Tuesday, July 10, 2012
But is is true?
My congregation is hopelessly traditional with nary a drum set or praise band around. We have a weekly sung Eucharist with smells and bells and all the trappings. We also have men with pony tails, men and women with tattoos, and people with checkered pasts who have said and done enough to curl your nose hairs. But the come. They come with the folks in suits and dresses, with squeaky clean (at least on the outside) and ordinary lives. They into this liturgical and confessional congregation and to many, many others like mine. The marginalized are not only served by the "non-traditional" churches touted for their creative, effective, and successful face of the future (vs the face of the past in those "traditional" churches).
The issue is not "trad vs non-trad" but our confidence in the Word of God. Will God do what He has promised through the means He has ordained? I know of congregations that are on the "traditional", liturgical, dare I say, high church, side of the divide and they regularly and effectively reach the disillusioned youth, the disaffected poor, the tattooed and pierced with their anti-establishment rebellion. They key is not methodology but confidence in the Word and courage to speak boldly that Word of rescue and hope in Christ.
My fear is that we have talked ourselves into believing the lie that only those on the fringes of the Church can reach those on the fringes of society. Baloney. Praise bands and light beards and singing divas and screens and warehouse buildings are hardly radical anymore. They are normal. They have become the face (the most public face) of Christianity from mainline to non-denominational. The rad Christian identity is more the face of liturgy, chanting, kneeling, incense, etc. My fear is that we are so enamored with the methodology that we no longer even think in terms of the means of grace, so confident of what we can do that we no longer are dependent upon that which God has promised to do.
If there is any success in the work of the Kingdom, it is God's work in His Word. If there is anything hindering us from that success, it is not our setting (churchly) nor our worship (liturgical) nor our confession (Lutheran) but our lack of confidence in the means of grace and our substitution of wisdom of men for the Wisdom of God.
Finally, another note... I would remind us that not everyone who is unchurched is a rebel with tats and piercings and strange hair and anti-establishment. Not everyone outside the Church is a former or current addict, prostitute, satan worshiper, or biker. Many if not most of the folks not yet of the Kingdom of God (at least here in the USA) look a great deal like the folks already there in the pews -- thoroughly average and ordinary. That does not mean we pick and choose whom we will seek and what folks are more attentive to our mission. It means that we scatter the Word and sleep and rise and God does all the rest. We receive those in whom He has planted faith and we nurture that faith with the only tools we have to grow faith -- the Word and the Sacraments. And God makes it grow... brings forth its fruit... and raises up the harvest... really, He does!!
The mission of the Church is not to create an "island of misfit toys" for those who do not fit in elsewhere. The Church is by definition THE "island of misfit toys" wherein God's grace heals, restores, redeems, and directs to eternity those for whom Christ has died.