Monday, September 30, 2013
What SHOULD Be There
A pretty typical evangelical Sunday service, at least typical of the services I have been a part of for four decades now. Yet this last Sunday I really felt like I was missing something. There was plenty there about what God would do for me and what I could do for God. But where were the songs about God’s majesty? Where was the focus on Jesus and his redemptive act on the cross? Aside from the three minute sprint through Romans, the Gospel was nowhere to be found.
There was a lot about us, what God would do for us, and what we need to do in order to be Jesus’ disciples in the sermon. There was a lot about us pursuing God’s passion, whatever that means, in the songs. And of course, there was the tribute to U2.
I thought about the Catholic mass and how different it is from the typical evangelical service. The Anglican and Lutheran services I have been to also have the something that is missing from evangelical services. What is this element that Catholics and Anglicans and Lutherans have, but evangelicals don’t?
Surprisingly, it’s the one thing that supposedly defines evangelicalism.
The Gospel.He declares that the reason it is missing is that we no longer believe:
The focus of the service Lutherans and Anglicans and Catholics is the cross of Jesus. The focus of the service for evangelicals is me and you. It has become the church of the Golden Calf, and we are fashioning God into the image we want. Need a more cuddly God? No problem. We’ll sing songs that tell of God making everything right. Want a more spiritual experience? Let’s sing of pursuing his presence. Then we can all grab a microfiber cloth and give that calf and good shine. We wouldn’t want it looking bad for any “seekers” who are visiting. The horrible, vengeful, angry God who demands the law be kept or punishment will be meted out, the God who says the wages of sin is death, the God who is an all-consuming fire is not welcome in our evangelical services. We want the nice, clean-shaven God who minds his manners in front of company and always comes with a new toy like a father returning from a business trip. The one who says “come and die with me” is just not good for business.I think Dunn is overstating a bit, but essentially correct. We certainly want no part of the punishing God - that's true. Services are definitely about us, not about God - I've been saying that for a long time. I do; however, think that if pressed hard enough, most evangelicals could tell you the Four Spiritual Laws, or some other encapsulate version of the salvation message of The Gospel. But there it would end - they could take you no further on the journey. And that, I think is where the problems arise.
Evangelicalism is a base form of life - it exists purely for self-replication - it eats and it reproduces, but it does nothing else. That's an animal, not a human. One would expect the living body of Christ to do more, to be more human.
The thing I hate most is it reduces us to our animal basics. Life is reduced to what we consume - no scratch that - life it reduced to the utilitarian. Not that the Christian life is about frivolity, mind you, but it is about elevation, it is about discovering not our animal nature, but our human nature. The animal can do what it needs to survive. Only the human can change its environment. Only the human can create from the material God has supplied. And yet we reduce ourselves to adaptation. We're surviving, not elevating. It doesn;t mean we're missing The Gospel, just the best parts of it.
church elevation evangelicalism gospel