I have become extremely tired of the gimmicks churches use to lure people in their doors. They leave me with the feeling that Christian worship has become a circus, one church competing with another to put on “The Greatest Show on Earth.” These gimmicks leave me questioning what these churches are trying to connect people to. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and suppose their true intentions are to connect people’s lives to God, while also feeling a great pressure to somehow be “relevant” and “appealing.” They believe worship has to be enjoyable. Thus, they look to the world to find good gimmicks that help relate the kingdom of God to the everyday world.
This tension is not a new one. We see Jesus speak of it in Matthew as he often compares the ways of the everyday world to the way of the kingdom of God. The apostles Paul and John also pick up on these themes later in the New Testament. Many throughout the church’s history have picked up on this same discussion.
Almost 1700 years ago, there was an amazing church leader named Augustine. His sermons and writings are cherished as some of the greatest in the history of the church. He unashamedly spoke to his culture about the truth of God. In his book, De Trinitate (On the Trinity), Augustine wrote on this idea of enjoyment, but did so by looking at the kingdom of God. He does not primarily describe God's kingdom in terms of political power or territorial expansion. Neither does he speak of it in terms of those who now submit under a royal authority. Instead, Augustine says the kingdom of God is the place where believers enjoy the vision of the face of the Triune God. “This is the fullness of our joy. There is nothing greater than to enjoy God the Trinity in whose image we have been made” (Book 1, section 18). To Augustine, the kingdom of God is the greatest good humanity can accomplish: worship through the eternal enjoyment of the three persons of the Trinity.
It is important to recognize that for Augustine, the kingdom of God can only truly be understood in terms of relationship. In other words, the kingdom of God is not something that God possesses. Rather, the kingdom of God is a perfect, intimate, face-to-face relationship with his people. Thus, the kingdom God is not something conquered but something built.
If we agree with Augustine’s thoughts, then we must realize that in worship, we are continually building God’s kingdom. True and pure enjoyment is only found in this relationship with God. As we come before God face-to-face, connecting to the Triune God, the kingdom is furthered as we invite the world to join our worship. Our focus then could turn away from gimmicks and singularly toward finding ways to delight in the presence of the Triune God.
(By the way, I was recently asked to guest post on Tom Fuerst's blog. You can check out his blog here: http://thefuerstshallbelast.wordpress.com/ )