The Fundamental Focus


When in worship services, fundamentalists know where their focus is supposed to be. You’re sitting up, shutting up, and listening up to the guy in front. Or you’d better. You would be the first person ever to be called out if you were caught dozing in service. But then as the song says …

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it …

And we’ve all been there — there and elsewhere — while in service.

What Happens In Others’ Heads

Many fixate on afternoon activities — the cookout, the youth event [please Lord — let that cute guy/girl notice me]! On Superbowl Sunday, there are many fantasies about that great play they hope is coming.

There is the project that must be turned in Monday morning. Another dreads and plans strategy for the talk with a spouse they know is coming. Another prays that his bid on that motorcycle will prevail. A guy just given a new fishing reel spends service at the lake, enjoying the action of that wondrous device and catching fish.

Plenty of things happen in service beside worship. We all know it and all do it. And even though we know that we’re not supposed to practice our righteousness to be seen by men, we ourselves may have offered up an appropriately timed ‘a-men’ or ‘preach it’ lest Reverend begin to wonder about their glassy-eyed look.

Then there was that amusing time Reverend got carried away with his own lucidity and backed himself into literary corner. What began as a great point wound up as a sentence that couldn’t be finished. You just have to wonder what did it.

11 thoughts on “The Fundamental Focus”

  1. I always loved it when as a high schooler, we would have a Q and A session with the pastor a he would be theological stumped or back himself into a corner. To which ever young person knew the illustration he have was SO not really,true or accurate. I think many a young person just wished the IFB “authorities” would have stopped treating us like children an just been honest with us about real life.

    1. Dear Adam Meester:

      Your closing line sums so much of what I found repugnant about Snob Clones Perversity. Even at ‘university,’ students were regarded as ‘children’ with longer legs and arms. Were a question raised about what music was to be considered ‘worldly’ and what was acceptable, the answer would be made that ‘Dr. So-and-So is a very mature and responsible Christian and he defines it thus…’ That is no answer at all. It taught [likely still does teach] young adults to rely on cited ‘authorities,’ and to invest implicit faith in the system. THEN they turn around and critique Rome for its own version of implicit faith. Point out this matter and you were coming close to critiquing a university position, which Bob Jones University forbade. They could still refer you to another ‘expert’ [usually Bible faculty], but they had more invested in the system than did students. I found this ‘system’ to be unacceptable.

      1. Places like Bob Jones University are merely a symptom of the greater problem. Like your catchy play on words, they produce clones who parrot the company mantra and often times create for themselves churches that are loyal to their Alma mater and their fellow-cronies far more than to the gospel of Christ and HIS church.

        As far as your comments on “The Fundamental Focus,” if these titled and self-proclaimed anointed ones would actually practice being followers of Christ, then they wouldn’t find themselves irrelevant in the eyes of those enduring long and seemingly endless hours of non-participating silence staring at the back of the heads in front of them whilst the droning of the pulpiteer continues.

        I would not be even the least bit surprised to hear one who occupies the “sacred desk” imply the one who is prone to wonder as being the very one caught up in thought outside the pulpit proclamation. Never mind the captive audience is bored out of their collective minds.

        Then there is this concept of worship. Where is it taught anywhere in the New Testament we meet for the purpose of worship? Everything is to be done for the purpose of edification is what I’m finding, though I fear being over-simplistic.

        Then there is pride. When it comes to our wondering and feeling it, this is a big one.

        1. Free From Diotrephes:

          ‘…seemingly endless hours of non-participating silence staring at the back of the heads in front of them whilst the droning of the pulpiteer continues.’

          Thanks for the idea! Sometime, we’ll have to do one on the ‘annual Bible Conference’ motif… LOL!


  2. My “train of thought” during sermons has changed vastly over the years.

    When I was a child, I hated church. I would get in trouble for passing notes with my friends (until I was no longer able to sit with them) and for talking. The rule in our house was that if we misbehaved in church, we would get a spanking from each parent when we got home. Everyone else in my family was eager to go to church and loved everything about it. But I really dreaded church. Every. single. week.

    As a teen, I began to try to take my faith more seriously. I began taking notes to help me pay attention and focus on the sermon. Most of what was said meant little to me, but I tried to understand and I tried to make myself “enjoy” it.

    As a young adult, I began to listen to sermons and feel guilty. I felt that if I didn’t leave church feeling guilty about something then I hadn’t tried hard enough to listen to God.

    As a young parent, working two jobs, putting my husband through college, and completely exhausted, I just struggled to stay awake during sermons. To not run through mental lists of what I had forgotten to do, and to fix my eyes on God.

    As my children grew, life slowed down somewhat, but I began to battle trauma from the past. Sermons then became almost like a kind of time of bargaining with God. “If I do better, will you help me?”

    For the past couple of years, I’ve wanted to understand God. I’ve perceived that He’s not who I’ve believed him to be. I’ve listened to sermons absolutely yearning for truth, and to know Him, and to see Him as He is. I’ve left thirsty to understand more.

    Lately, I sit through sermons, and I’m cynical. I am looking for fault in what’s said. I’m even looking for ways in which the Bible passage being discussed doesn’t make sense or I think of other passages that seem to contradict it. If I’m not being cynical, I’m numb and my heart is stony. I don’t like feeling this way, but I can’t really summon the ability to “set my mind on things above.” Perhaps God gives up on us and quits speaking when we’ve disappointed Him. Maybe it will pass. Maybe it won’t.

    Do pastors know, as they preach, what goes on in the minds of their listeners? Do they know the vast range of responses and thoughts that are occurring in response to their words?

    1. Dear First time caller:

      Once again, your questions stop me in my tracks. First, you have made quite a journey. Second, I’ve been very cynical myself. Last week, I told someone that I questioned whether there was a church on the planet where I could be at home.

      Sadly, many pastors don’t know what is in their people’s minds. And any number of them really don’t care. Frankly, some of these pastors are dealing with their own ‘God-issues.’

      As a young child, I struggled with the church gig. I COULDN’T sit still … I still can’t! Finally, grandma struck on the idea of taking blank paper to church so I could draw. That was the fix! Church became tolerable.

      Many years later, I caught a church boss [an old shrew] gnawing some kid’s ears for not paying attention in church. I told her off and pointed out that plenty of people took sermon notes. Oh, but ‘C’ here is too young to take notes. He just needs to listen. I told ‘C’ that at his age, taking notes was drawing pictures of stuff he heard in the sermon. Personally, I think that must have been one of my more brilliant ideas. It happens that ‘C’ had some artistic talent. He always showed me his artwork, and I became increasingly astonished by his spiritual perception and artistic composition. About a year later, he brought me a drawing of the Magi at the stable, laying gifts before the Holy Family. There were ‘aminals’ in the picture. You could see a horse gawking in through the window … and beyond it in the sky, a star. What would you have done, First time caller?

      I asked ‘C’ if I could keep his picture. He said ‘yes.’ Next year, I approached the church secretary and asked her to run by pastor the idea that ‘C’ drawing from the previous year be used as the Christmas bulletin cover. Pastor jumped at the idea. I had already cleared this with ‘C,’ and this ran in the bulletin with his name and age at the bottom. It was astonishing to see the congregation’s reaction!

      Maybe we should try drawing more pictures on the canvas of our mind about what God would have the world be …


      1. What would you have done, First time caller?

        I suppose I would have remembered what Jesus said about children:

        “From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise.”

        and “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

        and “If anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

        And I would try to remember that God promised that “a little child shall lead them” in a land of peace and beauty.

        But, often, it’s easier to just be cynical.

          1. And your love and encouragement to that child was beautiful.

            A seemingly small suggestion and then a gesture of love, both which I’m sure left your fingerprints on that child’s life and showed him who you believe Jesus to be.

            The world needs more of those types of “seemingly small” acts of kindness.

  3. Interesting discussion! First time caller, I can identify with all of your sentiments.

    At our new church, I’ve started bringing a sketch pad and drawing pencil. I sketch whatever comes to mind — sometimes it is related to the sermon, sometimes it is related to a scripture passage on the same page but not necessarily related to the sermon, or it may be something seemingly unrelated. No one seems to mind that an adult is sitting there drawing during the sermon. It’s become sort of a spiritual meditation for me, and ironically helps me to pay better attention to the sermon because it keeps me from getting bored. I’m no artist but I like to draw for fun, and I look forward to having some peace and quiet to sit there and sketch.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *