Such is the problem of Christianity, and, more narrowly, Lutheranism. We have become bland and beige. We make our buildings look like generic public buildings (malls, etc...). We have adopted the muzak of the radio that everyone hears. We have transformed the Gospel into any good word instead of the Word of the Cross. We have made morality a generic term for doing what seems right in your own eyes. We strive to offend none and so the world honestly wonders "why bother?"
It was not always that way. Once we were distinctive. Once we stood out -- so much so that we attracted the attention of most, offended some, but gained a hearing because the word we preached was nothing the world had ever heard before. Once our buildings inspired as they manifested a God bigger than we are and moved our vision upward (in sense if not in physical elevation). Once we inspired great artists and artisans who employed their gifts for the purpose of Christ and His glory. Once we entered cultures and continents confident that those there needed to hear the Gospel meant for and which saves all people. Once our church workers dressed distinctively to stand out and draw attention to the church they represented. Once we paraded the Gospel and its scandalous cross in public places through public media as if this was the very purpose of the public square. Once we spoke of right, virtue, goodness, beauty, and truth in compelling ways so that failure engendered a guilt which must be salved with forgiveness and success was accorded not to the person but to the God who worked in and through them. And the Church grew...
But we have become a church of apologists -- not the kind who defend but the kind of express sorrow and regret over the scandal of the cross. A beige church in which our music and our gospel is no longer distinctive and compelling but ordinary and, well, boring. We act as if fervor was a bad thing and a bland and ordinary moderation the highest virtue of all. We no longer see life in the perspective of God the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier but have made ourselves the center of our own little universe. Pleasure has replaced virtue and succe$$ has become enough to do whatever we choose to do. We lament the loss of loyalty but we lift high our individualism as people, pastors, and parishes -- flaunting our individuality as birthright higher than faith itself.
I long for a Christianity and a Lutheranism painted with deep tones, almost shocking colors, that demand the attention of those within and without. We are not in danger of being too Christian or too Lutheran. Just the opposite. We are in danger of a diluted and bland Christianity and Lutheranism that no longer excites anyone inside any more than it compels those outside to pay any attention to us or to the kerygma we proclaim. That is why we are losing people and failing to gain converts. Who chooses beige? Only those afraid of standing out or standing for something... could that be what we have become???
Well-written! The race to look like mainstream American evangelicals is troubling.
Just as the African Methodist congregations are keeping the United Methodist churches in the USA from going (officially) apostate, the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus *could* keep the LCMS from wandering off too far from its confessional Lutheran roots.
Wouldn't it be something if the EECMY could come to doctrinal agreement with the LCMS and then declare altar and pulpit fellowship. The Ethiopians could quickly and easily make the twenty women pastors into deaconesses. If the LCMS is restructuring the Mekane Yesus seminary, how else can it be?
Who would have ever guessed that the Lutheran churches in Africa are quickly becoming what the LCMS once was. God will notice the confessional Lutheran Africans and will bestow them the rich blessings that He has begun to withdraw from us Americans.
Converting to a new faith is exciting; Remaining an enthusiastic member is quite another. I hope that the African Lutherans have figured out how to retain their members. The dysfunctional LCMS has a lot to learn from the 3rd world churches.
Meanwhile, the American evangelicals are in a race to become just like Joel Osteen. Charles Stanley is being replaced by Andy Stanley. It is a race to the bottom. Christ have mercy.
If the current attitudes of non-Christians toward us continues to escalate into real persecution, perhaps we will once again be colored the rich, deep red of blood.
Of course, that's assuming the beige-ites still have the Blood of Christ coursing in their veins through the Sacraments...
Sadly, there will soon be more freedom for Lutherans in Russia than in the USA.
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