None/All of the Above

July 4, 2007 at 3:38 pm (Church, Evangelicalism™, Ministry)

I just finished reading a post by iMonk, and I agree with the basic premise. I, too, feel that churches entrenched in what I would call Evangelicalism™ have lost sight of what is important. They’ve been focused on drawing people in with external issues – music, appearances, programs – ultimately things that don’t matter to the faith. While many have been successful in “church growth,” in harping on these issues as important, we have taught our children that having their “needs” and “desires” met is important for them to be able to “worship” properly. We’ve also taught new Christians who have come in initially because of these things the same thing. Not a good foundation.

In the same way, I am sure that there are those who would call themselves “emerging” and change the way they do their weekly worship gatherings for pretty much the same reasons. In the name of cultural context, candles are lit, stained glass windows are put up, the lights are dimmed, prayer stations, all sorts of things, wonderful things that resonate with lots of people in the way they “prefer” to worship, but lets be honest – ultimately empty and meaningless without Jesus Christ at the center.

At the same time, there are churches who are so bent on being “Baptist,” or sending people to hell, or never moving the pulpit, or decrying the children if they run in the church building, or would give you a dirty look if you wore a pair of jeans to church, that the chances of reaching their community is slim to none, because the love flowing in that church could fill a thimble. There is fault all around.

So yes, I agree with iMonk’s basic premise. All around, there is a loss of the gospel in the name of “cultural context” or perhaps in the name of keeping the cultural context of the church, and this is tragic. However, I am concerned with the old adage, throwing the baby out with the bathwater. If you read down through some of the comments on iMonk’s post, there is one that he refers to in the update, Pastor Scott Dontanville, which I took note of. Reading further down, there is another commenter who brings up my thoughts, jeremy bouma.

While I don’t pretend to know what Pastor Scott’s situation was (it could very well have been situation #2 above), sometimes I feel as though it’s an either/or. Either you are culturally relevant, perhaps what some call “emerging,” or you’re solid biblically and have the gospel. What’s the deal?

Why can’t you have a church where people can wear jeans, have pink hair and tattoos, and still have the gospel? Why can’t you have a church with a coffee bar and still have the gospel? Why can’t you have a church with candles and still have the gospel? Why is it an either/or? Why do we limit ourselves to an A) or B)? What question has only A) or B)? There are at least C) none of the above, and D) all of the above. This isn’t true or false. This is the body of Christ, unique, and diverse enough to warrant more than A) and B).

I think I know what the answer is, perhaps, and I’ll venture to say. It’s because it’s more than the loss of the gospel in our churches. It’s because we’ve lost the Church itself. We’ve lost not only the message of Christ, we’ve lost what the Church is. We don’t even know how to do church anymore. We don’t even know why we’re here. That’s evident because even as we think we’ve lost the gospel, we think that somehow the gospel is related to going back to a more traditional way of worship. Unbelievable.

We’re here to love God, and love others. Jesus Christ and his message is at the center of all that we do. We’re CHRISTians. But why do we gather? Why do we even bother having churches? I don’t think we know.

The reason situations 1, 2, and 3 are so miserable is because it’s not about us, it’s about God, and other people. We’ve taught people it’s about us, and thus we expect it to be about us. That’s just American. That’s another problem altogether, and a side trail. But you know what? You can be “pomo.” You can sing hymns. You can do whatever you want. Do you love God? Are you loving people? That might lead you to externally do some stuff a certain way, as you try to missionally live in the world and reach people. But if that “stuff” ever leads us to stop talking about Jesus, then we might as well give up. If that “stuff” ever leads us to stop loving our Christian brothers and sisters for our preferences, we might as well give up.

But the “stuff” is not evil. The “stuff” is not what causes us to lose the gospel or become sanitized. Don’t criticize the “stuff” because genuine people have lost sight in its glitter. Hymns and suits and organs are “stuff” just as much as the candles and prayer stations, just a difference kind of stuff. Let’s not get petty – or perhaps prideful in the ability to “remain pure” in the cultural tide of modern “stuff.”

It’s simple: we’ve forgotten how to be the Church. We’ve forgotten what our own faith means. We have to rethink the Church in order to reclaim the message of Christ – or maybe we should start our rethinking with reclaiming the message – that his body on earth proclaims. Only then will we truly be effective in the world around us.

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3 Comments

  1. wezlo said,

    Amen!!!

    You’re right, we don’t know what the Gospel is, we are pretty dang good at looking at others and saying what it isn’t though. The Church is about being included in the relationship of the Triune God though Jesus Christ – yet we’ve turned it around and said that the Church is about “not being them/those people.” Exclusion is part of the deal in the Christian faith, but it’s not supposed to be an offensive weapon.

  2. Eliana said,

    Right. And “those people” end up being the weirdest things from my perspective. I just don’t get what pink hair and tattoo’s has to do with the gospel. Why people repeatedly bring up pink hair and tattoo’s when talking about church is beyond me. It’s like somehow having the presence of pink haired people in your church means that you must be going the wrong way, because obviously you’re being too culturally relevant and have turned down the wrong path away from the truth, because you’re attracting people with pink hair. ??????? It’s Christian prejudice, pure and simple. I mean, what the hell does pink hair have to do with the gospel, other than we should love and accept people with pink, green, brown, blond, and every other color hair into the kingdom of God? Yet it’s used as a negative time and time again. I can’t even count the number of times on two hands I’ve heard this pink hair thing. I just don’t get it. *goes away muttering about pink hair*

  3. wezlo said,

    Really? Pink hair?

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