By Jarrod Jacobs
If entertainment is an authorized, useful way of bringing people to the Lord, don’t you know we would have examples of Christ and the apostles using plays, poetry, songs, and other forms of entertainment to bring the people to God?
The longer we live, the more we see how the lines between the church and the home are continuing to be blurred by those who do not respect the will of God. The line marking the difference between entertainment and worship is being blurred in many places as well. Consider the fact that in recent weeks, I have had the opportunity to read in the newspapers about the latest fad among liberal churches of Christ. What is it? It is to set aside time for watching “The Andy Griffith Show” and trying to find some “moral” to apply to people. Now, before we get too far into this, people who know me know I like watching Andy, Barney, and everyone else in Mayberry. It is a funny show, and I enjoy it. However, the problem comes in trying to bring this into the Lord’s church and passing this off as some kind of “spiritual” message.
Just so we understand that this is not some isolated incident, nor is this hear-say, I have newspaper articles that document liberal churches taking part in this. One such article ran in the January 8-10, 1999 issue of USA Weekend. Under the heading of “Spirituality,” Dennis McCafferty talked about how Joey Fann, and Brad Grasham, both members of the Twickenham church of Christ in Huntsville, Alabama, enjoyed the show so much that they decided to get a class started. Further evidence that this is catching speed comes from an article in The Tennessean, on Sunday, February 28, 1999. The writer, Leon Alligood, went to Tullahoma, Tennessee and sat in on one of the “classes” where “The Andy Griffith Show” was shown. Of course, you can also go online and visit the website of Fann and Grasham, who offer insights into Mayberry, as well as encouraging others to start their own class on Mayberry. One reason they encourage this is because, “Basically, it (The Mayberry class, JJ) offers a casual, non- threatening atmosphere for people to get together, have fun, and think about how we handle certain situations in life” (Quote from Fann and Grasham’s website).
“Where is the harm in this?” some may ask. A better question would be, “Where is such a thing as this authorized by God?” Besides all we could enjoy about Andy, Barney, etc., the show still had its faults. For example, the characters lied in nearly every episode about something. Also, there was Otis, the town drunk. If we’re talking about good influences, etc., is it a good influence to have a “funny”drunk walking around? Let’s take a moment and consider the results of a Bible class based around “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Other TV Suggestions
Could we not follow the “Mayberry class” up with a class based around “Guiding Light,” “As The World Turns,” “Melrose Place,” “NYPD Blue,” etc.? If we can use Andy Griffith as a good example, can we not use these shows as examples of what not to do? Certainly, God gives us examples of people who are not worthy of imitation (e.g., Satan, Ahab, Ananias and Sapphira, Demas, etc.) Why not watch the TV shows mentioned above and spend time talking about what we ought not do in life? If they got good attendance from the “Mayberry class” (and they did), I guarantee people will come to the “soap opera” class! I wonder how long it will be before my suggestion is not considered “ridiculous,” but practiced?
What Attracts The People?
The people behind the “Mayberry class,” though they may have good intentions, have missed the point and purpose of Bible study and worshiping God. When we come together in worship, or in a Bible study situation, it is for that — Bible study!
I am afraid that Mr. Fann and Mr. Grasham have just followed the old standard of “attracting” people with one thing, and then springing the gospel on them later. Many liberal brethren and denominational folks will try to get “big numbers” through special days, outings, a winning ball team, pizza or chili suppers, etc. Then, once the people are there, they will get a “sprinkling of Scripture” added to the event. Is this not what is intended with the “Mayberry class”? The promise of a TV show attracts them (Who doesn’t like Andy?) and then the people are given a Bible lesson while there.
For people who see nothing wrong with this situation, remember Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Paul says that the gospel is the power of God to salvation. Nothing else has the power to save except the gospel. Consider also the words of Christ, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44). Who is doing the “drawing” in this verse? God is! How is this done? Through the preaching of the gospel (2 Thess. 2:14). Paul said, “It pleased God by the foolish- ness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). Therefore, for man to come along and implement his “think-so’s” for drawing a crowd is to say in essence that we know more about drawing people than God does.
Illustrations vs. Entertainment
Some may suggest, “The use of the TV show is merely an illustration. Jesus used illustrations, and this is all it is.” Yes, Jesus used illustrations in his teaching (vineyard, mustard seed, fishing net, ground, tree, etc.), but where do we see Jesus using entertainment as the supposed “illustration”? Where do we see Jesus using the plays, poets, and singers of the day to “illustrate” his point and “draw” the crowd to him? The apostles were the ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). Where do we see them stooping to that level? If entertainment is an authorized, useful way of bringing people to the Lord, don’t you know we would have examples of Christ and the apostles using plays, poetry, songs, and other forms of entertainment to bring the people to God?
Yet, what do we see in the Bible? “Preach the word . . .” (2 Tim. 4:2); “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15); “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Time and again the command and examples are shown as to what truly does people good, and will truly “bring them in.” What will do it? It is the gospel of our Lord. It alone will truly draw, convert, and save people! We will be judged one day by the word of God (John 12:48). Therefore, doesn’t it make sense to live by that word regardless of the consequences?
“A Casual, Non-Threatening Atmosphere”
One last point to consider was the quote made by Mr. Fann in trying to justify playing “The Andy Griffith Show” as a Bible Study. He said, “Basically, it (The Mayberry class, JJ) offers a casual, non-threatening atmosphere for people to get together, have fun, and think about how we handle certain situations in life.”
Oh, that Mr. Fann and Mr. Grasham had been around during the time of Christ and the apostles! They could have solved a lot of problems for them. Did you know Jesus had no better sense than to “offend” some people on one occasion (Matt. 15:12)? In fact, the Bible says that Christ caused some people to be “filled with madness” because of what he preached (Luke 6:11). You reckon these people Christ taught felt “threatened”? Perhaps John wouldn’t have lost his head if he had told Herod “it is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife” (Mark 6:18) in a “casual, non-threatening atmosphere.” Brethren, those who know me know I’m all for an open atmosphere of study where people are encouraged to open their Bible and study for themselves. But, there comes a time when sin must be threatened. There comes a time when we must stop playing around and charge upon Satan and sin with the “sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17). Read 2 Corinthians 10:4-6, and explain how acting like this will make those in sin feel comfortable, or not threatened. The problem we are facing in this country is that we have a generation of people who are more concerned with people’s physical comfort than their spiritual welfare! The “unforgivable sin” for many is to suggest that someone is living in sin. We have people today who think we can “sneak” the gospel in on people, or “trick” them into obeying the gospel with little or no confrontation of the sin and error that may be in their lives. How foolish we are for thinking this! Friends, the best thing we can do for people is to appeal to their common sense, and show them what the Bible says. Let’s not “sugar-coat” it, or apologize for what God says, but let us present the Bible to people in a loving, caring way so that they cannot misunderstand, and let the chips fall where they may.
Brethren, let us learn and learn well that there is a difference between the teaching of the gospel, and entertainment. People who complain about being “bored” in the services do not understand that difference. There- fore, rather than teach the truth, denominational folks, as well as some of our liberal brethren have catered to these people. This is why Andy, Barney, and the rest of the gang in Mayberry are being used as some type of “instructional tool,” and the Bible has taken a back seat. Let us learn the difference between entertainment and Bible study! Let’s leave entertainment where it belongs and the Bible where it belongs (1 Pet. 4:11; Col. 3:17).