Thursday, August 20, 2009

I think he is on to something here

The Internet Monk has a fascinating post on his views of post-Evangelicalism in America. As I have moved through seminary and my ministry process, I have had a growing realization that many (NOT ALL) evangelicals have a very low view of the sacraments. In the evangelical church, we have two sacraments - Eucharist (communion) and Baptism. Maybe it is the influence of the Lutheran school my children have attended for the past 9 years. Maybe it is all of those "radical" ideas that seminary puts in the head of "God-fearing young men and women." Maybe, just maybe, it is the still, small voice of the Spirit of God whispering to us and calling us to move away from the "experiential" emphasis that we seem to be racing headlong into, and back to a quieter, more contemplative, emphasis on the timeless things that have bound our faith together with other believers for the past 2000 years.

Quoting the Internet Monk:

"But evangelicals are in sacramental chaos, and the results are quite obvious. Evangelicals are “re-sacramentalizing” in an uncritical and unbiblical way. The Planetshakers article was good evidence, but you can see and hear it everywhere.

What are our evangelical sacraments? Where will evangelicals defend the idea that “God is dependably at work?”

-We have sacramentalized technology.

-We have sacramentalized the pastor and other leaders.

-We have sacramentalized music. (i.e. the songs themselves and the experience of singing.)

-We have sacramentalized leaders of musical worship.

-We have sacramentalized events. (God is here!)

-We have sacramentalized the various forms of the altar call.

-We have sacramentalized the creation of an emotional reaction.

We’ve done all of this, amazingly, while de-emphasizing and theologically gutting baptism. (I’m not buying everyone’s baptismal theology here. I’m simply saying the standard approach now is nothing more than could be accomplished by having someone jump through a hoop.)

We’ve done this while reducing the Lord’s Supper to a relatively meaningless, optional recollection. (And being deeply suspicious of anyone making it more than a glorified sermon illustration.)

We’ve done this while removing any aspects of sacramentalism from our worship and even our architecture. (Public reading of scripture, hymns, tables/altars, baptisteries, pulpits.)
And we’ve given over to whomever wants to speak up the power to say what God is saying, what God is doing, what God is using, what God thinks of whatever we’re doing, what the Spirit is up to and so on.

For example, in the next three months, you can bet your remaining life savings that someone will tell us that God is NOW using church X or method Y or person Z because the official discernment squad said so. (And ditto for saying what God is not doing, who God is not using, etc. from the discernment squad on the other side of the street.)"

As I read that I felt the sting in my own heart of the truth of what he is saying. Those of you who know me know that I am a firm believer that function should always lead form the church. Why we do what we do should always be more important than what we do. When you read that list, many of the items are forms, not functions. Yet they have become so important to us that they have become de facto sacraments. Some churches have a ratio of altar calls to communion services of 8:1, 10:1. But communion is one of the great unifying acts of the Body of Christ, instituted by the Lord himself. But we don't practice it often because it is "more special" when we do it less frequently.

I hate to burst your bubble on this one, but communion isn't there to make us feel good. It is there to bind the believers together in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is an incredibly intimate individual, AND corporate act that allows us to join together in the presence of Christ to build his Kingdom on earth. Yet we spend far more emphasis and time on the type of music we play than we do on binding our souls together in a common cause.
This Sunday I will be preaching on Joshua 1:1-9, which is the call of Joshua to lead Israel after Moses' death. And we will be having communion as a unifying act for a congregation that has lost its leader and is in search of a new leader. We have a common purpose, mission and Lord. And the act of taking communion is a reminder of that, as well as a means of grace for us who are struggling during this uncertain time. Join us if you can, but please pray for us during this time.


JoAnn C Bastien said...

Hmm, saw this somewhere else;) Glad to see you sharing your comments with the rest of us.

Jeremy D. Scott said...

Good stuff.