August 16, 2008 by

The Show Must Go On?


Categories: changing mindsets, church, food for thought, movies

I’m thinking of old movie, one of those formulaic wartime entertainment feel-good musicals, called Diamond Horseshoe. The plot isn’t too memorable, but there’s an interesting standing joke throughout the movie. The Diamond Horseshoe is one of those old-timey nightclubs with the stage show. Early in the movie, the manager repeats the well-known mantra, “The show must go on!” To which one of the main characters asks, simply, “Why?”

“Why what?”

Why must the show go on?”

This question gets repeated several times through the movie, and it frustrates everyone because, of course, nobody really knows why the show must go on. It just has to. The show must go on, because it must. Because…it just has to.

It’s kind of funny. But if you think about it, it’s not, really. Because whenever you have a mindless axiom like this which no one can explain…it demands mindless obedience from everyone. That is, until some wise guy has the gall to ask why. And then it messes everyone up.

The show must go on. But…why?

Brother Maynard shared some thoughts a few days ago about some sad news coming from the Lakeland Revival. It appears that Todd Bentley has filed for separation from his wife. The following quote is from Charisma’s website:

The board of directors at Bentley’s Fresh Fire Ministries released a statement Tuesday afternoon that praised the “outpouring” in Lakeland led by Bentley, but also acknowledged “an atmosphere of fatigue and stress” that more than 100 daily meetings had created, which “exacerbated existing issues in [Bentley’s marriage].”

Just yesterday, Bentley’s Board of Directors released a statement on the ministry website revealing that Bentley “has entered into an unhealthy relationship on an emotional level with a female member of his staff” and will be stepping down from the ministry for counsel.

Now, I have mentioned some concerns about these meetings, and about Bentley, in previous posts, and I don’t really desire to use this situation to crucify Bentley on this blog. I am saddened, not vindicated, by this news. Blog-land is lit up with people discussing various aspects of this, including some healthy questioning of the so-called apostolic movement. But I want to look at it from a slightly different angle.

There will likely be those diehard defenders of the revival who will blame this on the devil, saying that Bentley was a target for spiritual attack because of the “great work” he was doing. But there is a different way to look at this. The key words are “an atmosphere of fatigue and stress.” That’s actually very telling.

If Bentley’s separation were an isolated incident, it would be easy enough simply to turn the spotlight on him and his personal issues, or to let it reinforce existing suspicions about his sincerity. But in fact, this story plays over and over again. Bentley and his family join a long line of casualties, a long list of ministers and their families who have suffered and/or fallen as a result of “the ministry.” From high-profile failings like Ted Haggard or Randy and Paula White; to the daughter of a nationally-known evangelist who was found wandering drunk and naked in the men’s dorm of the Christian college she attended; to the pastor whose children and ex-wife now want nothing to do with the ministry, or his version of Christianity…the list goes on. Countless ministers falling, countless marriages suffering, countless “preachers kids” being alienated, until we just consider it a normal pitfall of “the ministry.”

But is it? Should this really be happening? Perhaps it’s time we start asking the question: Why must the show go on?

Who said this kind of stuff was supposed to be “par for the course” where ministry is concerned? Do we find this in the Bible someplace? Where did we get the idea that revival should be an “atmosphere of fatigue and stress?” At what point do we stop blaming the devil for this stuff, and start asking honest questions about a religious system that puts a few high-profile people on pedestals for their gifts, placing on their shoulders enough super-human expectation to drive the strongest of them to compulsive behaviors?

I can’t help but be reminded of what Jesus said about following Him: “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” It seems to me that when our personal lives are collapsing under the weight of our spiritual responsibilities, we must be adding some stuff on that Jesus never intended.

And yet…we keep replaying the same situations over and over, with the same results. Because, of course…the show must go on.

I do believe there is a devil who tries to thwart us, and I also recognize that individuals are responsible for their own bad choices. But I also think it’s far too easy just to blame the devil, or to demonize the person who fell. I think this speaks of a much bigger problem. This might just be one man’s opinion, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s more than just a “spiritual battle”. I think the whole institutional churchy structure, by its nature, tends to over-exalt people, restrict true accountability, and stifle the healing process that we all need (including the guys and girls on the platform). And since so many aspects of our Christian culture are not even found in Scritpure, I wonder why we continue to fight so hard to maintain and defend them–especially if they are contributing to the damage.

Musician. Composer. Recovering perfectionist. Minister-in-transition. Lover of puns. Hijacker of rock song references. Questioner of the status quo. I'm not really a rebel. Just a sincere Christ-follower with a thirst for significance that gets me into trouble. My quest has taken me over the fence of institutional Christianity. Here are some of my random thoughts along the way. Read along, join in the conversation. Just be nice.

4 Responses to The Show Must Go On?

  1. co_heir

    The show must go on because without the admission fees that are collected every Sunday, the professionals wouldn’t be able to spend all their time preparing to entertain and inform their audiences. Without the show each week and the structure that has been built around it, the whole thing could come crashing down.

  2. Kansas Bob

    I was also saddened by the news but I suspect that Todd’s marital problems will have little affect on his ministry long term.. the show must go on because folks don’t want it to end 🙁

  3. Lightbearer

    It seems to me that no true revival would ever have an atmosphere of fatigue and stress.

    But, the show must go on. Because through all of the hype it allows the “ministers” and the spectators to escape from their problems, at least for a little while.


  4. Sarah

    Yes! I really believe that pastors and ministers suffer some of the greatest collateral damage from the system of professionalized ministry. They can be perpetrators, but laity are also enablers who exert incredible expectations and pressures (and pedestals). Unfortunately, sometimes pedestals are too eagerly embraced. Everyone who participates in the system is complicit in the damage it brings. That’s the bad news and the good news. I think many of us began to realize the role we were playing, and just couldn’t participate anymore. There’s an element of repentance from ways and methods that are damaging to people and to relationships and a search for God to restore us to His ways and methods. You are asking absolutely the right question: “Why should we consider this ‘par for the course’ of ministry” especially since Jesus said His burden was light. The burden gets heavy when it becomes about man’s expectations rather than God’s expectations. (Sorry, I’ll got off the soapbox now and stop preaching to the choir!) 🙂

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