An Atlanta pastor who announced on social media that he plans to make performances by aerialists a regular part of his church's worship service has raised concern among some critics who believe the gymnasts might be too distracting for the public.
The pastor, Apostle Bryan Meadows who founded Embassy Church International five years ago, made the announcement on Instagram on April 9 where he posted both photos and video of an aerialist performing at a Christian conference during a worship service.
"@EmbassyCity fully plans on making aerialists a FULL PART of our normal worship experience! We endeavor to create a culture driven by the creativity and character of Christ! This was one of my favorite highlights!!! #everygiftexpressed#CREATE18" Meadows wrote.
The images and video were captured at a Christian conference celebrating creatives called the CREATE Conference that had wrapped up on April 7. The conference was promoted as "an unconventional confluence of the arts, culture, media, entertainment, and technology" that would allow creatives to use their artistic gifts in ministry.
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.
"Things like this may be appropriate for an artistic night where people are able to express their worship through various methods. However, doing this during regular service, to me, is just too much. I completely understand that to be present and sense the anointing (if there is one) can change one's perspective, but there has become too much emphasis on entertainment and enticing people to come in."
Meadows was not immediately available for comment.
Reacting to critics, Meadows defended why creative people like aerialists should be allowed to demonstrate their talent during worship services.
"Because 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.
"If people can get used to all of the other foolery that happens in church... I'm sure they can get used to somebody genuinely trying to use their gifts to worship God."
Another critic who said she is "all for using all our gifts in the house of God" suggested that the aerialist should cover up her lower body because "it can be as distracting as a male worshipper topless."
Meadows accepted her point responding: "Sure. That can be discussed. That's all wisdom!"
According to Meadows and his church: "We believe that God is raising up a Davidic generation that is called to defeat 21st century giants. As the oil of the Messiah is smeared upon this generation, the restoration of signs, wonders, miracles, gifts, callings, and offices will rise up like the Church has never seen before. We are called to be stewards of that coming wave of glory."
They insist that it is their calling to "lay the foundation for this next shift, from denominational to dimensional. As the 21st century Church we must be apostolic in our approach, and not just invade different geographical regions but also various world systems and sectors, such as: government, business, entertainment, family, arts and media, and education. This is how this generation will rise and establish the Throne of our God, the Lord Jesus Christ."
The complete aerialist performance can be seen in the video below starting at about the 15-minute mark.