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Drill Teams in the Army, Starbucks in Church

Oct 03 2016

I remember visiting my brother when he was a plebe at the United States Coast Guard Academy.  We went to a football game, and, although I don't remember the outcome of the game, I remember the half time show.  There was a marching band, a skit to the tune "What do you do With a Drunken Sailor?" and a drill team.  The drill team stands out in my mind because what they do is very much like a juggling act.  These were the cadets who, while marching, tossed rifles back and forth with, well, military precision. Over their heads and the heads of six or seven others somehow the cadet in the back of the line effortlessly caught the rifle every time.   Their polished boots shone in the sunlight, their marching was completely in sync, and, oh the way they handled those rifles was like magic.

But it doesn't take a five star general to realize this was a show, and had no real military value.  When on earth would soldiers on the battlefield (or coast guardsmen on a ship) need to juggle rifles while marching in intricate patterns?  In fact, I have learned, they don't even use functioning rifles, and certainly not loaded ones!  Drill teams are a lot of flash, but have no real purpose beyond appearances.

I was thinking about this the other day when I heard a Pastor say, "If we want our church to grow, we need to have the best show in town."  Best show in town? Really?  I suppose churches who have slick worship bands, free Starbucks coffee and stand up comic-pastors do draw all the oohs and ahhs of a well trained drill team, but, when the coffee nook is closed and the worship center's sound board is powered down, we might find the morning service was just as empty as a drill team's rifles.

In "Relevant" magazine, Rachel Held Evans writes "I want a church that includes fussy kids, old liturgy, bad sound, weird congregants  and—brace yourself—painfully amateur “special music” now and then. For one thing, when the Gospel story is accompanied by a fog machine and light show, I always get this creeped-out feeling like someone’s trying to sell me something. It’s as though we’re all compensating for the fact that Christianity’s not good enough to stand on its own so we’re adding snacks."  Steve Taylor was more succinct when he snarked, "this disco used to be a cute cathedral."

The church, by its very existence, is in a spiritual war.  While this may sound out of character from someone who is admittedly on the pacifistic side of average on military issues, (I agree with the first century believers who said, "When Christ disarmed Peter in the garden, he disarmed the church.") so I want to make it clear that I am referring to spiritual warfare.  The church is in a war against enemies named apathy, selfishness, hatred, injustice, hopelessness, greed and many other villains, and  a good show on Sunday morning does nothing in and of itself to win this war. Instead, let's hear the simple truth of the greatest commandment, "Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself."  Let's worship God with more spirit and truth and fewer  celebrity written praise anthems and high tech lighting effects.  Let's shut down the Starbuck's stand in the lobby, and open a food ministry to feed the local poor. 

In other words, let's stop marching around like it's half time, trying to delight the fans with our powerless weapons, and get in the battle.

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