HOUSTON — A megachurch in Texas recently turned its annual Christmas production in its worship center into a circus—literally, complete with a ringmaster, tricks and trapezes.
The Second Baptist Church of Texas, led by Dr. Ed Young, Sr., presented “Christmas Under the Big Top” at its Woodway campus from Friday to Tuesday, with tickets ranging from $10 to $25. The 90-minute drama centered on a storyline about a fictional effort to save a financially-struggling circus by putting on a Christmas show.
In addition to much singing and dancing, the program also featured a Stomp-like trash can drumming peformance, and plenty of circus tricks, from juggling to acrobatics to Cyr wheel spinning. Styles of music varied from traditional to big band, to hip-hop and rock. A segment of the production also included a living nativity, and a brief message about life’s “distractions” from the meaning of Christmas was delivered near the conclusion.
“The days of the traveling, family circus may be long gone, but don’t tell that to the Robichauxs,” a description of the storyline outlined on the Second Baptist website. “For four generations, they have captivated the hearts and minds of young and old alike with their high-flying antics and death-defying stunts. But times are changing, and the patriarch, Arthur Robichaux, must find a way to keep the circus alive in the midst of today’s ever-changing entertainment landscape.”
“At his wit’s end, Arthur considers throwing in the towel when his son, Max, surprises him by coming home for Christmas. Can Arthur and Max save their beloved family circus?” it asks.
Second Baptist also released a video promoting the event, inviting viewers to “[c]elebrate the true meaning of Christmas with us.” The video featured clips from previous performances, including fire-breathing and unicycling.
“For the past five years, Second Baptist Church has shared the story and joy of Christmas with over 100,000 people across Houston, featuring live music, dancing, aerobatics and so much more,” the announcer states. “Come be a part of this Houston holiday tradition as we celebrate the birth of Christ and take you on a new adventure.”
Luke Benward of Disney’s “Good Luck Charlie” and “Girl Meets World” was one of the stars of the show, along with his father Aaron, known for being one-half of the 1990’s CCM duo Aaron Jeoffrey.
Many praised the presentation as being quality entertainment.
“It’s not quite Cirque du Soleil, but it’s way (way, way) bigger than any church show I’ve ever seen,” one blogger commented.
“This was truly a magical celebration with a beautiful message,” another said. “The show was full of non-stop entertainment from the musical numbers to the acrobats. I loved the drumline and the ariel dancers just took my breath away!”
However, others believe that such concepts are a far cry from the Church in Acts, and are a distraction from the core functions of the Church—even if outside of the normal service hours.
“‘Christmas Under the Big Top’ is another example of the Church focusing on entertainment rather than the purposes which our Lord established for His Church,” David Whitney, pastor of Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Pasadena, Maryland, told Christian News Network. “When Jesus said, ‘I will build My Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it,’ did He have a circus in mind?”
He said that the Church seems to have “lost its way on the road to the Heavenly City and instead has taken the side road to Hollywood,” noting that the command of Christ was to make disciples through preaching and teaching—not to amuse.
“The commission Christ gave His disciples was to go make disciples of all nations. That disciple-making task involves the preaching of the Word of God, administering the ordinances and conducting public worship,” Whitney explained. “When the Church loses this focus, it becomes simply one more entertainment venue vying for the time and treasure of an audience.”
“In 1 Corinthians 14:23 Paul asks the question regarding speaking in tongues, ‘What will the non-Christian think when he comes in our midst?’ I guess the answer in Houston is, they would think the Church is a circus,” he said.
Second Baptist Church did not respond to a request for comment.
(View the production here.)