Tuesday, May 31, 2011
There is Substance In That Style
When the gospel is reduced to being an item of information, the effect is the almost complete exorcism of God’s word from the church; and a concomitant deconstruction of her Liturgy. Essential to the objective gospel of forgiveness is that God’s word has as its natural context the Liturgy of the church. Outside of an orienting liturgical reference, God’s word and gospel cannot be rightly comprehended.That quite well capture something I have been driving at on the blog for a long time - the fact that we tend to treat the gospel as if it is information. I want to present the difference in slightly different words.
. . . A result of word of God as mere information is that congregations devolve into loosely associated gatherings without substantive unity. The question of whether to join a particular congregation becomes not so much, whether the gospel is purely preached and the sacraments rightly administered, but an array of other, tertiary, and personal concerns (“How friendly is the congregation?”, “Do they conduct optional contemporary and ‘traditional’ Services?”, “Is the music uplifting?, “Are there children activities? ”).
But the gospel in its catholic understanding is more than informational factoid of sin forgiven for Christ’s sake. Instead the gospel comprehends the Word as power of God (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:18) which is spirit and life (Jn. 6:63). By the Word, forgiveness is not obtained in an abstract, disembodied, self-serve way; but delivered as the cleansing, healing, enlivening activity of God in the flesh of Christ for his people gathered by his word and ministered in sacramental presence.
Information is something I obtain, control, and use. It is mine. But the good news of Jesus is something very different - it consumes me - I do not consume it. It is out of my control and runs rampant through my life changing me in ways that I cannot comprehend, let alone desire. That is, if I truly open myself up to it.
Chaplain Mike discusses this idea in the context of the "worship wars," and I tend to agreed with him, it's not style we are changing, it's substance. It may keep the plate full and the organization running, but is it true to the call of the church?
Of course, the Holy Spirit can act in any circumstance so we do see Him at work in the new worship context, but here is the essential question for me. We change we build numbers, but genuine faith becomes rare in the large numbers context. How is that different than churches simply being rare because believers are rare?
Moreover, I wonder what would happen if the real believers could congregate without the dilution? Twelve changed the world.