If you think church is dry and dull, Pastor Bryan Meadows has the solution for you: At his Embassy International Church in Atlanta, he’s made aerialists — that is, yoga-style performers who move in a harness — a permanent part of the worship service.
Is it unorthodox? Sure. In fact, some people think he’s gone a step too far off the cultural relevance deep end.
Is it bringing people closer to Christ? That’s irrelevant, apparently.
The Christian Post reports:
On his church’s website, Meadows, who serves as “apostolic covering” for a network of leaders in North America and India, is described as an “Apostolic voice to this generation.” He is “known for his gift of revelation, apostolic insight, innovative strategies and his tremendous heart to see transformation established in cities,” the church says. “His purpose is to ACTIVATE gifts, draw out DESTINY, and maximize the potential in this GENERATION and in GENERATIONS to come. To RAISE up and DEPLOY a GENERATION that can EFFECTIVELY invade the MARKETPLACE.”Critics like Ann Brock, a long-time blogger on issues in the black church, have voiced concern about the use of aerialists, pointing to the danger of the performance overshadowing the praise.
“I’m afraid we have strayed far from worship for the sake of entertainment. I of all people believe God the Creator made us in his image. He being creator made us creative. However, there has been a recent burden of what our ‘Worship’ services are becoming. In an attempt to compete with the world’s presentation we have flooded the church with lights, stages and performances. I’m all for creative expression but what happens when the PRODUCTION overshadows the PRAISE?” Brock wrote on her blog.
I was expecting a critique about the “immodest” attire that the performers would be wearing, but I actually agree with Brock. The worship portion of the service already feels like a free concert at many churches, which I personally find off-putting. If the biblical message can’t stand on its own, why would it be any better with a flashier presentation? When a church needs to lure you in with a rock band, a circus act, over-the-top theatrics, etc., the biblical message itself is bound to be a downer.
You can see the act about 15:00 into this video:
Meadows is free to conduct his church however he wants. But if he’s looking for approval from people who are drifting further away from religion, they may be inclined to come for the “show,” but they may very well leave when it’s over or just tune out the sermon.
Meadows didn’t address those concerns, choosing instead to respond to his critics with a defense of his decision:
“… they shouldn’t have to go to the circus to use the gifts that God gave them! The church should be able to create space so that everyone can use their gifts to glorify God… People may be distracted for a couple weeks but they will get used to it!” he wrote.
At least he’s honest about his intentions: Get your mind off the sermon and pay attention to the dancers.