Talking Various Church Oddities on a Sleepy Fall Morning


Sometimes, there’s just not enough in an idea for a full post. Sometimes, there’s almost too much, and the only recourse is a brief overview lest the topic overwhelm my ability to write. On such days, the best option is a series of post vignettes offered up for reader input. Feel free to fire away at any of these musings.


Is it me, or has much of contemporary worship music become more tribal and chant-like? I find a lot of this stuff tuneless and unsingable. First there was the charge that the lyrics were shallow. Now the melody is. When the Vineyard Churches energized modern worship music back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the songs had lovely melodies. I dare you to find the melody line in more recent songs.


Sermon topics I have not heard preached in years:

The Fatherhood of God

The Humanity and Divinity of Jesus Christ


Holiness: Why God Demands It, and What It Looks Like in Modern Living

Hmm. Weren’t those once considered foundational?


Conservative Christians are always accusing liberal Christians of a self-help, Oprah-esque form of the Faith that owes more to Jung than Jesus. But conservative Christians fall into their own ditch: sanctifying business solutions and calling them “spiritual wisdom.” Frankly, both are in error.


Kevin DeYoung has a new book, Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem, that seeks to address the frantic nature of contemporary life. I have not read the book, but from what I have read about it, DeYoung seems to throw the solution back onto the individual. I keep wondering when Christians are going to wake up and start challenging the entire system of how we live rather than trying to get individuals to modify their behavior to better work within that system. There’s only so much behavior modification one person can do. But then, show me Christians with a national platform who are willing to speak against the entire system of how we live, work, and play in America, and I’ll show you the one hand I can count them on.

Prepackaged, prefilled, communion cups & wafers***

These prepackaged, prefilled communion cup + wafer thingamabobs are just…well, words fail me. Nothing says prepackaged, prefilled, consumerized American spirituality more than those things. I dare anyone to partake of such a consumer good and soberly recall Jesus’ words that this is His body and His blood. Can you say that this is true of such a “communion meal”? Does this resemble the communion meal in the Scriptures in any way? In the end, what does it say about the Lord?


Jake Meador wrote “Why We Need Small Towns” for Christianity Today. I live in a small, rural town of about 3,100 people, and I have for the last dozen years. Heck, my son was off from school all last week because so many kids are involved in the county fair, there’s no point in having school. I can say without hesitation that Meador has over-romanticized the benefits of small town life. In truth, most small towns are no better than the suburbs, and in some ways, they have all the same problems but with fewer solutions. Most churches in a small town regret being churches in a small town, with their eyes forever on that suburban megachurch as their pined-for model. Really, I have no clue what Meador is talking about.


Tim Challies tried his best to bring some sense to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference. He is braver than I am. As a charismatic, what bothers me most about this conference is the number of ways MacArthur and his select speakers could address the “charismania” issue, yet it seems they are going the most inflammatory route, one certain to cheese off charismatics everywhere, no matter how orthodox those charismatics might be. If the conference truly was about restoring sanity to the ranks of charismaniacs, then where are the solid charismatic speakers MacArthur has partnered with in this effort? You say there are none in the speaker list? Hmm…


Over at Patheos, Peter Enns wonders if there is wisdom in using the writings of contemporary “spiritual” authors (the kind Oprah—there she is again—would endorse) to jumpstart  conversations with lost people about Jesus. Looking over the Bible, I guess I’m at a loss as to where the Apostle Paul recommends that Christians read the liturgy of Molech with lost people before talking with them about Jesus.


I used to be able to talk to fellow Christians about any topic. We could even skewer each other’s sacred cows and both laugh and think more deeply about the possible flaws in our own thinking. Today, everyone walks on eggshells, every discussion of personal belief follies descends into battles and hurt feelings, and nothing seems to get better. We are all so caught up in our own stuff that we are all heading toward prideful unteachability—if we are not already there.


Every last one of us needs an infusion of genuine, Christ-like humility.

18 thoughts on “Talking Various Church Oddities on a Sleepy Fall Morning

  1. I would imagine that if MacArthur tried to sell a book and conference based on some minor points of theological differences, it wouldn’t go well so he went the route of using the extreme to broad brush the whole. It reminds me of his “why every Calvinist should be dispensationalist” talk a few years ago that mostly made a bunch of people mad.

    • Yeah, Arthur, for all MacArthur’s insistence on doctrinal purity, he cannot seem to take his bully pulpit down to the human level and deal with people as real human beings. That broad brush doesn’t work. If he really wants to fix things, then go to the offenders and talk with them mano a mano. It’s not like he’s not well known enough to get an audience with folks. In addition, the fact that he invited no charismatics to talk at his conference is just more broad brush, and all he has succeeded in doing so far is cheese off every last Reformed Charismatic in Sovereign Grace and in New Frontiers. Talk about burning bridges.

    • A couple more thoughts on MacArthur:

      My understanding is that MacArthur and Jack Hayford have been friends for a very long time. I don’t agree with Hayford on everything (he’s a bit too much on tithing and dominionism), but he’s the Fred Rogers of Pentecostalism, and a man I am absolutely sure loves the Lord deeply and genuinely cares about people. Many of his teachings have blessed me tremendously, and his and Ravi Zacharias’s radio shows were the only two I listened to regularly. To think that Hayford, in the midst of all this, might get thrown under the bus by his old friend is really distasteful to me.

      Also, I have not been happy that some in the Reformed/Calvinist camp have demanded we charismatics defend Pat Robertson or else. Frankly, I hate that. I am not Pat Robertson’s keeper, and neither are any other charismatics. When Robertson holds press conferences, orthodox charismatics strap on the flak jacket. We hate getting struck by the blowback of whatever “out there” thing Pat claims this time. What is ironic is that the Reformed/Calvinists may now be finding that John MacArthur is increasingly their version of Robertson, and now they are going to have to find ways to defend him, even if they don’t want to.

      • I find it odd that he labels all “charismatics”, which is a hugely broad term, under the umbrella of “strange fire” (which is a horrible misapplication of that account btw) but seems perfectly willing to share a stage at a conference with them.

        As far as the rest of the Reformed, they love to devour their own for being insufficiently reformed so don’t expect many people to defend him other than his fanboys and mouthpieces. The standard of purity to call oneself “reformed” is a pretty steep one.

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  3. Linda

    Hi Dan,
    I live in an area where there are several villages, small towns, a small city, and two large cities a few minutes to a couple of hours from each other. This works well for most people who live a rural life to be able to get to a larger city within a reasonable distance from where they live. I live in the country but I often work in a city within driving distance from my home. I like the slower pace of rural and small town living but I also like the shopping and employment within the larger cities. Lucky for me, I can have both right now. I agree, neither rural life nor city life is all that, on its own.

    We know that there is error being taught in the churches but the errors are not exclusively the problem of any one denominational church, such as Charismatic, Pentecostal, Baptist, churches etc. Charismatics are more easity pointed out because their errors are more open and visible whereas other churches hide their errors among the truth. Which is worse for believers? Which errors are more easily discerned?

    Perhaps MacArthur is trying to remove the wooden sliver from his brothers’ eye while ignoring the beam that is in his own eye? Is he completely innocent in this matter of error in the church today? Not likely. He’s been a major teacher for the last couple of decades in the church. A leading national teacher followed by many believers of all denominations. He’s seeing the evidence (or fruit) of some of his own teaching and beliefs that he has put out there over the years. It’s so much easier to put the blame on someone else’s shoulders isn’t it?

    This is a concerted joint effort by the churches to try and address error in the church. No church is immune from it, no church is blameless.

    I’ve been ‘out of the loop’ so to speak, but I do believe that polarization is occuring in the church as well as in our world today. ‘First the natural’ the Bible says, then the spiritual. We see alot of polarization in the world today. People who are adamant about one philosophy or another, one belief or another, including Christians.

    I’m still working on getting my computer fixed. My local library computer is where I am writing from today. Enjoy your sleepy fall morning where you are. We here in Alberta are enjoying a wonderful fall season as well.

  4. Linda

    Hi Dan,
    I read the comments made here in this post. I think that the church would do well to begin preaching and teaching again about the need to turn from sin as believers in Christ Jesus. To honor God and live lives worthy of our hope in eternal life and our righteousness.

    I Corinthians chp 6 vs 9: *Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God?* ( my emphasis) Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[a] 10. nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (KJV)

    11. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (KJV)

    When we are washed and santified and justified there are changes that take place in us. These changes are visible on the outside to others. We are cleansed. Our lives change, our choices change, our way of life changes, our choices change, we become alive, we are new people. Verse 11 of I Corinthians does not give believers a licence to willfully and carelessly sin over and over again after being born again. Especially the sins mentioned in vs’ 9 and 10.

  5. Randa

    “The Fatherhood of God

    The Humanity and Divinity of Jesus Christ


    Holiness: Why God Demands It, and What It Looks Like in Modern Living

    Hmm. Weren’t those once considered foundational?”

    I have heard those topics preached this and last year, honestly. I must say though, it is tough to find some Churches where I can truly feel the Spirit of God reside and inform me pensively about His nature and what He demands of us. Currently I go to a great Church where I feel at home, and they focus on SCRIPTURE. Not on ‘buzz word’ topics. But actual scripture. Nothing they claim is outside of scriptur.

    I’m so sick of Churches being focused on anything else but actual scriptural relevancy, and being so caught up in the modern-day culture that they’re ironically fighting. It’s not ‘what’ you do, it’s how you do it that I find important. I’m sick of irrelevancies and trivialities splitting the Church and ministry. 🙁

    I found this place looking up information from Christian dads (just curious) who stay at home, and crossed your blog. (thank you for posting my personal rant on that. 🙂 )

    But here, let me add another thing to the list of things you don’t hear enough about:

    Rather than romantic husband-wife-child love, how about…brotherly love and sacrificing yourself for your fellow Christians? You can have deep affection for your friends, and caring for one another in a broterhly, loving fashion? I hear way more preachings on marriage than this, even though the Bible references and discusses this topic much more commonly, so I would imagine the importance is of higher priority. But why do people neglect this topic so?

  6. Dire Dan: “These prepackaged, prefilled communion cup + wafer thingamabobs are just…well, words fail me.

    The first thing I thought was “is this some kind of joke?”

    Is this like “we can’t even endure the simple procedure of filling cups and passing a plate around”?

    • Oengus,

      I am increasingly bothered by the “cheap-ifying” of the icons of Christianity. In many ways, we are moving away from the very authenticity that people crave. If anything, our movement should be toward increased reverence and purposeful elevation of that which is good, noble, pure, and right. Are we THAT tone deaf?

      My church tried out these prefilled things, and I objected strongly. We serve communion once a month, but we offer it “self-served” every week. I was told that this would be a trial for the served communion. Well, now it is what we use every week.

      In trying to commune ourselves this last Sunday, my son said to me, “Dad, I can’t get the top off the juice.” And I was having trouble too, as if I really needed the top to suddenly give and spill the juice all over me.

      Really, is this what it has come down to? I’ve written about lowest common denominator syndrome in the American Church before, but really, I’m weary of hoping for better yet getting less. Do I need to be frustrated even by the “convenient” communion elements?

      • ccinnova

        Those prepackaged, prefilled communion cup + wafer thingamabobs make me glad I attend a church which still uses wine and the common cup for communion. Of course, most of us prefer to dip the wafer in the wine rather than drink from the cup, the encouraged method since the swine flu outbreak several years ago.

        • ccinnova,

          While in my second stint in college several years ago, I attended a Vineyard church that used a common cup (and not by intinction) until a member got a case of hepatitis and the practice was changed.

  7. bobp

    contemporary worship music:

    I don’t want to broadbrush this genre due to my being older and grouchier.
    Yet, I don’t want to downplay a musical background that involved formal training and years in the Christian faith.

    I’m not sure if I can address your specific claims of tribal-like because I rarely listen to CCM on the radio because their up to date playlists bore me to tears.

    The bar was set in the mid 80’s to the early 2000’s. Go on Youtube and play Michelle Tumes , Margaret Becker, Michael W. Smith, Sandi Patty and a host of Hillsong music. This was not same-oh same-oh chord progressions , a list of one liners copied and pasted with some rhyme or reason and singers who all sounded like they had asthma.

    The above mentioned performers did songs that touched our spirits. Then came the industry and truckloads of wanna-bees. That doesn’t mean they were insincere, they just lacked something special.

    Mediocrity doesn’t kill art – it just hides it.

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