Sunday, November 29, 2009

Do we make Christianity too easy?

I'm not talking about putting obstacles in people's way, but is the "raise your hand and say a prayer" process too easy?  Does it help create a generation of shallow Christians?  I've been giving that some thought lately.  I'm not one to add to the requirements of the Gospel, but the Desert Pastor brings up some good points in his most recent post.

He talks about baptismal preparation, and the practices of the ancient church.  Take a look at this list and see how many of them we still use today:

  • To varying degrees, the role of the “sponsor” was important.

  • A screening interview became common prior to admission into the catechumenate in order to assure sincerity.
  • An emphasis on the “Two Ways” during pre-baptismal instruction.
  • A preference for baptizing in natural or “living” water sources, with exceptions allowed.
  • Immersion as the preferred mode, with allowances made for pouring.
  • Baptism is in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  • Baptisms are primarily held on Easter/Easter Eve.
  • Lent is reserved for final catechesis and preparation for baptism.
  • Repeated exorcisms, signing with the cross, and laying on of hands were common for catechumens.
  • Catechumens were expected to purify their lives and engage in good deeds within the community.
  • An affirmation of faith and renunciation of the devil occurred at the time of baptism.
  • Partaking of the Eucharist is reserved for baptized believers only.
  • Though sometimes quite brief, after-baptism mystagogy occurred
There aren't too many of these that I see practiced in evangelical Christianity today.  Triune baptism, immersion (and there are those who make that their hill to die on) are about it.  I honestly believe that we have so tried to be liked that we have made the process about as meaningful as the frequent shoppers club at our favorite store at the mall.  Consumerism is the culprit in many ways.    The church is competing for leisure time and attention with so many other things.  But is this really the way to build the kingdom?  To have  people raise their hands when their eyes are closed, go through a nominal vetting process and then make them members?  Jesus spent 3 years teaching his disciples.  Most of us didn't spend 3 weeks prior to our acceptance into the body as full-fledged members.  Without that deep acceptance, there is no hope of church discipline of maintaining conduct within the body.  People just leave and go to the next religious store.

I don't mean to sound bitter, but I am chewing on this.  And as we enter Advent and look forward to the return of Christ, I fear that many people who are part of our "frequent worshipers club" will be unhappy when they go to redeem their membership points card.  And we will have done them a disservice.

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