For it is by grace you have been saved...

Monday, December 3, 2007

Of Pigskins and Piety

“A Disney song would sound good if you have a good sound system…Maybe we can get a band,” said one man. “We just want to make it a fun, good-time atmosphere,” said another. Both agreed that a new sound system and updated music would go a long way in solving their problems. When people are excited, everything is better, they say.

Are these church members talking about how to reach more people? Better sound, upbeat music, getting people excited as the answer to a lagging performance. Sounds like some church meetings I’ve been in.

But no, these quotes came from Stephen Jackson and La’Roi Glover of the St. Louis Rams. According to them, the Rams' lackluster performance this year (they started 0-8 and are now only 3-9) can be traced in part to the “atmosphere” in the Edward Jones Dome where they play their home games.

In an AP article carried in the Springfield News-Leader on Sunday, Jackson was quoted as saying, “If our fans are not behind us and the music’s not pumping and the players are not excited, you’ve definitely got a lot of reasons why we’re not winning.” So…it’s the fan’s fault and the music’s fault.

My first reaction to that was: You’ve got to be kidding! You guys are paid millions of dollars each year to do what you love: play the game of football. You are on the biggest sports stage in America. And you can’t get excited because of the music. That’s the reason you’re 3-9?!

My second reaction was this: This is exactly the same attitude we see in the church. People in our churches say they know the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. They say they come to church to worship the one they love, He who sits enthroned on the grandest stage in the galaxy. But they can’t get excited because of the music. That’s the reason we don’t have bigger crowds?!

Eerie parallels here. And the reasoning is just as lame. I know there is such a thing as home field advantage in the NFL. I’ve been to games at both the Dome and at Arrowhead in KC. I know there is some electricity in a good crowd. But if the players claim they can’t win without better music and more hyped up crowds, then they don’t deserve the multi-million dollar contracts they fight for. Good fundamental football wins games, not sound systems.

And the same is true in the church. I’ve been to some emotionally exciting worship services; and I enjoy it. But if we claim we can’t worship without better, hipper music and hyped up crowds, then we don’t truly understand the nature of the grace we’ve been given and the awesome nature of the God we worship. Good fundamental theology makes for good worship, not sound systems.

The interesting thing is that many people will hear comments like those of Jackson and Glover and see through those as trivial. But those same people fail to see the trivial nature of the same arguments in the church. We are such an entertainment oriented society that we feel church has to match MTV and HBO and all those other letters in the “fun, good-time atmosphere” category.

Charles Spurgeon once said to “Beware of mistaking excitement for the Holy Ghost, or your own resolutions for the deep workings of the Spirit of God in the soul.” Elsewhere he said: “You who live upon excitement, will be but deceitful brooks; you whose religion depends upon the elocution of the preacher, you whose piety depends on sacraments, you whose godliness rests in your own doings, you may very well become like the dry and stony beds of occasional torrents; but those who depend upon the work of Christ which he has finished, and upon the in-welling power of the Holy Ghost, who shall abide with them for ever, shall renew their strength like the eagle’s; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

As a long-time Rams fan, I’m hoping for a real turnaround this season. A lasting one that doesn’t come about by hyped up music in the Dome, but a healthy team playing fundamental football. And as a longer-time “fan” of Christ and His church, I’m hoping for a similar lasting turnaround; one based not on hype and hysteria of an entertaining service, but on healthy believers coming before a Holy God in worship based on sound theology and a simple grasp of the nature of grace.


mommato4 said...

I love it! You said all of that so well!! We completely agree with you! We're not huge Rams fans :) ...but on everything are right on! We are constantly amazed at what some of the local huge churches are doing to 'bring' people in! It's all in the name of Christ, but in reality it's about being entertained! Thanks for a great the way we're friends of "The Back Deck".

Have a wonderful day!

Scott Weldon said...

I won't hold against you the fact that you are not a Rams fan (how dare you!) or the fact that your are friends with G and T (they'll be friends with anybody, just look at us!)

I think I've read some of your comments on The Back Deck. We homeschoolers need all the encouragement we can get sometimes, so thanks for stopping by.

Greg said...

My brother in Christ, you are so on target with the whole seeker sensitive movement. I believe it in tales more than just the music, but many of the other aspects of Church piety. I am with you all the way, we must be like Charles Spurgeon and truly cling to the Gospel message. Now about those Ram's, I feel you have the wrong team altogether. I admire your wishful thinking in the NFC, but history has proven that it’s not the stadium but the team that makes the difference in championships. "How about them Cowboys!"

Scott Weldon said...

My dear brother,
I have tried to hold my tongue, but you force the issue. Though the Rams have fallen on hard times of late, I will not be a fair weather fan. I was a fan before their 99 Super Bowl run and will continue. (Though I admit to a genuine longing for the days of Warner and Faulk).

As for that other team you mentioned... Having spent a year in that most horrid state of the union, none of which was all that pleasant, I can only say "Can anything good come out of Texas?"

The Cowboys are the NFL equivalent of a seeker sensitive, materialistic, Arminian, mega church! (How's that for an insult)

Greg said...

My dear brother,
I have never had the opportunity to spend a pleasant amount of time in the Dallas area. I may want to move there due to the fact that I can't seem to get the real NFL game on Sunday afternoons. They seem to think those of us in Missouri want to watch the Rams and Chiefs, but in reality we long for America's Team. Your insult was well taken, however one must still count the rings.... And they are building a stadium which has a wonderful sound system (as if they needed that!).

Scott Weldon said...

My dear brother, I will pray for you. Scripture is very clear that the sinful heart causes us to "long" for worldly, fleshly things. Calling those pagans "America's Team" and bragging about their "rings" is just a reminder of the worldliness of it all. May God rescue you from your delusion!