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Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Sunday after church I stopped off at my favorite restaurant for a quick bite. I found this on my Diet Coke.

Individual Choice. . . . . . . affording me the possibility of a different drink option every day for the next 462 years. Wow.

It makes me remember the church I formerly served and numerous others these days whose approach to worship seems to resemble the idea represented on this large diet coke. Something for everyone. Suit your own taste. Contemporary, childrens, traditional, spirited traditional, Light Rock, Family, acoustic, ( ok--kidding about the Light Rock one-- but get ready-- it's coming.) Really-- the Sunday line-up more resembles Satellite Radio than the New Testament Ecclesia. My friend, Marcus Green, in the UK just produced a record of worship songs done in the style of Big Band music. It's good stuff.

This is not a rant-- I promise. I find myself wondering about all of this. On the one hand, it's great to magnify God and amplify praise in every conceivable form and fasion and genre of music. Why not? It seems appropriate that Psalm 150 should never stop adding new instruments and ideas. But on the other, something doesn't seem quite good about elevating the value of "individual choice" in worship. Aren't those two things antithetical really-- individual choice or preference and worship? Are we laboring to practice hospitality or are we trying to make worship attractive? Isn't real worship inherently attractive? Could this individual choice thing be a sign that we are missing the essence of Christian worship altogether and that we may have created something entirely foreign (i.e. idolatrous) in its place?

More and more I see worship in the frame of an unruly albeit ordered athletic contest in a large stadium-- a jubilant celebration of the presence of God and the reality that We Win-- see David Crowder's song by the same title. Doesn't it seem insane that I would go to a UK game and fight with other fans about "individual choice" in how we cheered the WildCats on? I mean, when's the last time you went to a great football game and thought about yourself at all. Don't you get so lost in the game that you forget yourself in a way? (more on this coming in a future post)

More and more I think individual choice is so important for us in worship because we have made worship into a form of group therapy-- where the group is convened for the sake of the individuals present and music is the chief form of therapy, transporting so many individuals to their respective "happy places." (a.k.a. the Presence of God). Could this explain the incessant need of so many to repeatedly declare "It's not about me." If it's really all about God why do we feel the need to keep telling God that to his face? Can you imagine saying that to your spouse all the time-- It's not about me. It's all about you. I promise.

NO. ITS ABSURD. IF YOU DEMONSTRATE IT THERE IS UTTERLY NO NEED TO SAY IT. Could it be that the only reason we say this is in fact because we are deeply convinced that we are not demonstrating it? This makes saying it a form of denial doesn't it? And denial. . . . . we know that's not just a river in Egypt don't we? Denial is the mistress of addiction. And the addiction is. . . . . . . .me, myself and I. . . . . . we are addicted to self. And addiction is really one of the purest essences of false worship-- it's the totalizing substitution of something else in the place of God-- to the point that we will do absolutely anything to serve whatever that something else is (anyone out there familiar with the 12 steps??? step 1: admission of self's powerlessness to change = the defeat of denial. step 2: belief in a higher power = beginning of faith. step 3: surrendering of self to God = the beginning of worship. . . . . .)

So what's your favorite Sonic libation?
posted by John David Walt | at 7/25/2006 04:48:00 PM



Blogger gmw said...

Vanilla Dr Pepper, easy ice.

Abby and I were musing about this 168,894 different drinks/462 years thing and figured that if we got 10 Sonic drinks per day we could do it in 46.2 years. Much more manageable--especially if you team up on it: Abby and I each get 5 Sonic drinks a day and let each other taste a little of each others'.

I'm hearing you on this JD.

Two things:
1. What do you say to folks who would jump on what you've said and say, "See, this is why we should be doing 'traditional' only!" all the while not necessarily recognizing their own individual preferences at work in what they're saying and thinking?
2. Your comments on "light rock" remind me of something Hank Hill told his son Bobby's parachurch youth leader on King of the Hill once: "Don't you realize that you're not making Christianity better? You're only making rock'n'roll worse." Bobby's been really taken up with the cool, trendy Christianity of the youth leader. At the end of the episode, Hank shows Bobby a box of things like tinker toys, a tennis racket, etc that were phases of interest that Bobby went through and then left behind. Hank says to him, "I just want to make sure the Lord doesn't end up in this box. Do you know what I mean, son?" Bobby: "Yeah, Dad. I know what you mean."

10:43 AM EDT  
Anonymous JP said...

Gee, JD, and I thought you were going to go soft while on sabbatical...I love the wrestling with topics and issues on Farmstrong!
1. Favorite drink - straight sprite, half ice.
2. On one hand it could be that churches are trying to meet people "where they are," which would lead to, and has, lowest common denominator worship. As well, for most folks, a worship service is about the only exposure they will engage in during the week (as Barna and others have shown that reading Bible, participation in small groups, etc is declining), so it makes at least some sense to expose them to God in the form most easily experienced by them, ie, through the style of music they are familiar with and appreciate.

3. On the other hand, "denial is the mistress of addiction"--by the way that is a HOT turn of phrase, you wordsmith you--could be an explanation as to why many worship songs have the lyrics they do. Important to remember is that different generations intake differently. Older generations like linear - I was a sinner, now I'm saved, one day I'll be with Jesus in glory - so most hymns do that type of narrative connection.
Younger generations like circular - remind me again and again of who God is, or of who I am to God, or why we worship God (thus you are the air I breath repeated). Repetition breaks through the attention deficit of younger generations.

4. To flip this back to you, JD, and feel free to flip back to me, how do YOU worship? Do you have a certain way or preference in which you press into God, or experience Him more readily? I'm sure most of us do. Aren't we supposed to worship in spirit and in truth, so that makes the FORM of worship less important than the MEANING derived from it or the worship given through it....doesn't it?
5.It may not be an either/or thing - say it OR demonstrate it...couldn't it be both? I say the Apostle's Creed and try to live out its truth daily. Maybe the variety of worship expressions allow us insight into the different facets of the Living God who cannot be contained within one form or meaning or expression or encounter or gathering or experience or style or sound. Maybe?

I'm still waiting for Irish step-dance Praise!

11:16 AM EDT  
Anonymous Matt Purmort said...

Hey JD your post reminds me of a U2 lyric in their song NY. "In NY freedom looks like...too many choices." We live in a culture where we need choices, unfortunately worship has fed this very well. Also Jesus wasn't always very relevant to the people around him. Shouldn't our worship in someway embodie this if we are to truuly reflect God's character in worship. And I am thinking more than just pipe organ instead of guitar. I think what you said is helpful in that worship first and formost is our (community) offering (sacrifice) to God.

11:38 AM EDT  
Anonymous mattmaher said...

im a fan of the "Strawberry Limeade/Sprite combination"....ya know?

12:39 PM EDT  
Blogger gmw said...

who wants to go be post-mod desert (or better, mountain) monastics? seems like deep discipleship with some folks in authentic community would dovetail into more authentic 'spirit and truth' worship...

also, i really love the sweet peach tea. that's my other sonic addiction.

4:22 PM EDT  
Blogger gmw said...

even though I don't like community, that is...I don't get to do whatever I want.

4:37 PM EDT  
Blogger b.h. swan said...

I have had all the combinations. The cherry limeade is the best one out of all 168,894 of them.

5:45 PM EDT  
Blogger Michel said...

I waited to weigh in on this one... cause in some ways it seems easy...

First of all... SONIC? Greasy nasty place if you ask me.

Second of all... I think this remarkable emphasis on individualism is a distinctly protestant heresy in the church. By that I mean, we were the ones who started dividing and dividing on the basis of doctrinal preferences... (ie Calvinism VS Free Will) why would we then be surprised to see us splitting on less important isues now?

Divide and... well divide again... it's the protestant way.

11:13 PM EDT  
Blogger gmw said...

or us Anglican and, because of that, Wesleyan folks. We didn't even part ways with our Catholic mother Church on doctrinal grounds, but b/c of political expediency for the king to divorce and remarry as he pleased. now that's some good theological heritage!

11:25 PM EDT  
Blogger Timothy Putnam said...

This has been burning in me lately. (not sonic)

The question is, what do we do from here?

12:01 PM EDT  
Blogger Marcus G said...

First - "168,894" sounds like the title of an episode of the West Wing. Which is great, as I mourn its passing regularly. (May be it's a grief thing - how a bereaved person will "see" someone they know in a crowd; I'm seeing West Wing titles everywhere...

Second - thanks for the plug for the CD; glad you're still spreading the word.

Third - what I love about church is that it's the only place I know where the whole family can go together. Kids, teens, young adults, marrieds, parents, grandparents - the whole Pauline Jew/Gentile worshipping together thing in our day is about different ages worshipping together and not pulling off into their own favourite ghetto. So our church here mixes it up. Something for everyone, but trying not to make that something seperate for everyone, and trying not to make it Lowest Common Denominator Worship either (truly an abomination unto the Lord).

A hard path. But the more of us that love that path, the more still will walk it. Psalm 133 upon us all.

2:11 PM EDT  
Blogger JohnDeere said...

A red letter day indeed on FARMStrong-- Marcus Green live. you FARMStrongers should consdider reading Green's first book, Salvation's Song. i will link to it in an upcoming post.

3:45 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like to boycott Sonic because styrofoam takes 2,000 years to decompose in our landfills...this boycott is a small form of worship to me.

4:16 PM EDT  
Blogger JohnDeere said...

is that jamey lee there on the styrofoam blast? jd

10:37 PM EDT  
Blogger gmw said...

so what you're saying, mr anonymous, is that you could have a different sonic drink each day and go through the whole cycle 4.3 times before the cup from the first one decomposed?

that's a long time...

11:49 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SONIC. Might that be Americas Dead End. What about the person who was working inside one with a grease barren floor and fell. Approx nine' head first to catastrophe. Did they survive. Has that been advertised. How many people have been injured their? That have not been compensated? What about the Lady who was just ran over and killed because SONIC messed up her order?

1:38 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SONIC. Might that be Americas Dead End. What about the person who was working inside one with a grease barren floor and fell. Approx nine' head first to catastrophe. Did they survive. Has that been advertised. How many people have been injured their? That have not been compensated? What about the Lady who was just ran over and killed because SONIC messed up her order?

1:41 AM EDT  

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