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It is no secret that a focus on production in church services has increased dramatically in recent years.  And as an occasional producer, I am a huge advocate for the use of technology and other tools to create unique and memorable weekly experiences.  But like every trend, a production focus is easy to adopt without clear purpose.  Whether we are conscious of it or not, every moment of a service is planned and produced with one of two intents:
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1.  Artistic Engagement
2.  Entertainment
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Great art, whether drama, painting, live video, etc., reveals a message much greater than itself.  It is not an end in itself but a means of communicating a cause beyond and inviting the viewer into that cause.  Elements of production that are artistically engaging genuinely and creatively reveal the heart of God.  Entertainment often looks very similar to artistic engagement except for that it reveals only itself.  There is no message, no cause, no purpose behind it.  It may frame a message, cause, or purpose, but it does not point to or join in its expression.
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The pursuit of entertainment creates a pressure to “wow and one-up” week after week.  The pursuit of artistic engagement provides a freedom to create something meaningfully beautiful.  Entertainment leaves people talking about the experience.  Artistic engagement leaves people talking about their discovery of God.  The second is far more permanent than your service.
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Moments of entertainment are not inherently wrong, but I am afraid we sell God’s message short when we do not purpose every element and detail of our service to express it.  When we simply look to the Grammy’s and U2 concerts for production ideas, I’m afraid we’re missing out on something larger, more inspiring, and less tangible.  Sure, some of those techniques can be repurposed for a greater cause.  But in those cases, we must be intentional.
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So where is the line between artistic engagement and entertainment?  (Read practically: What is right and wrong to do?)  There is no common answer to that question.  In fact, that line is and should be different for every community.  Each demographic, location, and culture has a different artistic expression that it understands and responds to.  What is artistically engaging to one group may be unappreciated by others.  And what one group finds simply entertaining, another may find revealing of a grander message.
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The real step toward artistic engagement is not to evaluate what you do but instead to evaluate the intent with which you do it.  From that purposeful perspective, every production element you create should be able to adequately answer the following question:
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How does this reveal the heart of God?
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