I was talking the other day with my three-year-old son about church, and for some reason I thought of a certain comment to add to the conversation. I paused. Could I really say it? “Would this even be orthodox?” I asked myself. “Yes,” I thought, “and you should say it.” So I let the words stumble out of my mouth.
“You know,” I said, “Church isn’t supposed to be fun.”
There. I had said it. I asked myself How have we descended to the place that I even imagine for a moment that such a statement is heretical?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary (if you will pardon my being a bit pedantic here) defines “fun” as “1 : what provides amusement or enjoyment; specifically : playful often boisterous action or speech.” They provide three other definitions, and, may I say, they do not get any closer to orthodoxy. Since when did this need for fun become the hallmark of everything we do? Perhaps the word has slipped in its meaning. If we want to express something as good, we say it was “fun.” Weekends are fun. Weddings are fun. Worship is fun. A church event is coming up. We want people to come. “It’ll be fun,” we tell them.
I am thinking about writing the Westminster Catechism board to ask them if they would consider changing the first question.
Q1:”What is the chief end of man?”
A1: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to have fun with him forever.”
God is to be enjoyed. But we are not to have fun with God. If fun is tied to amusement, how could we say that God is supposed to be fun? To “muse” is to think. Add the “a” on the front of “muse” and you negate it. Yep. To be “amused” is to “not think.” So I am arguing that there is a difference between enjoyment and fun. In fact, most of the things in life I really enjoy are not fun. Enjoyment speaks of a full-orbed satisfaction and fulfillment. “Funness” speaks of triviality and banality.
And I think it is indicative of the culture of our churches that we place so high a prize on things being “fun.” Not reverence, not holiness, but funness. We do not tremble before God, we hope he is fun. We want to have amused while dealing with things pertaining to him.
Or perhaps we have changed God. We are so lustful for amusements and entertainments that we want God to be fun too. We want God to be amusing. Too bad we cannot get around that rigid first and greatest commandment, with that thorny part in there about “the mind.”
I acknowledge that in many respects this drive for all things fun and trivial is aimed at our children. We want them to think church is fun. But the children who eat happy meals their whole life will grow up to want Big Macs in adulthood. Does it make sense to build into our children the very church culture we will want to remove from them when they finally “grow up”? Does it surprise anyone that so many Christians today want to be entertained in church? I wonder where that idea came from. Probably from the fact that church was nothing but fun for the first eighteen years of their life.