Wednesday, June 14, 2006

more than words

Church can be a pretty egotistical place nowadays. One place that this is prevelant is in the revivalist church model. By this I am referring to the the 2 part service found in most evangelical denominations that conists of worship (music) and the sermon. Sometimes this will get changed up by adding announcements somewhere in the middle or a song at the end. The way I see it there are several problems with this. First of all the focus is on the sermon, this is the crux and the climax of the service. I should clarify that I don't have a problem with sermons generally, but in this format you don't find churches following any sort of lectionary (Bible verses that follow a predetermined calender used by the majority of the church) this means that what scripture we do hear is selected by the pastor to support his point rather than to create a sermon inductively starting in the scripture. Such sermons also make it easy to avoid preaching on the difficult verses in scripture or even to stretch ourselves by preaching on something that isn't our specialty.
Secondly, this type of service is an oddity in the history of the church service. Since the beginning of the church, Christians have been following a liturgy that (with some variation) is still found in liturgical church bodies (Catholics, Orthodox, Lutheran, Episcopal, Reformed, and a few others). The liturgy is the worship setting given to us by the Apostles. We can trace it back to the 2nd century through the Didache and from then on see it consistently and exclusively in the church. So why not use it? As far as I can see, the only benefit of the revivalist model is that it may be easier for the short attention spans of the last few generations, but that hardly seems like something to contour to. If for no other reason, these churches should return to the liturgy because it is the model presented to the church in the beginning by the men Christ ordained to form the church as well as the model that has been maintained by the Spirit for 2000 years.
Third, these services willingly deny themselves the physical presence of God in the assembly of believers! Since the beginning, the eucharist (not the sermon) has been the center of Christians gathering. We see this as early as Paul who admonishes those who partake of Christ's body in the bread and wine in the wrong way. For 2 millinia, Christians have met to experience the true presence of Christ among them. But now churches have not only abandoned the real presence, they have even repudiated what shallow remnants of the eucharist that remains to being taken once a month or less. We come to church and bring our loved ones there to be with Christ, but we have thrown Him out the back door and replaced Him with an empty ritual.
Fourth, the creeds and prayers have disapeared. What prayers are said are usually said to close or open the 2 parts of the service and they are hardly the united declarations of faith found in the creeds. There is something truly powerful when believers gather and declare in unison what they believe or lift up the prayers of others. In such an individualized culture we need this more today than ever. People need to learn to put aside their personal preferences and what their comfortable for the sake of others. If we cannot do this in a chuch, where can we?
I could continue to list a number of other issues, but i think that these things will suffice. My point is that the liturgy is a beautiful thing that has been abandoned far to hastily in some traditions. I do not mean to imply that those whose churches do not use the liturgy are purposeful or malicious in their abandonment nor am I saying that God does not move in such services. God's grace is endless and such a matter would hardly find its end. But i have encountered far to many people in these traditions that are ignorant of the history of Christian gatherings (as most younger Christians are ignorant of a great deal of their history) and it is incredibly important that they understand what's at stake here. If the church is the bride of Christ then how we worship Him as a body reflects the state of our marriage. This is why the dissapating presence of Christ (as in Word and sacrament) are so disturbing. i don't know to many marriages that succeed when the husband is not allowed to speak or be intimate with his wife excpet maybe once a month.
Dan, 8:48 AM


Better get used to it, cause that's how our marriage is gonna be! ;)

To me, the creeds are extremely important. The church I grew up in actually had the creeds in their "Big Book O' Stuff We Believe," but they were never, ever presented to us. Most people at the church didn't even know what the "Apostles Creed" or the "Nicene Creed" were. I had never once in my life recited a creed until I became a Lutheran.

One troubling result is that people come to church, and they think that what they see there is all they need to know about God. God makes me feel happy and makes me jump around and sing loud songs, and if I ask real nicely, he'll give me money so I can live more comfortably. Some of the less learned people at this particular church couldn't even retell the most simple of Biblical stories about Christ, let alone understand who God is and what He's done. And it's all contained RIGHT THERE IN THE CREEDS!
Blogger Miss Sara, at 10:17 AM  

If I had said this I would be labeled a "you know what".

Yet, you have brought out many concerns expressed by my camp of emerging thought. Again, it is not to be critical as in complaining, but to take notcie that there is something missing or that there can be so much more.

If you aske the "typical" Christian what worship is, most would say, (generalizing here) "when we sing at church"... some would say "when we go to CHruch".

The truth is that if Christ is in us and His job was to glorify the Father... all we do in Christ is worship. And that is the tip of the iceberg of what is wrong.

We have a rich herittage... As far as liturgy I see that many were not able to read. yet, to recite in unision the creeds braught unity tothe service... it was to say we are all on the same page here and this is our "beliefs"... now many churchs us a website. This in no way diminishes the beuaty and power that liturgy can bring in a service.

You said: "People need to learn to put aside their personal preferences and what their comfortable for the sake of others. If we cannot do this in a chuch, where can we?
and I say Amen! We especialy in the Americanized gospel have no real grasp on the teachings of suffering for the sake of others... God says longsuffering... we think "Brady Bunch"...

We are to have grace for those around us... so they can become strong in the faith... yet we lower the bar and wonder why things seem so empty.

Anyway, blessings and thanks for the link bro!
Blogger iggy, at 7:25 AM  
Sorry about leaving the last parenthesis off you quote.

Your quote should read:
"You said: "People need to learn to put aside their personal preferences and what their comfortable for the sake of others. If we cannot do this in a chuch, where can we?"

Then I say "Amen!".


Blogger iggy, at 1:48 PM  
Thanks for the comments iggy. i would like to clarify that my use of the word "worship" was not meant to imply that worship is only found on Sunday mornings in church. i used worship here in reference to sunday services simply because I was running out of words for a church service :) Worship is everything we do in Christ (well, I would say anything that magnifies God simply for being God, as opposed to praise which would be magnifying God for what he has done, but that's more of a side note really).
I would like to add that i don't have a problem with contemporary worship (as an idea anyway, I could certainly do without some of the contents within that label. For instance, if I hear "Shout to the Lord" on an info-mercial one more time I'm going to scream). I love the idea of finding new ways to exhault God. If people want to use powerpoint, cool; if people want to play an ode to Christ on a banjo, awesome; if people want to dance around with sparklers spelling names for God in smoke, call the fire marshall and get an ok first but great! But what i see as incredibly important is to sustain the traditions of the Apostles and let the heart of the liturgy continue to be a supernatural unification of all believers today, tomorrow, and with those who have gone before us.

Blogger Dan, at 9:20 PM  

Sorry for all the dropped words and errors, when I get writing fast i tend to think faster than I type so i drop words a lot and my spelling gets really bad. I'll try to use that handy spell check every now and again;)

Blogger Dan, at 9:22 PM  

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