Is A Popular God….? Part Two. No Asterisk.

Today’s blog post contains a heavy amount of sports and sports analogies. But it is not tainted! It’s not! It’s not tainted!


Continuing the thoughts from yesterday on “seeker-friendly” worship services, let me insert a comment from Cynthia that maybe some of you missed.

Thanks for saying so well what troubles my heart so often. We speak of making the church more attractive to seekers, but why do we assume that they are seeking more of what they already have in the world? If the life Christians live in Christ is different than the life lived in the world, shouldn’t the homage and adoration of our worship experience differ from the adulation given to cultural celebrities.

More and more, I am convinced that private worship (the assembly of the church) should not be attractional. Rather, it is in our public worship (Christ living in us as we move about in the world) where we should seek to attract the unbeliever.

I took the girls to the Rangers game last night and enjoyed a fairly well played, exciting at times, sporting event. Whitney and I spent a great deal of time talking strategy — hitting behind runners, playing at double-play depth, and running out grounders — using baseball-specific terminology such as RBIs, bullpen, full-count, hitter’s eye, foul ball, off-speed, check swing, ERA, and dugout. That communication during the game enhanced our enjoyment of the game, our appreciation of the game, and our relationship with each other in connection with the game.

 Now imagine that, instead of Whitney, I was sitting next to someone who had never in his life seen a baseball game — a guy from another country, who’d never been to a baseball stadium or held a bat or seen a game on TV. There’s no way in the world that guy can attain the same level of understanding and appreciation for the game after watching it for those three hours that you and I have after watching it for 40 years. How long would it take him? Even if I tried to explain every single nuance of every single play and every single word in the baseball language, how long would it take?

Then why do we think we can convert a person who knows nothing about Jesus during a one-hour worship service? Why do we try? Won’t that person have to come to our services over and over again, for weeks and months, before he gets a sense of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it?

Maybe this is a better analogy. Suppose you’re the football coach of a playoff team in the championship game. Everything’s on the line. You’re in the lockerroom just ten minutes before kickoff, going over last minute details and instructions that will be critical to your team’s success. These are things that your team needs to hear and remember and immediately apply if they’re to win the battle.

“Charlie, remember that if the tackle moves into that three-gap he’s stunting inside. Make sure you release into the flat as a safety valve”

“Dan, don’t forget they’re going to cover-two deep but they’ll disguise it every time with a 4-3 blitz look just before the snap.”

“Kevin, we’ve been working on the deep fly to the Z back all week, but we’re changing our protection. Sid’s going to stay in the box and pick up the corner.”

“Watch the weak-side double. Remember to read the tight end’s stance. Don’t get suckered in on the draw…..”

And in the middle of all that — you giving your troops these critical instructions that mean success or failure in the fight — the team owner walks into the middle of your lockerroom and says, “Coach, I’ve brought in these seven guys from Kenya who’ve never seen a football game before. They only know soccer. They’re going to watch the game with me in my box. Can you explain to them everything you’re saying to your team right now? Help them understand what you’re saying.”

Right there in the middle of your pre-game speech, right there in the middle of your lockerroom. How do you do that?

Why do we try?

Origen said that if someone wanders into our church building off the streets while we’re praying, he should sense a “double church,” one that is seen, which may not always be attractive, and another that is unseen. Visitors should expect a little vertigo when they worship with us, a little disorientation. Allan McNicol says Christian worship done well communicates to outsiders that it’s not on a mundane dimension, it involves another world. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:25 that the unbeliever who comes into our midst will be so moved by the other-worldly nature of our worship that “he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!'”

The greatest gift our worship can confer to a believer and to an outsider is a glimpse, however fleeting, of another city, another scene, another dimension.


Back to last night’s ballgame and Barry Bonds* and Michael Irvin right after this……


Legacy Worship Center Construction Update

LegacyMountains   DirtPiles   BigDirt

The massive piles of dirt have now been dubbed the “Legacy Mountains.” I’m looking forward to watching several impromptu games of King of the Hill tonight after Bible classes. In fact, I’d be disappointed in the young people of today if I didn’t see any of that this evening.


I always love going to the Rangers games. Valerie and Carley only care about the intrusive music between innings and pitches and the cotton candy while Whitney hangs on every pitch and every play just like her dad. There wasn’t a pitching change made or a defensive replacement brought in or a pinch runner added that she didn’t look up his bio and stats in the program. What a great gal!

Last night we got to watch a rising fan favorite in Marlon Byrd hit a go-ahead three-run homer, some clutch pitching from C. J. Wilson, and some nice defensive plays from Mike Young. It got a little uncomfortable when the A’s started pounding Frankie Francisco and mounted a bit of a comeback. But Texas held on and got the “W” and we all went home happy. I couldn’t help thinking though, from the first pitch to the final out, it sure would be nice if this meant something, if it really mattered at all. The victory keeps the Rangers 17-1/2 games out of first place.

CottonCandy     TotallyIntoTheGame     ClownNosePromotion

BondsBombI don’t know what to say about Barry Bonds* that hasn’t already been said, over and over and over again, for the past five or six years. It’s nauseating. What a great contrast between him and Hank Aaron on both personal and professional levels. I suppose if we didn’t have the bad guys, we wouldn’t truly appreciate the good ones. The same kind of contrast was on brilliant display in Canton Saturday evening. Michael Irvin sharing the same stage and accolades as Bruce Matthews and Roger Wehrli and Charlie Sanders brought back memories of the old Sesame Street bit: one of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong.


Just 22 more days until football season and Bobby Layne is the second greatest player to ever wear the #22. The top honor, of Emmittcourse (come on!), goes to the all-time leading rusher in NFL history, Emmitt Smith. 13 records at Florida. Three Super Bowl victories with the Cowboys. He led the NFL in rushing four times. He was the league MVP in 1993, the Super Bowl XXVII MVP in ’92. He went to eight Pro Bowls. He set the NFL record for rushing TDs with 155. And his 17,418 career rushing yards are the most ever.

As great as he was, he’s routinely left out of most of the debates about best running back ever. And I have no clue as to why. He barely makes the top ten of most national lists. I don’t see how he’s not an automatic top three in every single all-time running backs list that’s compiled by anybody, anywhere. The only argument should be whether he’s the all-time greatest or number two or three. That’s it. First downs. Touchdowns. Durability. Leadership. Determination. Strength. Speed. He had it all.

Don’t say Barry Sanders could have had the record if he didn’t quit. He did quit. And he didn’t get the record. To me, there’s no comparison.

My word, that’s more than enough to chew on for one day.




  1. Chris

    nice point about trying to learn it all in one sitting.

    I agree with your #22 rankings. A few things I think combine to influence perception of Emmitt:
    The team he was on – he was part of the Tripletts and that probably took a little of the light off of him (“look at the talent surroundnig him – no wonder he was so good”).
    The team he was on – the White House plus any Cowboy bias.
    His self-promotion: not always a bad thing, but it seemed a little more evident with him. The footballs, his retirement announcement, Dancing with the Stars.

    He is absolutely one of the best to play, but the best RB has to be Mr. Brown.

  2. Paul Dennis

    I continue to marvel at how too many seem to measure a person’s righteousness by what he does during one hour on Sunday morning.
    As to Michael, if the committee does not put him in the HOF then they would have to take LT out. Putting him in was the only choice they had On the field he qualified.

  3. Cindy

    Enjoy reading your blogs !

    Curious to know- is Powder Blue your color?

  4. Doug Crowell

    Jim Brown went to Hollywood. Emmitt Smith is the best, and by the “Barry Sanders theory” I would have broke football records had I not gone down during a “kick the can” game in middle of hot summer evening prior to the football season of my 8th grade year. I had to quit too.

    In the past I, along with other Christians invite their friends to church service. These people come for a variety of reasons. I hope that one reason is that they have seen in their Christian friend the love and compassion, and all the Christ like attributes that we should be trying to follow. We can teach them the history of the Bible over time.

    With your 21st day pick…your going to muddy the waters….PRIME TIME.

  5. Gil Vollmering, Jr


    What great news to hear about your arrival at Legacy. All of your old friends at NDavis are very proud and excited for you, Carrie-Anne and the girls. Look forward to hearing great things! Blessings – G

    PS – FYI, Miller’s still looking for that steak dinner. 🙂

  6. Allan

    Chris, excellent points. People forget that when the great Cowboys offensive linemen left for more money with other teams (Stepnoski and others) they didn’t do squat.
    Paul, I had the exact same issues with LT as I do with Irvin. I’m shocked in both cases that the Hall of Fame exists to immortalize the men who’ve made the game great and will choose to induct those who bring it and their teams and their league dishonor and shame. I think one could easily take the position that Irvin brought more shame and disgrace to the Cowboys organization than all the Cowboys who went before him combined — Harvey Martin, Hollywood Henderson, Nate Newton, Rafael Septien, Lance Rentzel, Deion Sanders, all of them. Yet Jerry Wayne chooses to place him in the Ring of Honor, on the exact same exalted level of Staubach and Lilly and Perkins and Wright.
    Cindy, do you ask about Powder Blue because of my love for the hapless Oilers or the Rangers throwback unis?
    Doug, don’t forget that Barry Sanders wore #21 at OSU. Although it won’t be him or Crime Time, either.

  7. Allan

    Gil, thanks for the kind words. As for Miller’s steak, does 8-8 constitute a winning season?

  8. Cindy

    $ 2 T-shirt Night. What more could you ask for- a good game (we won) and able to buy a shirt to wear to show your true backing for the boys of summer!

  9. Jason

    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.

  10. Allan

    Those words are not just part of the lyrics of the beloved favorites. Aren’t the words Canaan and Zion the very words that shaped God’s people for thousands of years and focused them on the promises of our God? Those words come straight out of our Holy Scriptures, from Genesis through Revelation, from the teachings of Moses and the Prophets and the Apostles. They are foundational-type words that evoke basic images for our faith. 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 “rank and file” members alike, they are just as “irrelevant” and make just as little sense as Canaan and Zion. That is not a reflection on the songs as much as it is a reflection on the sad state of our teaching in the Church or of weak personal Bible study or the lack of that vision of the Church dwelling in another world, or all three. But we don’t discard the words or the images. We explore them and learn about them and grow our faith through them. The chemistry teacher doesn’t throw out or change the lingo used in class because his students don’t understand it. He teaches it and the students embrace it. Or they fail.

  11. Kipi

    It seems to me that we are talking about the difference between being “vistor-aware” and “visitor-focused.” If we base our worship services on what will appeal to those outside the body then we lose the very reason we come together. Using the same reasoning, we shouldn’t base our worship on what we want but on God. Worship isn’t for our benefit, and I think that’s where we’ve lost our focus. When we bring our consumer mindedness into worship we completely lose sight of our purpose. The focus is God, people…not us.

  12. Kipi

    Sorry…that sounded a bit preachy, didn’t it?

  13. Chris

    If Jason thought he was starting a riot, wait until I get done with this one. It’s multi-faceted and it’s hard to find a clean place to start, so I’ll just jump in.

    I didn’t grow up CofC so I have a different perspective. The lyrics in some of our older songs are just amazing and powerful. Where things bog down for me is in the tempo – we just sing so slooow which is part of why I like the newer songs. I don’t want a stage show when I come to church yet acapella isn’t everybody’s strength (I know singing isn’t my gift,unfortunately, some in our family are under the mis-impression it’s theirs). Let some of our true singers be on mic’s and guide us rather than just a single song leader. I think you can balance it where it is appealing to the member and the visitor without taking it away from being worship.

    Your point about chemistry class is well taken, yet doesn’t go far enough. The best teachers make a subject come alive so that even the non-chemistry student gets interested. Look at Bill Nye or Mr. Wizard. If they get someone interested in the subject, they will learn more on their own. if they fail, they re-take the class. If we are talking about someone’s salvation, shouldn’t we try a different approach? 2+2=4 works for most folks but sometimes you might need to use 5-1 or 3+1. All three get you to 4.

    It’s similar with The Message. My college didn’t have Christian in the title so I get tiredhead when trying to read Romans in the NIV but I can get it with the Message and can then go back into the NIV. If I need more then I can go get a concordance or another reference.

    I love your line about the greatest gift and hoepfully we will be there someday.

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