluation. What I cannot use to evaluate my preaching is attendance or complements. Not even the absence of trouble in the church is a good evaluator. What determines our effectiveness of ministry is the degree in which hard hearts are transformed by the divine work of God. It is the degree in which the people come to know that Jesus is Lord. It is not in what they say, it is in what they do. Are they doing what He says and not just hearing what He says. How do they respond to God’s Word?