Excessive Celebration…Are You Kidding Me?

It’s the most ridiculous penalty in all of college football. I wrote this blog while watching the Auburn vs. Northwestern game on New Year’s Day. At the end of a 17-play drive by Northwestern, an Auburn player intercepted a pass in the end zone and ran it back 100 yards for a touchdown. 

McFadden, the Auburn player, ran a straight line like he was running a 100-yard dash for a TD. He was never touched. About 15 yards from the end zone, he changed his stride and started high stepping. For that, the team was tagged with an “unsportsmanlike conduct” penalty. No player from Northwestern was within 20 yards of him. This is excessive celebration? You’re telling me that making a big play in a bowl game and running with a different “style” or “speed” is excessive? Give me a break.

This silly rule has to go. It punishes kids for enjoying the game. There’s a difference between celebration and taunting. Taunting is obviously inappropriate. But aren’t we supposed to celebrate when our team does something great?

This rule makes about as much sense as if they started penalizing the cheerleaders for excessive splits, tosses, and pompoms. Or they could penalize the position coaches for too much clapping when their players make a big play. Perhaps they need to consider the Gatorade bath as excessive celebration.

I got it…I just don’t get it. It’s a game. Should we penalize a team if their fans are too loud? What if their colors are too loud and are a distraction for the other team (I’m thinking Tennessee orange, for instance)? It could be that the home team’s colors could cause the visitors to have an inferiority complex. Can we penalize that?

I’ve been in ministry for nearly 40 years. I’ve never found a church to be guilty of excessive celebration. On the contrary, most worship services are boring. The choir has no expression, and the people look like they want to crawl back in bed. Rote singing leads to a rut in worship.

In worship, we’ve done the one thing the enemies of Jesus could never do: we’ve made Him boring. He’s not boring, but I’ve been in enough churches to know that some folks would have formed a committee to try to stop the crowd from cutting palm branches and laying them at the feet of Jesus.

I’m not just talking about Baptists, although that’s where most of my experience has been. I’m talking about watching the crowds in concerts with everything from a gospel choir to Christian rock. I’m talking about crossing denominational lines. I’ve been in some “happening” places and in Charismatic churches and see little difference. A few might “get it,” but the majority don’t.

I’ve discovered the further you are from the “action,” the less involved you are. Even in the church I pastor, the engagement in worship from those at the front to those sitting in the back can be as different as night and day.

I’m not promoting emotionalism in worship. I am saying that our worship is lacking a passion that I find called for in the Scriptures. If we really believed that we will worship for all eternity in the presence of the Holy One, we would do a better job of warming up here on earth.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Some folks won’t even open their mouths and drop their jaws to get a breath of praise out. Those around the throne are bombarding heaven with worship. Too often our churches bomb when it comes to giving praise to God.

Vance Havner said, “Some Christians shout like Comanche Indians at a ball game on Saturday and sit like wooden Indians in church on Sunday.” I was in a service with Havner back in the ‘80s. The music was terrible. It was like sitting through a concert of someone scratching their fingernails on a chalkboard. The guy leading the worship actually thought he was doing a good job. He turned to Havner just before the offering and said, “Dr. Havner, does the music have you ready to preach yet?” Havner looked up and, without cracking a smile, said, “NO!” Then he bowed his head.

Worship is first and foremost spiritual. It is not mindless, but true worship must stir the soul. Music is a gift from God. It soothes the soul. It stretches us to the heights of our ability to express praise to God. It communicates feelings like nothing else. I love worship. I love to worship with my church family. By the grace of God, we’ve moved from those on the stage being performers to being worshipers.

Worship should be excellent. God deserves our best. He inhabits the praises of His people. If the rocks will cry out, what’s wrong with our lives, which are just dust, crying out to God?

Excessive celebration? When? Where? I’ve rarely seen it. The world will not give up their only day off to come watch us go through the motions of worship. Where was the evidence of true worship in your church on Sunday? I’m not talking about style. I’m talking about substance. I’m talking about worship in Spirit and truth—the blessed balance of a Spirit-filled heart in tune with the Word and harmonizing with the Spirit.

I wonder if we’ll ever have it? I know this: I’d rather calm down a fanatic than try to breathe life into a corpse!

4 thoughts on “Excessive Celebration…Are You Kidding Me?

  1. Amen Pastor!! God has truly blessed Sherwood with some of the best music, in style, quality, and content. However, even in our awesome worship services there have been times where I have “gone through the motions” – I may have been singing the words, I might even be expressive, but it’s not coming from my heart. Whether it’s a great old hymn like “It is Well” or a stirring worship song like “You are Good” – it has to be internalized, I have to think through the message of the song. I guess it’s a matter of engaging my mind even when the music invokes an emotional response.

    Thank you Michael for being the godly leader and example for us that you are.

    Praying for you,

    Albany, GA

  2. Dear Pastor Catt,

    Your blog post is very timely for me. I agree that worship must stir the soul. George Muller once wrote that he doesnt leave his devotional time until his soul as been feed. That’s how I feel about worship. But I am at a crossroads right now concerning churches. I live in an area where the churches are either all white or all black. As a black woman, I have been apart of both types of churches. My experience has been either one church had great teaching but boring worship or great worship and not so great teaching. I am praying about which church to make my home church. Is there a church out there that has both?:)

    Thanks for your post,
    Shannon McCoy
    San Diego, CA

  3. Good Morning Michael: I am from the old school; “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” I enjoy the hymns of the church. The old Rugged Cross; I’ll fly Away; There is Power in The Blood; Leaning on the Everlasting Arms; and many more. In the churches today we get away from these. We play the upbeat, swinging, music the young people respond to. This is not wrong! But! What about a BLENDED SERVICE?

    Wes Allard – Mansfield, Texas

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