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Saturday, March 06, 2010 

The Quote of The Week From A Friend On Facebook

Today’s quote of the week is from one of my friends on Facebook commenting on the recent revelation that an air traffic controller let his children direct airplanes from the JFK tower:

_______ is marveling at how everyone gets worked up over a kid repeating ground control instructions when even the pilots got a kick out of it, while no one gets upset over the notion of a youth-lead worship service.

What a brilliant observation! Think my friend and I are being too harsh? I don’t, not at all.

Well, you see, I have some personal experience with “youth-lead worship.” One of the last “worship” experiences I participated in, before leaving the faith for fifteen excruciatingly long years of atheism, had the youth of my congregation running the entire service dressed up as clowns while late sixties rock and roll (selected by me) blared in the sanctuary. With the hope of being seen as relevant and cool; the youth group I was a part of was allowed to take the holy things of God and profane them for all to see.

Boy did we pat ourselves on the back that day. Looking back, it is one of the most shameful things I’ve ever done and as sinful as I am… that's saying a lot.

That singular event is one of the primary reasons I cringe every time someone explains that we need to stop looking so much like church to reach the so called unchurched. The less we look like church the easier it is to look like a bunch of kids in clown suits.

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I thought that was a pretty good observation, too. Oh, when I think back on the crazy things I introduced into the church service in my young evangelical past. But if anything good came of that, it would have to be that some things manifested themselves to be shockingly wrong. Particularly, I remember...

-In college, a girl from our Christian fellowship group ran her own separate club for "Christian dance" as a form of worship. My own church had started up a little makeshift church dance troupe as well- not very good- so I thought, why not get a real dancer in to do it? So she performed at our church at my invitation. I ended up thinking to myself afterward, "NEVER again." This friend of mine, incidentally, was recently ordained as a pastor into the ELCA, which I just found out about through a link on Luther Quest. Lesson learned: liturgical dance is a meeting ground for both performance-oriented conservative evangelicals whose worship is all about "using your gifts," as well as left-wing church groups all about self-expression and the subjective experience of God. This led me to some serious soul searching on the real purpose and existence of denominations, and why "Hey, at least we all believe in Jesus" just doesn't tell the whole story.

-I'd been getting into the use of PowerPoint in my college years. Then someone else did music to his own PowerPoint presentation one Sunday, which featured an enormous, smiling portrait of the President of the U.S. and a feel-good quote. That was jarring enough to start questioning whether churches really ought to be talking politics in their gatherings and being so blatantly partisan. Some of the things I had done had been no better.

-My pastor found out that I'd memorized the book of Philippians and asked if I'd recite it for the congregation one Sunday, and I did. When I was done, everyone applauded. That was typical for musical performances, but it seemed suddenly bizarre and wrong for a recitation of Scripture. It upset me enough to start questioning this "applauding for performance" trend when it came to music as well. People would think that they were clapping for "God's glory" somehow, but it suddenly became apparent that the clapping meant: "You have impressed us with your talent. Good job."

Sometimes, the stupider the things are that you do, the more likely you are to be shocked out of your own stupidity.

“Sometimes, the stupider the things are that you do, the more likely you are to be shocked out of your own stupidity.” Kelly, I didn’t realize that there was anything wrong until I returned to the faith years later. As I said, we were patting ourselves on the back for what what a good job we did. Only after I returned and saw a worship service that focused of Christ in every way did I start to understand how far off the rails my former congregation had gone.

You am smarter than me.

No no, many grown-ups throughout Christendom are making the problem impossible for young teens to grasp because they too are patting the kids on the back for this stuff. How much of it is sincere, and how much of it is "I guess we have to tolerate this craziness or else our kids won't come to church anymore," I'm not really sure. But even older kids are eager to please adults, especially if adults encourage them to show off or make light of serious stuff. Or maybe it makes the adults feel "young at heart" because although they could never see themselves doing this kind of stuff, at least they can live vicariously through Mr. and Ms. Dynamic & Attractive Worship Leader.

Being serious for a sec’… I think you’re right that many adults think that if they don’t allow such goofiness to go on that they will lose the kid’s attendance in church. This is because many in elected leadership (all levels) have told them this. For almost a generation everyone’s been told that we need to look less like a church and with the state of catechesis being so poor we bought it hook, line, and sinker.

But, there are also those that truly dislike and hate anything that even looks like church and will do whatever it takes remake the church into something unrecognizable and void of Christ and His gifts. These people are wolves.

The pastor who encouraged us to do what we did at my first congregation was a wolf plain and simple.

Congrats on blog of the week!

You know what gets me too, Frank? On top of all the points made here, with which I completely agree, clowning itself has a magnificent and noble history and these clowns aren't even real clowns either! If fails even as clowning! Judas H Priest!

The former pastor...was a wolf...
As one who remembers the service to which Frank refers, and equally shutters in shame, right down to the using of Pachelbel's Canon as processional for the foolishness, I have to say I have much prayed for the wolf-man. That Christ would grab ahold of his heart and that he would KNOW this Savior that he serves as an occupation and not a dedication. For him, I think, it was all about the show, the robes, the pulpit from which to preach about "Everything I needed to Know I learned in Kindergarten,"; or other such dribble, and not the power of the Gospel and the meaning of living everyday in the light of the Risen One. This man had my greatest sympathy, for, like Frank, I have been moved to a place of humility before our God, and I fear that he the wolf-man has not. So dear friends, please pray for this man, that Christ would enter in.

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  • I'm Frank Gillespie
  • From The Haut South
  • Confessional Lutheran
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