And God Was Not in the Spectacle…

Mark Galli on breaking our addiction to spectacle.

…we try to bring earthquake, wind, and fire to church. God is the god of life, after all. We should feel it, no? This, of course, is one of the draws of megachurches, which, because of their size, can do mega-things. Bumper-to-bumper cars streaming into the parking lot. People eight or ten abreast rushing to get a good seat. The voices of thousands raised in song. Lights, video, booming bass and pounding drums, projection screens making it all literally bigger than life‚Äîit all adds up to a powerful spectacle.

I, like most Americans, am a sucker for spectacle. I’ve gone to my share of religious extravaganzas — from Christmas programs to evangelistic crusades. I’m actually a fan of the megachurch in many, many ways. And I dare say that an Easter vigil I attend each year at my church is indeed spectacular! There is something wonderful about sitting with a large crowd of fellow believers praising God. It hearkens to the kingdom of heaven, the vision of the 144,000 worshiping the Lamb (Rev. 14:1-3). What could be better than that?

And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him (1 Kings 19:11-13).

The problem with spectacle, especially religious spectacle, is that the steady, repeated, raucous noise will eventually make us hard of hearing. And that will make it impossible to hear God’s normal tone of voice. He is not usually found in earthquake, wind, and fire, but in the small whisper, heard only by those who enter with Elijah into the dark cave.

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