I recently attended a worship service at a church where the pastor regularly walked up on stage while the praise band was leading songs, and he pumped his fist, hyped up the crowd, and patted the shoulders of the various band members. How do you feel about that? Maybe I’m in the minority viewpoint on this, but I struggled with it. The pastor’s actions seemed to turn what was already a heavily produced worship service into one that was nearly completely intended to entertain. What we learn in the final post in this week’s five-post series on Ezekiel 33:21-33 is that entertainment based worship has been around a long time.
God says in verse 32, “Ezekiel you’re just entertainment for them.” God says Ezekiel is like a great singers of love songs. He is no different than Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Harry Stiles or Ariana Grande. The people like to hear him talk, but they do not do what he says to do.
God’s words to Ezekiel in Ezekiel chapter 33, verses 30-33 remind me of church worship services. If you hear the word of God during worship services, Sunday school classes, small groups or other Bible studies, but you do not do what those words teach you to do, than your teacher ought to just sing love songs and try to entertain you. It’s no different. Preaching, God says, has as much value as love songs, if the people do not do what it says. You might as well just stop reading this post and watch videos of your favorite love song singers.
As we conclude our study of Ezekiel 33:21-33, it is important to ask, “Who is responsible in this scenario? Who is responsible for the reality that the people heard the word of God, but did nothing about it?”
It is God? Maybe he should have spoken directly to the people. Maybe he should not have relied on prophets. Maybe he should have been more miraculous and supernatural in his approach. Nope. God always kept his end of the bargain, and in fact, he constantly, time after time after time, tried to pull the people back from their rebellion. God went over and above the call of duty to reach out to his people who he loves. God is not responsible.
Is it Ezekiel? Maybe he didn’t communicate well. Maybe he wasn’t engaging enough. Maybe he didn’t prepare for his sermons enough. Maybe he didn’t tell good stories, or enough stories. Nope. This isn’t Ezekiel’s fault. He faithfully communicated God’s word. He did the crazy skits, some of which were extremely dramatic and even very difficult. Ezekiel is not responsible.
So it is not the originator the message who is responsible. That is God.
And it is not the messenger who is responsible. That is Ezekiel.
It is clearly those who are receiving the message who are responsible. The people are responsible to hear the message, and then do something about it. The people are to hear the message and then do what God says to do, without delay, without excuses, and with joy and with gusto and with gratefulness to God.
Thus God concludes that when all the prophecy comes true, the people left in Israel will die, and everyone will know that Ezekiel is not just an entertaining love song singer, but he is a prophet of God. They should have listened to and did what Ezekiel said.
That got me thinking. Why do we choose to just be hearers of the word, but not doers of it?
Sometimes it is because Jesus calls us to do very difficult things that would require sacrifice. We don’t want to sacrifice. Think about it. Jesus said that if people want to be his disciples, they will die to themselves, take up their cross daily and follow him. In other words, Christians should be known for their pattern of sacrificial life. And that can not only sound distasteful, but it can be difficult. The result is that we avoid living the kind of life Jesus calls us to, where information leads to formation.
What can we do to counteract this? How can we allow biblical information to lead to Christian formation?
Start off the new year with some resolutions. Resolutions are good. But follow-through is better. The resolution is the information, and the follow-through is the formation. Formation is rarely a task that we accomplish alone. So I encourage you to think of formation differently. Think of formation as something you will do with others. Sunday school teachers, how can you lead your class in such a way that your students actually do something? Students, what will you do to approach your Sunday school as more than information, but as information that will guide you to formation? Same goes for Sunday worship services. What can you do to move beyond the entertainment mentality that is so easy to have? These worship services are not to be entertainment. They invite your participation, so that you receive information that leads to action. But do not approach your participation as something you do alone. Talk it up in your Sunday school class or small group, get an accountability partner to discuss it throughout the week, and check in on one another. Encourage one another to move from information to formation.