How Crazy is That?

Seth McFarland of “Family Guy” fame, or infamy to some, either portrayed in an episode or said in a presentation, monologue, or routine something along these lines: A bunch of people sit in front of one guy while he yells at them for 30 or so minutes and then they sing hymns to an invisible deity.  How crazy is that?  He’s right.

Where else in America do you have anything like this?  Motivational speakers don’t do that.  They hit you with pictures, lights, sounds and pump it up.  With the political arena it’s the same way; there’s a give and take between the audience and speaker.  The focus isn’t on something that is invisible to the naked eye.  And of course sports arena are all in the round or at least horseshoe shape.  They aren’t focused on anything other than what’s at the center, and their “preacher” the PA guy keeps it that way.

What traditional worship does is crazy.  I am surprised that as many modern people tolerate it as do. I think decreasing numbers do. (You can always tell the confessional guys who are bent more towards numbers than confessing.  They always assure you that what we have – liturgy, formality, tradition – are what young people really want.  They will usually have numbers, articles, and anecdotes to back them up.) I know it’s what young people need; I’m not convinced it’s what they want. And the contemporary worship crowd, along with the cowboy church, the non-denominational church, and the emerging church know this.

So they have the pictures, lights and sounds of the motivational speaker.  They don’t have a guy up there preaching (AKA “yelling”) but talking in an avuncular aw shucks sort of way.  And if they can do it, they’re going to get you in the round so you don’t have this linear from here to eternity (which is what we’re aiming for) feel to the service.  No, the center has got to be something visible, tangible, something that sight can walk by.

A local LCMS church had advertised that they were going to have text messaging during the sermon to the peripatetic pastor.  I don’t know how that went or if they continued.  But 25 years ago a Lutheran school principal, a self-confessed and proud Seminex-style liberal, said he wanted to be able to interrupt the pastor.  Jesus words, “He who hears you hears Me” were lost on this man.  If they were not, he would have understood that he who interrupts me was really interrupting Him.

Thankfully a handful still know this. A handful not only tolerates the crazy way of traditional worship, they live from it and will gladly die in it.  It is theater, movies, entertainers and actors who are always talking about the need to reinvent themselves every so many years.  It is God who speaks of the need for us to be not just reinvented but to be killed and raised.  How crazy is that?


About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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