Is A Popular God…? Part Three

I appreciate so much the thoughts and the comments I’ve received regarding the blog this week, especially as it pertains to our current discussion on worship.

If you haven’t been to the comments page the past couple of days you can check them out here and here. One particularly revealing comment came from our brother Jason sometime last night:

I agree that we’ve got to be real in our worship in both style and substance but I think we have to be aware that the things that we are used to don’t create pseudo Church like barriers to seekers that don’t make sense to the rank and file (let alone seekers). What I mean is Church favorite hymns that reference things that don’t mean much in our current day vocabulary like Ebeneezer, Canaan, and Zion. These words from old hymns might be part of the lyrics of the beloved favorites, but they don’t hold much for the seekers or the rank and file members (like me). I’d rather have newer songs with relevant lyrics that mean more in today’s language. Just my 2 cents. Not trying to start a riot.

It’s not a riot. It’s just the back and forth of an emotional conversation about worship.

And I don’t want to throw Jason under the bus. I know his heart is pure and his love for our Lord is real. And he knows I know that. But his comments reflect a broad current of thought today in God’s church. And I think it needs to be addressed.

Those words to which he refers are not just part of the lyrics of the beloved favorites. The words “Canaan” and “Zion” and the images those words evoke are the very words and images handed to us by God and his prophets. Those words serve to evoke the very promises of our God—promises of eternal life with him, promises of protection and provision, promises of leaving this place to be with him and each other in a much better place. Our faith and our beliefs and our practices all hinge on words like “Canaan” and “Zion.” They come straight out of our Bible. And they’re not obscure words in a couple of hidden passages. They’re foundational, basic words that are consistently found throughout our Scriptures, from Genesis through Revelation. They’ve been used by God and his people in our articulation of and passing on of the faith for thousands of years. The words and ideas they convey were used by Moses and the Prophets, Jesus and the Apostles, and all Christians since.

I would say the words “salvation” and “repentance” and “sanctification” and “reconciliation” are just as biblical and just as foundational. But I imagine, to most “seekers” and most “rank and file members” today, they are just as irrelevant and make just as little sense as “Canaan” and “Zion.” That is not a reflection on the songs we sing as much as it is a sad commentary on the state of our teaching in the Church, the level of private Bible study and careful theological reflection in our personal lives and in our homes, and maybe our lack of an overall vision that, as disciples of Christ, we do not live in this world. God’s Church lives in another dimension. But if our songs or sermons or prayers reflect that other dimension too much, we balk.

But we can’t discard those words and images. We explore them and teach them and learn them and embrace them and live them and we grow in the faith together through them. The chemistry teacher doesn’t change or throw out the vocabulary because his students don’t understand it. He teaches it. And his students learn to use it, and even love it, so they can communicate with each other and with those who’ve gone before, with those who’ve studied and taught and experimented and learned chemistry hundreds of years ago.

Let’s teach the lasting words of our faith. Let’s don’t throw them away.


The Cowboys pre-season begins tonight at Texas Stadium against the Colts. I’m sure that Aaron and Jennifer Green have had their Payton Manning jerseys washed and ironed and laid out for a couple of days now. And I suppose it’ll be good for the Cowboys fans to watch their starters for six or seven plays.

I’m not ready yet to give my prediction on the Cowboys season. Give me a couple of weeks.


JimThorpeSpeaking of the football season, there are 21 days left until the games actually mean something. And the best player to ever wear the #21 is the great pioneer of American football, the one and only Jim Thorpe. An All-America halfback at Carlisle from 1907-1912, Thorpe won an Olympic gold medal in the decathalon in the 1912 games. But it was as a member of the original Canton Bulldogs in Ohio and the very first president of the American Professional Football Association in 1920 that we honor him today. He wowed fans with his speed and toughness and ability to dominate both sides of the ball in the very earliest stages of the development of the game. He played for the Bulldogs, the Cleveland Indians, the Oorang Indians, the Rock Island Independents, the New York Giants, and the Chicago Cardinals. He’s in the College Football Hall of Fame. And he’s a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Thorpe wore #21 for the Giants and Cardinals. Barry Sanders wore #21 at OSU and receives honorable mention. I suppose Deion Sanders deserve mention, although I’m not sure how honorable. But Jim Thorpe is the greatest ever #21.


I shouldn’t be, but I am continually surprised at all the ways our sports teams keep finding to sell corporate sponsorships and advertising for actual in-game events. At the Rangers game Tuesday night, it was a little disturbing to hear the legendary voice of Chuck Morgan announce the Samsung Call to the Bullpen during a Rangers pitching change and the Jiffy Lube Pitching Change when the A’s made a similar adjustment. It’s not just a first down anymore, it’s a Radio Shack First Down. Doesn’t this, in some ways less subtle than others, work to undermine the dignity of the teams and the games?

Jerry Wayne’s computer-edited dancing in the Cowboys lockerroom during the Papa John’s Pizza commercial nauseates me. It proclaims without shame — even with pride — that I’m more than willing to do anything anybody asks me to do anywhere anytime if they’ll give me money. Never mind the dignity of the game or the teams or the people who’ve gone before us and from whose sacrifice and vision we benefit. Give me your money and I’ll sell off anything. And Jerry Wayne started all this.

I was amused and horrified at the same time when, a couple of weeks ago, I was watching a Mike Doocey interview with Jerry Wayne on Channel 4. Doocey asked Jones if there were even a remote chance that the new football stadium wouldn’t be named in exchange for dollars. Is there any way that you might name it simply Cowboys Stadium or Tom Landry Stadium? Jerry just smiled and told Dooce, “The Cowboys are America’s Team. And part of being America’s Team is the relationship and the connection we have with America’s corporations.”

And he said it with a straight face.

And, good for him, trying to mask his laughter, Doocey followed up with, “Are you saying that it’s your relationship with America’s corporations and their advertising dollars that make the Cowboys America’s Team?”

And Jerry Wayne replied, “I’m saying it’s the money from America’s corporations that pay for our players that America cheers for.”

I’m sure Tom Landry rolled over in his grave. But maybe Tex Schramm smiled.




  1. Jennifer Green

    I’m so thankful that we have you here to help us “teach” others about the lasting words of our Lord…
    I have my jersey on, by the way, and we will be in the end zone if you want to look for us with the Kevin and Jill,cheering for the Colts, not “America’s team”…I miss Tom Landry, maybe when they get rid of you know..J.J, we might come back…

  2. Allan

    I think with Stephen and Jerry, Jr. already in major management positions with the Cowboys, nothing’s going to change in my lifetime. Jerry Wayne genuinely has his heart set on being the patriarch of some kind of Wellington Mara-type multi-generational family legacy-thing here.

  3. Paul Dennis

    Some words are just words and other words are chock full of meaning. Statistics can be used to validate a variety of positions. I ran word search for the following words in the NIV.
    Ebenezer 3 times
    Zion 168 times
    Canaan 158 times
    Salvation 120 times
    repentance 24 times
    sanctification 0 times
    sanctify 6 times

    Some lack of understanding of ‘Zion’ and ‘Canaan’ may be indicative of our lack of knowledge of the Old Testament. We have been prone to shun the ‘school master’ in our Bible study. The ‘new Jerusalem’ and ‘heaven’ have greater depth of meaning when one has a grasp of ‘Zion’ and ‘Canaan’. This question was asked, “Can you give me one single irrefutable proof of God”?” What is your answwer? The answer that was given was: The Jews. If that answer has any validity then ‘Zion’ and ‘Canaan’ are real keys. Each of us has something to offer for edification. I learn from you and hopefully you learn from me. Sometimes the only reason I open my mouth is to change feet.
    Keep on keeping on.

  4. Jill

    Actually, Allan, I was tossing around the idea of wearing a T.O. jersey. Or should I go with the throwback and wear one for Irving? I’ve also made a large sign that says, “Allan Stanglin and Legacy love Jerry and Corporate America!”

  5. Jill

    Oops – Irvin! Michael Irvin.

  6. Allan

    Jill, why don’t you make a sign for Irving, the city that’s losing the Cowboys in 2009. And, please, sit by the Greens and cheer for the Colts.

  7. Jill

    That’s the sad thing these days – they are all (every sport, every team) corporate sell-outs. I cried when they changed the name of “The Ballpark” to “Ameriquest Field”.

    Kevin’s uncle played for the Baltimore Colts. Even though the team moved to Indiana, we are still going for Manning and the Colts tonight…with the Greens…holding our sign “Long Live Cowboys Stadium”.

    You know I would never wear a T.O. jersey, right?

  8. Paul Dennis

    Did I read correctly? Not even honorable mention for LaDainian Tomlinson? # 21

  9. Jeff


    You have gift for communicting the things that are on our hearts! I am so glad we are discussing worship. I have long thought that worship is for God’s people not the world. In fact I want “seekers” to feel a little uncomfortable in our worship services. I want them to see what we have and feel they are are missing out on something special. We should be reaching out to them in our daily lives, not in our worship.

    Having said all that, I do want our worhip to be inviting to all in attendance. We should do all we can to get to know the seekers among us without disrupting or hindering our worship.


  10. Allan

    Well said, Jeff. I see tremendous value in these ideas at least being openly discussed. As long as our worship is truly directed toward our God and our hearts genuinely belong to him, so much less of what we do together in worship becomes right or wrong. But without prayerful consideration and careful reflection on why we do what we do, we’re much more apt to lose sight of the purpose and aim.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

For spam filtering purposes, please copy the number 4043 to the field below: