Is A Popular God Really God At All?

What if the decisions we make regarding our worship practices and our worship services were made mainly with the visitors in mind? What if we shaped our services so that “seekers” would feel welcome and unoffended? What if we planned the order of worship, the presentation of the Lord’s Supper, which songs we sing and which ones we dump, and carefully watched the clock with mainly the visitors in mind?

We would assume that our visitors — seekers, unchurched, whatever — would like things to be upbeat and simple. Silent prayer and expressions of confession and / or lament would be out the window. We would only sing up tempo songs that have been written in the last 20 years, preferably ones our culture hears on their radios. To appeal to our visitors, we would spend much less time on sin and judgment and holy living and much more time on personal growth and self-realization.

In an article by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. in Perspectives in 1993, the author speaks of the movement in our churches to bring in celebrity speakers such as Tommy Lasorda to speak during worship about how “the great Dodger in the sky” has helped him win games and lose weight.

“And on it goes, in various combinations of novelty, some of them mild and some very aggressive indeed. At the most advanced level of popular worship, imagine a High Five for Jesus replacing the Apostles’ Creed, and imagine praise time beginning when somebody shouts, “Gimme a G! Gimme an O!…”

That was written in May, 1993. And today, just 14 years later, our kids are led during worship to shout “Gimme a J! You got yo’ J, you got yo’ J, you got yo’ J! Gimme an E! You got yo’ E…..” to spell out the name of our Lord and Savior who suffered and died for my rebellion and sins.

And I cringe.

Here’s the question: what if some of this stuff does not reflect the Christian faith or worship very well? What’s the point of doing it? Why bother with it?

Again, from Plantinga: “What if by offering popularized religion as an appetizer for unbelievers we should accidentally spoil their appetite for the real thing? Suppose your ten-year-old does not like your heart-healthy dinner menu, so you arrange a seeker meal for him in which you offer some non-threatening Pringles. You do this in order to set up his taste buds for baked potatoes. I wonder how often that would work.

Suppose a seeker came away from a service of the kind I’ve been describing and said to herself, Now I understand what the Christian faith is all about: it’s not about lament, or repentance, or humbling oneself before God. It’s got nothing to do with a lot of boring doctrines. It’s not about the hard, disciplined work of mortifying our old nature and learning to make God’s purposes our own. It’s not about the inevitable failures in this project, and the terrible grace of Jesus Christ that comes so that we may begin again. Not at all! I had it all wrong! The Christian faith is mainly about celebration and fun and personal growth and five ways to boost my self-esteem!

How do you prevent that conclusion? Or, to put the question very generally: How likely is it that a popular God is really God? How likely is it that a user-friendly God will rebuke sin? Or save people with transcendent and unexpected force? Or have to suffer to do it? Or call us to suffering and discipline as well as to joy and freedom?”

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Legacy Worship Center Construction Update

DirtMoves  WorshipCenter  DirtPiles

Dirt has moved and is being moved with teriffic force and accuracy!

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Number23There are 23 days left until football season officially begins with the first real college football games. Real games that matter. Not preseason scrimmages.

And the greatest football player to ever wear #23 is Lance Alworth. Nicknamed “Bambi” because of his LanceAlwortheffortless glide and elegant grace in the open field and his elusive escapability in a crowd, Alworth wore the #23 as an All-America wideout / halfback / punter for the Arkansas Razorbacks. (Shout out to Gardner!) He spent nine years of his pro career as a seven-time All-AFL star for the San Diego Chargers, leading that league in receving three times and, at one point, catching passes in 96 straight games.

Alworth finished his football with the Dallas Cowboys, scoring the very first touchdown in Super Bowl VI. Born in Houston, he was the very first AFL player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He did wear his Razorback #23 for his first two seasons in San Diego, as you can see from this 1963 football card. And, I’m not sure why he switched. The AFL, to my knowledge, never had the strict number rules the NFL has now. His #19 throwback powder-blue Chargers jersey, the one he wore for seven seasons, is a top three Alworth1963Cardseller every year. But Lance Alworth is the greatest player to ever wear #23.

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Taking the girls to the Rangers game tonight. Hopefully they won’t be down 6-0 before we get to our seats.

Peace,

Allan

7 Comments

  1. Cindy

    Look for me at the game- It won’t be hard to find me in the big crowd. — GO RANGERS !!!!!!

  2. Cynthia

    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.

  3. Allan

    Cynthia, thank you. Wasn’t it Augustine (maybe, hopefully)who said, “We play the music so others will ask for the words.” The baseball game analogy is there. I’ll post it later today, along with your comments here. Thank you.

  4. Chris

    #30 – Mike Rozier (even though I am long time Cowboy fan and remember watching Dan play) had better numbers.
    #28 – Jackie Robinson (his football number at UCLA)
    29 and 26 – agree
    #25 – Tommy McDonald – he was Bilitnekoff before Bilitnekoff, he just didn’t have the tv exposure

  5. Allan

    Chris, it’s not strictly about the stats. Great stuff, though. Excellent names from the past with Rozier and McDonald. I choose Dan Reeves on his nice guy status, Montgomery because he broke my heart as a kid, and Biletnikoff mainly because of the TV bias you mention. I may have to consider changing that one for next year.

  6. Chris

    Good guy input rockets Dan past Rozier. Plus I forgot the original reason I was responding. I would put Jerry LeVias as the best #23. Breaking the color barrier in the SWC plus his numbers is pretty impressive. I heard an interview he did with Norm and it was really something to hear what he had to go through.

  7. Allan

    Great Jerry LeVias reference. Had a chance to meet him the w/end the Ponies opened that new stadium. Humility and gratitude and a big-picture viewpoint oozed out of him. But he doesn’t top Lance Alworth! You don’t really think so, do you? And with his #19 taken by another football immortal, I really had no choice.

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