Monthly Archives: October 2010

Pew Potatoing and Learning to Land a Plane Pt 2

Pew Potatoing and Landing a Plane Pt 2. So, how does this play out in Christianity?

Valley’s, Mountain tops, and Plateaus

We are not all in the same place in our Christian walk. Some are in valleys, some on mountain tops, some in transition up or down, and yes, some on plateaus along the way. We see Elijah in a world of hurt w depression in a valley in 1 Kings 19. We see Peter in a world of hurt for denying Christ in the Gospels, another valley. Yet, we also see Peter on a mountain top, both figuratively and literally during the transfiguration. Plateaus seem surprisingly absent in scripture, albeit most certainly they do exist in ones Christian walk. In a lot of ways, I think plateaus bring us to trust God more fully, even though they are not so much fun being in them.


However, just as in learning to fly, their are times when static contemplation and synthesis can be perceived as stagnation or even back sliding leading to discouragement, yet are very much part of growing in Christ. The key to discerning / avoiding / dealing with discouragement is awareness and perseverance. Awareness that plateaus / pew potatoing occurs, and such is not always a bad thing if discerned properly… and that a plateau might well be viewed as a form of suffering, which then ties right into Romans 5 with perseverance.

Not only so, but we[co] also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. and hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

If we find pew potatoing, is it really a plateau in growth, or is it like the passive, unengaged flight student in rote mode? Some observations…

Travis hit on this a while back with the following as concerns the dangers of passivity and as he says, in-grown, self-centered worship.

When worship is turned into an excuse to avoid our calling, it is insincere at best and idolatrous at worst—we worship a golden calf made in our own image.

Another observation concerning passivity and lack of engagement from JessicaB:

…have never read the bible for themselves. Their thoughts and ideas about God and Heaven are mostly folklore and old wives tales that have been told to them by a grandma or neighbor…or tv.

I could literally elaborate on this into infinity. So I’ll cut myself off by saying: these generalized set of nominal christian’s I’m talking about…

Have never had their lives changed.

@rev3j stated the following on twitter:

in my experience it more often result in inoculations which prevent viral transference

well what I see in the gospels is two distinct groups of people disciples and the crowd disciples actively follow crowds worship praise & listen to messages but they aren’t disciples because they aren’t actively following. Jesus bids us follow

Pew Potatoing and Passivity Under Pressure

The saddest part, is when pew-potatoing gets put under pressure, it usually crashes and burns… just as what would likely happen to a passive unengaged flight student if left alone and unguided.

more in Pew Potatoing and Landing a Plane Pt 3 The flight instructor and the church

Pew Potatoing and Learning to Land a Plane pt 1

@khad came up with this interesting concept called pew potatoes… ie uber passive worshipers apparently watching a performance. Whats fascinating is how many parallels there are between pew potatoing and learning to land a plane.


On a positive note, such apparently passive time could be a time of percolation, not unlike the “learning plateaus” we run into when teaching students to land a plane… such is where different aspects of knowledge and practice intermix with one another over time, and then after a bit of a delay, light bulbs come on.


On a negative note, for a new student, or a new flight instructor, learning plateaus are often a source of massive discouragement, and such can even lead to self doubt… which then often leads to a complete loss of engagement. If left unchecked, this self doubt/loss of engagement path is most commonly followed by the student leaving flight training entirely.

Passivity and Rote Response

On an extremely negative note, a flight instructor does have to be on the watch, as some students are passive in disguise… they merely repeat rote actions. They may appear to have incredible skills, and be making incredible progress in a short period of time… but throw a few extra variables into the mix, and rote repetition fails in a huge way.

Passivity in disguise is one of those things which needs to be identified and nipped in the bud early on, or it can lead to a nightmare. Ie, a student pilot competent to pass the written, oral, and flight test, yet a huge danger to his/herself, such that no way would a flight instructor sign off on them.

Yet there are exceptions under narrow circumstances. Passivity and lack of engagement is not always a bad thing, sometimes, such as in a pinch hitter course for non-pilots, things like working the radio, and the basics of a/c control even if only achieved via rote do fulfill the desired objectives. Ie, in the event of pilot incapacitation, such can and has allowed a non-pilot to be able to successfully land an aircraft.

Part 2 will follow… So, how does this play out in Christianity?

Finding a Church… Easier Said than Done

Years ago, I did a ton of traveling for work. In some cases, I might end up being on both coasts within a 24 hour period. In others, I might be somewhere for a few days, or even a few weeks. Much of the time, I’d do the work at hand, and then crash at the hotel, or if the sched worked out, I’d catch a redeye flight to the next destination. The times when I had some downtime, or more so extended downtime, I’d seek out a church or two to visit. I’d bug the desk clerk, or whip out the yellow pages, or grab a local freebie paper, and almost always there was a list of churches, many of whom had their times of service listed. In other cases, if I was using a car, I’d see a sign, and simply drive past the church, and note their hours etc. For the most part this was pretty easy to do.

As such, when a buddy was telling me about the difficulty he was having at finding a church when he was trucking, I said hey… do this, or even better check online, it should be easy. Well, he tried, and apparently my methods of old dont work too well anymore, and online doesn’t either. He said the phone book had tons of numbers, but only one had service times listed. The freebie paper didn’t have a church listing at all… and online, well there were a number of dead websites. The only real solution for him was to get on the phone, make a bunch of calls, hope that he got a real person, or a voice recording of service times, or that someone returned his call before the next service. (My buddy is not ELCA, and thus would be unaware of the master locater website thing, and apart from that, its not exactly a friendly gui either.)

This got me thinking a bit. Here we have a Christian on the road, just looking to visit a church and he is running into some annoying barriers. What about the unchurched, the dechurched, or even the person new to a community? Are they going to feel comfortable having to make a bunch of phone calls, even before visiting a church? What about the unchurched who wake up some Sunday morning and want to attend on the spur of a moment?

As such, about a year ago, I decided, ok lets do this for real… So, one Sunday, starting at 8AM the following occurred.

1. Checked the phone book… well, living in a small community, about 20 miles from a moderately sized city, the yellow pages are pretty useless. There are over a hundred churches, and only a few had service times. Apparently Southeast MN and my friends location are alike in that way.

2. Checked the freebie newspaper… well, guess what, no listings whatsoever. Today, I checked a local paper at the library, and it does have a list… the question is, how many would buy a paper to find a church?

3. Checked online… egads, what a mess and those spam type community sites are everywhere.

4. Ok, got out on the bike, and started looking at church signs… some didn’t bother to even have the service times listed! Its fine to promote your future event, your Sunday school program etc… but if by chance some random person passes by your church, knowing the time of service is more than a big deal.

Granted, one could argue that there is nothing wrong with a little effort to find a church, and I could sort of agree with that. On the other hand, it would take so little effort to knock down the barriers… the big question is, Why is does Christian society put up barrier to entry? Jesus may stand at the door and knock… but should the church go and hide the door away out of site and out of mind?

CCM Music and Text Misalignment

I some weeks back “A joyful noise unto Him with Psalms should be joyful… so, whats up with dark liturgies speaking of, but not showing joy?” Such was not in respect to anything I happened to hear, but more so I was thinking of the liturgy of the hours, and how sometimes, the text and the tune are way out of alignment.

Later that week I came across a blog post from a LCMS guy, and I think he makes some valid criticisms as concerns CCM, especially so in the worship arena. Going a bit further, rather than just CCM, I think much of what he says can apply to almost any music or even art used in worship, irrespective of style or culture.

A couple bits I’ve captured, albeit edited to be generic

Instruments, and with the timbres they produce, is the sound that defines worship music–– and for supporters, it is a requirement

The sound of instruments or lack there of becomes normative and essential for our worship music, or so it is thought.

This is huge, and I think he nails it! “The text should inform how the musical accompaniment is crafted. This time-tested, honored, and responsible approach to hymn accompanying is all but destroyed when using the pop-band approach to congregational singing. And the evangelicals who have employed it have essentially given up using traditional hymns in their worship. This is because it does not work!

Granted, I’m no arranger… but I’ve seen exactly what the author is getting at… and I’m saying, why can’t it work more often (I have seen such work amazingly well within liturgical churches, less so in non-liturgical) I’ve seen the same apply to really bad hymns with organ accompaniment too… but the probability of a major crash and burn seems way less. Perhaps its because so many bad arrangements crashed and burned years ago, that most of the bad news stuff has long since died off? Or perhaps its because of a desire for contemporariness that overshadows text and musical alignment? Or is it just things are too new, and its going to take some substantial iteration before everything works it way out? I dont know, but it will be interesting.

How to reach people, How to make disciples, Mixed Messages

TheLutheran had an interesting article, How to reach people (who don’t tune in to Sundays) which @mattcleaver brought to light. I think the article presents a number of ideas to assist with discipleship, which is way cool, if that were the intent of the article. The difficulty is, the article presents one problem, namely evangelism. But then, it proceeds to provide solutions for another problem, discipleship. Certainly there is some cross-over, but the mixing of problems and solutions sends a mixed message.

Its not rocket science to note our evangelistic efforts are failing, and that the traditional methods for growth of immigration, birth, and cultural support are no longer all that applicable. Also, when one looks at things like Women’s Bible Circle, or Lutheran Men in Mission, the numbers of participants are pretty low. Being those ministries might be considered some of our major tools for building disciples, we’re not doing so well there either.

The overall concept presented is the following:

… people are redirecting their faith-related activities, loyalties and dollars into a better “value proposition” than Sunday church alone can offer — namely, a dynamic mix of self-selected and self-directed opportunities for working out one’s faith.

I agree with that premise… in the discipleship arena, but as far as evangelism, well I think it falls short for many. Granted, long term wise, if one solves the discipleship problem, evangelism will correct organically.

The author then goes on to present a solution:

Without any apologies for marketplace language, I think we should embrace a concept that I call “Multichannel Church.” It’s based on a fundamental known as “multichannel marketing,” which uses many different channels to reach customers, such as retail store, catalog, Web site and e-mail marketing.

This is where things sort of split in two. Many of the solutions end up being value adders to a Sunday only methodology. There is much potential for discipleship building… but I’m not so sure such methods fit well with those already tuned out to the Sunday experience.

In many ways, the proposals are a replay of the past, albeit they fit within the self selected/directed methodology. The vast majority of which are things from the early days of Lutherans in America. In fact, likely many of the suggestions were close to what was in place up until about 45 years ago, when the decline started. No doubt the arduous task of living on the prairie 150 years ago conditioned folks to get things done.

The concept of Sunday only Christianity likely was anathema, especially since one might only get to see a pastor in church every few weeks, or even months. Its also interesting to note the importance of service back then…. think of all the hospitals built at the turn of the century, manly of them of driven by Lutheran lay and clergy. Now, some can’t even fund their own building… much less a clinic or hospital.

That being said, even if returning to the past were to work, there are a couple of issues. First, one has to consider where folks are in their walk, and that different “channels” of marketing are not applicable, nor even helpful to all. Thats perhaps one of the dangers of a self directed type of approach. Thanks to @stuedal for bringing this to light.

On the one hand, those choosing a monastic style of obedience, sacrifice, and quiet as they pursue discipleship should have such opportunities available. On the other hand, their is a risk of folks choosing just quiet obedience, without discipleship…which doesn’t really help them, nor the church, nor the kingdom, its just quiet obedience. By the same token providing a multitude of options for discipleship involving others can work wonders… but there is also a risk of social activity without discipleship, which again, doesn’t really help them, nor the church, nor the kingdom, its just social activity. Of course, neither social activity, nor quiet obedience is always a bad thing, and for short periods, such can be quite helpful, but they best be time limited, and also not the only thing.

I also have to wonder a bit. Returning to the past, but adding in what technologies provides us today, does make for some great approaches for building disciples. I also think such solutions can work wonders to expand beyond Sunday only Christianity… but whether such avenues work to reach those not tuned into Sunday is another issue entirely.