The liturgies of volleyball

One of the perks of living in a college town is all the sporting events you can attend. My family and I went to watch the Indiana University women’s volleyball team get pasted (sorry to say) by the nationally ranked Penn State team.

The little gym was loud and vibrant. People yelled. The band played. We engaged in our liturgies around the flag and the communal cheers we all shared. We sang the fight song with more gusto than nearly any church I’ve attended. And then we dispersed into the night.

Attending a sporting event can be among the most ritualistic experiences we ever encounter. And yet, we almost never bring to it the kind of weariness that often marks worship. I suppose the drama of the game is largely the cause. Worship is not a drama in the sense that a sporting event can be. At the very least, the drama is invisible, hidden in the past or lurking in the spiritual.

I don’t know that you would want a church service to be like a volleyball match. But it did get me wondering how it is that we drain all energy and vitality and drama and adventure out of Christian worship.


7 thoughts on “The liturgies of volleyball

  1. Being from Michigan….let me just begin by saying….GO BLUE!!!!!! ……love those Wolverines!

    I’ve heard this comparison at different times before and it really is quite an interesting observation. I’ve heard the comparison made between sporting events, concerts, etc…. , to the church which was often followed by a a moment of half hearted clapping and hooting and whistling……for something. I think if we look at the similarities they offer and then the differences they offer we might discover the answer.

    The similarities……

    We can actually, perhaps sadly, say that the competition between various school teams can represent the competition between various denominations of religion.

    The team has a paid coach and a staff of assistants / The church has a paid pastor and a staff of assistants. Each care about their team, and each is under pressure to keep their jobs.

    The team has a band and cheer leaders to lead in the fight song and stir the pre-game enthusiasm / The church has a praise and worship team.

    If the team is successful the bleachers fill up game after game….generating more and more money….and the coach is praised along with his game strategies / If the church is successful the pews fill up Sunday after Sunday…..generating more and more money….and the pastor is praised along with his strategies.

    The difference…….

    The sports team is a group of individuals working as one…..each using their individual talents to support the team as a whole with the coach facilitating each individuals participation and specific athletic gifts.

    Those attending the event are just as much a part of the team…..we are all teammates…..we are a participating member of a team….we aren’t their for the purpose of self. We have an excited anticipation of the upcoming game. We arrange our schedules to attend. We tell our friends and family that we are going to the game. We tell our friends and family all of the details of the game afterwards. We can’t wait until the next game…..because we love our team. We cheer and encourage when our team is winning….and we cheer and encourage even more when our team is down…..we love our team. When one of our team goes down with an injury we all silently stand up with genuine concern….we love our team. When that one slowly stands up grimacing, but walking forward again….we encourage and cheer the loudest….we love every member of our team. We all share the same desire to be victorious….to conquer our foes…..together… a team……because we love our team. Though our role in the game is as the encouragers and cheerers, many teams on the verge of being defeated actually are driven to victory because of us….our encouragement….our cheering our team on…..boy do we love our team. And it is an electrifying experience to share with everyone in attendance the joy that comes with victory…..we sure love our team. We aren’t the coach….we aren’t the players out on the court or field….but we are a part of that team….a vital part…..a participating part…..and we love our team. We are the steadfast encouragers through thick and thin. We always keep looking forward….to that next victory….or even that first victory….we don’t lose our hope…and we maintain our excitement and anticipation knowing that victory will come…..we are part of a team…..and we sure do love our team. We love our team.

    “But it did get me wondering how it is that we drain all energy and vitality and drama and adventure out of Christian worship.”

    Not such a perplexing statement after all.

    1. Great comment, although you spoil it with that opening abomination. I get the impression you are not an active part of a congregation.

      1. I’ve grown up in the church….attending a 1st Reformed church from birth till college. Going to all the services…being a part of youth groups, youth choir, etc… . I gave my life to the Lord at age 13 while attending a Nicky Cruz event in our town. During that time my church divided and a large number began a new church. Being young…I did not know all the particulars of the division, but it was easy to sense something was wrong. While in college and into my young adult years I did not attend a church. After my first child was born I began to go back and found myself in an Assembly of God church. Quite a contrast. There I taught an adult discipleship class for 4 years, was a youth counselor for 9 years, and served as an elder for 4 years. For many years this church truly demonstrated the fullness of Christ’s love. It was an amazing place for growth and family. But then…slowly….it all became bizarre. People began chasing after gifts and “Holy Spirit” manifestations more than anything else. It became a circus. It became manufactured. The church began to divide and though I pleaded through my teachings and personal conversations for the body to please, please don’t continue down that road….the church imploded. I had to pull my family out…but I remained in one last desperate effort to encourage reconciliation and healing. I failed. I hope nobody ever has to be in the middle of a divided church….it was horrific.
        From there I attended a non-denominational church….which is actually a denomination in and of itself. I was not actively involved as far as serving in a specific leadership role…but I was active in meeting the needs of the congregation and actively building and supporting and encouraging the love of Christ.

        I am now in Germany….working for the air force as a civilian. On base they have a chapel…but because it is the military….there really can’t be specific denominations. We have a traditional service, a gospel service, and a contemporary service. I attend all of them regularly. It is a tiny community within the base community as a whole. I assist where I am able, I attend bible studies, mens groups, and assist the Chaplins as much as possible.

        I am wrestling right now. Not with my faith….not with my growth in our Savior….but really really wrestling with “church”. I’m not sure if anything I am saying makes much sense….even now I want to weep. Its like I have this gigantic desire inside of me to see the church but I can’t…..and I honestly don’t know why I can’t. I love our Lord Jesus so much….I love His Body so much….and I am crushed witnessing what is happening to the church today. All of the compromising….all of the false teachings…..all of the division…..and most crushing…..the replacement of Godly love and a love for God, for worldly love and the love of the world.

        I apologize if I come across abrasively in my comments. I sincerely do.

        1. You do not come across as abrasive at all. But the hurt is there, which I now understand better. Thank you for being willing to share your story. I have sadly heard many like it, and have felt the pain to a lesser degree in my own story. It is a great scandal that we the church are so often do little like our Lord.

          A pray God will kindle and trends that love and desire you feel. Grace and peace to you.

        2. Whenever I get to the point of frustration with the Christian Church and all it’s problems divisions and challenges, I remember the Apostles and what they faced. …A world without Christianity.
          A world where everyone questioned and challenged them on every issue. A world filled with many gods, abandoned children, slavery, eunuchs, drunkenness and prostitution in some temple worship, emperors that declared themselves gods and demanded knees bowed to them or death. The effort it must have taken these greats to establish the Christian Church is hard to put into words.

          Today’s great challenge is the revisionists who seem to think they are on a higher plane than the Apostles. Revisionists are not new. Thy were around in Paul’s day too.
          When I consider all these things it makes me a little ashamed I can become discouraged.
          It makes me remember the price paid.

  2. I can appreciate what you are saying, d. I would never compare myself to the apostles….but at the same time I certainly do not feel any shame for how I feel. I am not discouraged really…..I genuinely grieve for the church…..I weep at times in deep sorrow….but I am not discouraged. I understand the price Paul and the others paid….they were willing to lay down their own lives to further the Kingdom of Heaven and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But I can honestly say this…..I have given my life to Christ and I would lay down my own life to further the Kingdom of Heaven and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m not holding back on God. I’ve been in Turkey….I’ve been in Afghanistan…..I’ve seen the hate filled stares of others towards me just because I am a Christian. But….I sincerely do appreciate what you are saying….and I agree they had many challenges……and so do we.

    Peace brother.

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