The Main Poetry

Pop song lyrics have been de facto the main poetry of the United States since the mid-1960s.

—John H. McWhorter, Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music and Why We Should, Like, Care, 83

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Once and Done

Have a free-for-all time with a small group and design a service of worship that is entirely focused on meeting all your needs, hopes, desires, style preferences and favorite theological ideas. This might be considered an exercise to get it out of your system! 

—Robbie F. Castleman, Robbie F., Story Shaped Worship, Following Patterns from the Bible and History, 76

Of Planes and Pews

People on a plane and people on a pew have a lot in common. All are on a journey. Most are well-behaved and presentable. Some doze, and others gaze out the window. Most, if not all, are satisfied with a predictable experience. For many, the mark of a good flight and the mark of a good worship assembly are the same. “Nice,” we like to say. “It was a nice flight/It was a nice worship service.” We exit the same way we enter, and we’re happy to return next time.

A few, however, are not content with nice. They long for something more. The boy who just passed me did. I heard him before I saw him. I was already in my seat when he asked, “Will they really let me meet the pilot?” He was either lucky or shrewd because he made the request just as he entered the plane. The question floated into the cockpit, causing the pilot to lean out.

“Someone looking for me?” he asked.
The boy’s hand shot up like he was answering his second grade teacher’s question. “Well, come on in.”

With a nod from his mom, the youngster entered the cockpit’s world of controls and gauges and emerged minutes later with eyes wide. “Wow!” he exclaimed. “I’m so glad to be on this plane!”

No one else’s face showed such wonder. I should know. I paid attention. The boy’s interest piqued mine, so I studied the faces of the other passengers but found no such enthusiasm. I mostly saw contentment: travelers content to be on the plane, content to be closer to their destination . . . content with a predictable, uneventful flight. Content with a “nice” flight.

And since that is what we sought, that is what we got. The boy, on the other hand, wanted more. He wanted to see the pilot. If asked to describe the flight, he wouldn’t say “nice.” He’d likely produce the plastic wings the pilot gave him and say, “I saw the man up front.”

Do you see why I say that people on a plane and people on a pew have a lot in common? Enter a church sanctuary and look at the faces. A few are giggly, a couple are cranky, but by and large we are content. Content to be there. Content to sit and look straight ahead and leave when the service is over. Content to enjoy an assembly with no surprises or turbulence. Content with a “nice” service. “Seek and you will find,” Jesus promised. And since a nice service is what we seek, a nice service is usually what we find.

A few, however, seek more. A few come with the childlike enthusiasm of the boy. And those few leave as he did, wide-eyed with the wonder of having stood in the presence of the Pilot himself.

—Max Lucado, Just like Jesus, 77-79

Day Late, Dollar Short

A slogan that I think nicely defines what evangelicals have become in the early twenty-first century: “Anything you can do, we can do later. We can do anything later than you.” We seem ready to accept trends just after the sell-by date of the rest of the academy. 

—Gregory Alan Thornbury, Recovering Classic Evangelicalism, 22

Narcissistic Worship

Worship has become narcissistic, focusing on me and my praise of God; and spirituality has turned toward a preoccupation with my journey of faith and my spiritual condition and experience. . . . When we become narcissistic, the place of worship and spirituality in God’s narrative is lost and worship and spirituality become subject to the whims of culture.

—Robert E. Webber, Who Gets to Narrate the World? Contending for the Christian Story in an Age of Rivals, 131

Heart Worship 15

I think when you’re in church and a worship song is played (provided it’s not heretical), you have two choices:

1) Worship
2) Criticize, evaluate, and engage in pompous elitism.

I think what we need to do is just worship. When we got to church yesterday (we were very late) I didn’t feel like worshipping, for various reasons. And I may not have liked every song that was played.

But that’s my problem. None of the songs were heretical, and just because I wasn’t inspired to lift up Jesus, it doesn’t mean that the people around me were wrong to do so. In fact, they were right. I was wrong.

I think what’s needed in the worship wars, ultimately, is humility, thankfulness for what we have, and a renewal of the desire to worship God in spirit and truth. Worship, like grace, does not find an easy dwelling in an agitated, proud, critical heart.

—”Bill,” thinklings.org