The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Getting into the Habit

I have a confession to make: ever since Facebook and iMessage started using ‘emojis’ and offering integrated ‘gif’ and ‘meme’ reactions (short clips/screenshots from films, or pictures to depict a particular response), I’ve found myself occasionally thinking in ‘emojis’, ‘gifs’ and ‘memes’. Indeed, rather than responding to a colleague’s email with actual words last week, I just sent a link to a meme instead.

I never intended it to happen. But in the same way that I never intended ‘lol’ (an abbreviation for ‘laugh out loud’) to become a part of my vocabulary, I have unwittingly let it become a habit.

I’m becoming ever more aware of how much culture forms us, whether we like it or not. For better or for worse, cultural practices captivate our minds and our hearts, and become a part of our personality. Forget ‘you are what you eat’, maybe instead it should be ‘you are what you tweet’.

In his book You Are What You Love, James K.A. Smith shows how the practices and habits we choose to engage with form us. He sets this in a larger context of the various ways we’re influenced and shaped in everyday life – through the ‘liturgical calendar’ of the sports season or the ‘sanctuary’ of the shopping centre, for example. These habits and practices mould us into certain types of people with certain types of loves.

Smith encourages us to see how the various elements of our gathered moments of worship provide a counter-formation to such rival liturgies, putting worship at the very heart of discipleship.

Gathered worship forms us for our scattered lives. By offering money, we tell a different story about how money works. Baptism constitutes us as a part of the people of God, placing us in community. Eating bread and drinking wine provides a way of being caught up in a story bigger than our own. In gathered worship, we are blessed and then sent out as a missional people to embody God’s purposes in the world.

The counter formation offered by our gathered worship also translates into our everyday, ordinary lives. It means that our completing paperwork, constant nappy changes and piles of filing suddenly take on new meaning – they are done not just because they have to be, but for the glory of God, as worship to him.

I don’t have a gif for that yet, but I’m working on it.


Nell Goddard
Writer at LICC.

‘Whole Life Worship’ the new book from LICC, with Sam and Sara Hargreaves, plus accompanying pack of resources for church services and small groups,  launches on Tuesday 28th March.


Nell Goddard


  1. Dear Nell
    My son – a Theology lecturer, gave me this for my last birthday. I am well through my second read – and still discovering exciting new stuff. A great article about a really valuable and enlightening book.

    By Paul Hayes  -  24 Mar 2017
  2. Paul …is this “The Whole Life Worship’ or ‘You are what you Love’? Thanks

    By Allan Turner  -  25 Mar 2017
  3. You may have a Gif-ting in this area Nell!

    By John from Belfast  -  28 Mar 2017

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