“Gentleman, This Is A Football”

After reading Mark Batterson’s book Primal, I started thinking quite a bit about the “stuff” that gets accumulated in our walk with Christ. Especially church traditions.

I find it amazing that neither Jesus nor Paul nor Peter nor any other biblical writer gave us a format for how we should “do” church. Over time we’ve just come to expect that a church service will have some songs, announcements, an offering time, some special music, and a sermon. But even changing the order of the service is so jarring to some people that they treat it like one of the Ten Commandments has been broken.

We can’t just keep doing church the way we’ve always done church. Sometimes we need to step back to ask, “Why do we do what we do?”

So I’ve been spending some time reading through the book of Psalms. I want to get back to the essence of worship.

  • What is it?
  • Is it just singing songs? If so, what songs?
  • Is there a style that is more God-honoring?
  • What instruments should we use? Should we even use instruments at all?
  • Do we sing hymns? Choruses? Both? Neither?
  • Does music only come at the beginning and the ending of a service?

Since I love sports, I frequently go back to sports analogies. Several years ago I read David Maraniss’ excellent biography on Vince Lombardi. Every year the Green Bay Packers coach went into pre-season drills with a stronger and stronger passion to win. Here’s how Maraniss describes it:

“He began a tradition of starting from scratch, assuming that the players were blank slates who carried over no knowledge from the year before. He reviewed the fundamentals of blocking and tackling, the basic plays, how to study the playbook. He began with the most elemental statement of all. ’Gentleman,’ he said, holding a pigskin in his right hand, ’this is a football.’”

“Folks, this is worship…” 

  • I know it can involve instruments, but it can also be acapella.
  • I know it can be loud shouts, but it can also be quiet whispers.
  • I know it can be hymns written 150 years ago, but it can also be spontaneously composed.
  • I know it can open a service, but it can also be throughout a service, or even at the close of a service.
  • I know it can be in a church, but it can also be in a grocery store.

I know it is highly personal.

I know it is based on what attributes of God I have experienced firsthand.

I know God loves it when I worship Him.

As for the other details, well, I’m still wrestling with that.

8 Responses to ““Gentleman, This Is A Football””

  1. Richard Brogden Says:


    I agree with all you have said above, however a word of caution from an “Old Elder”.

    I believe, and could be wrong that “The Emerging Church” has carried this vision too far and their moving away from tradition, in my view, is moving away from what the Church should be.

    So continue to pray, plan and study–but do go slowly and do not make change for change sake.
    Some old and tryed Anglican form of service can be a great blessing when Jesus, by the Holy Spirit is in the meeting.

    My prayer for you and your generation, is for a true Holy Spirit revival in whatever form He wants to come.

    Your Uncle Dick


    • Craig T. Owens Says:

      I agree that change just for change’s sake is not sound philosophy, nor is it biblical. My question is more along of the line of “why?” Why do we sing those songs? Why do we worship the way we do? I don’t want to forsake tradition, but I don’t want to hang on to something just because we’ve always done it that way. Neither do I want to do something new just because we’ve never done it that way.

      I just want pure worship. I want to get closer to God’s heart for worship. I want to get closer to God.

      Thanks for your comments, Uncle Dick, and your wisdom. You continue to be a great blessing to me.


  2. Mary Says:

    I have many times wondered why “Church” is what it is.
    Many times we cry out for God to meet us there and when he comes we transition and miss him. We miss out, I feel many times when worship is sweet and we are so close to him and oh no it is time to get the offering and preach a sermon that was written to fill the 25 minute slot. I don’t think structure is as important as being in his presence and feeding off his goodness. I remember services in the late 50’s that lasted from 10am to 5 pm with no sermon only messages from him. Oh to be back when time was only important when you had nothing to do.


  3. judy Says:

    Once you have experienced Gods presence at a conference or in a church service that is all that you want. More of God. How do you get there?
    We are the temple. So how does God fill the temple? Do we ask Him to? Do we prepare for His presence? What are we willing to do to invite HIs presence. Fast, pray, sanctify? We say we want God but are we realy willing to give up the comfort of tradition? Yes, yes!
    I remember Pastor Benson was so in tune with the Holy Spirit and he was never unwilling to change the service when he heard from the Spirit. I loved that. He always was prepared but never put his plans ahead of God. He would go away every year to spend time alone with God and I know he put many hours of time into prayer. It showed. I appreciate that more now then ever. We all need to do that, not just our pastor. What are we willing to put into it!


    • Craig T. Owens Says:

      I love your observation about Pastor Benson: “He always was prepared but never put his plans ahead of God.” I think we need to do everything we can (the “we” being pastor, worship leaders, congregation member, ushers, etc.) to be prepared, but then allow the Holy Spirit to move. Yes! That is what I believe the Holy Spirit honors.


  4. Steve Saunders Says:

    It seems that the “truest form” of worship has got to be Orthodox be it Greek or another. This form is unchanged since the days of St Mark. Everything else has evolved based on mens desires, preferences and fears. But who is to say that what they started with was Gods design?


  5. Lloyd K. Bentley Says:

    Despite the so called evolution, I test it all using scripture, both line and context.


    • Craig T. Owens Says:

      Steve & Lloyd,

      I like how together you captured the “both sides of the coin” of traditional and evolved worship. I think the essence of worship is in the balance. In his book Good To Great, Jim Collins talks about the Tyranny Of Or versus the Genius Of And. It’s true for biblical matters too. We need to hold BOTH to traditional values AND remain relevant to our culture. Thanks for weighing in… and keep the thoughts coming too.


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