Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Learning From Dealing With Death

Before his own illness, iMonk interviewed Chaplain Mike (who presides at iMonk in Spencer's temporary absence)on his ministry to the dying and their families. Said Mike early in the interview:
In my experience, most people and churches in the evangelical world have their focus on fellowship and activism. The kind of work I do doesn’t fit the model very well.
That is very damning stuff, particularly if you read the rest of the interview. He goes on to talk about how a lack of liturgical resources contribute to that lacking in Evangelicals and he goes on to talk about the meaningless cliche's and difficulties the newly widowed experience in a "family oriented" situation.

If I could sum it up, I would say it is about the fact that Evangelicalism has a "target audience" and the rest of you all just don't "fit the profile" so you need to find someplace else.

It's rather appalling when you break it down to the core like that isn't it. Makes it look like you enrich your ministry at the expense of the less desirable, you know those people that are depressed, dying, maybe underprivileged in some other way.

I learned an interesting lesson when I got married. My wife hails from the Portland, OR area - across the river in Washington. I grew up in areas up and down the Mississippi River. The first time I visited my wife's home territory she bragged that the Columbia River was the biggest river in the country. I scoffed. "The Mississippi River is a mile wide," I bragged, "It drains most of the eastern U.S." If you looked at things, there was just no way the Columbia was bigger that the Mighty Mississip - it just wasn't far enough to the other side. Then she sent me a link.

You see, the Columbia makes up for its lack of girth in its depth and it moves a much higher volume of water than the Mississippi, making it indeed the biggest river in the country.

The picture Chaplain Mike paints here of the average Evangelical church is just like the Mississippi River - a mile wide and an inch deep. It appears enormous, and is indeed large, but there is more to these things than meets the eye.

Here's the thing, the average Evangelical "church" sounds like a ministry to me, not a church. Can something be a church that only reaches out to a segment of the Christian community? I have said it before and I'll repeat it here - what passes for a worship service in most Evangelical churches is what I used to do when I ran an evangelical meeting - called "club" - in Young Life. It's a great outreach, but it is NOT church.

What saddens me is that as Evangelicalism fades, and the mainlines fade faster there is nothing to pick up the pieces. There ought to be a synthesis of the two. Partnering, wherein the Evangelical churches become the outreach ministry of the mainlines and a funnel that leads the committed into the genuine depth and sanctification that only the church can offer. The so-called "emerging church" is, in the sense we are discussing here, the same phenomena - but worse - more individualistic, narrower, less liturgical.

I pray a lot - and am deeply grateful for a God that acts despite our working so hard to muck things up. In my experience, most people and churches in the evangelical world have their focus on fellowship and activism. The kind of work I do doesn’t fit the model very well.

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