Thursday, September 3, 2015

I am an elitist.

Pastor, not everyone has time for church.  Pastor, not everyone is interested in religion.  Pastor, not everyone likes classical music.  Pastor, not everyone is likes to wear a suit or dress to church.  Pastor, not everyone can give that much.  Pastor not everyone can sing well.  Pastor not everyone can stand that long.  Pastor, not everyone can teach Sunday school.  Pastor, not everyone knows what to say to an unchurched friend or neighbor.  Pastor, not everyone likes reading the Bible.  Pastor, not everyone wants to be Lutheran.  Pastor, not everyone knows the catechism.  Pastor, not everyone enjoys those long Lutheran hymns.  Pastor, not everyone can sit still in church without moving around.  Pastor, not everyone likes the taste of wine.  Pastor, not everyone is interested in sin and repentance.

I hear all the time why we cannot do this or that or why people have different preferences or why somethings do not matter (if we set our sights low).  But I instinctively rebel against the idea that the Church should settle for the lowest common denominator of whatever it is.  And because of that there are those who would call me an elitist.  Well, I am an elitist – because I’d rather be an elitist than a mediocratist.  I do not believe that Christ died to excuse us from doing anything that was not easy or what we wanted to do.  I thought He died for us so that we who live should not live for ourselves but for Him?  Ever, only, all for Thee. . . as the hymnwriter put it.

Yes, it is true that people have busy schedules but should we waive the expectation of being in the Lord's House on the Lord's Day around the Word and Table of the Lord because some work or others have a lake house or others have kids in a travel soccer league or others only get to sleep in or get groceries or do their laundry on Sunday morning?

Yes, it is true that many folks have no interest in things religious (or Biblical) so does that mean we should not expect people to be in Bible study or go through catechism instruction or keep learning and growing in the knowledge of the Scriptures and in the faith?

Yes, it is true that not everyone likes classical music (a bogus charge here because hardly any of our hymnody and less of other music is actually classical) but does that mean we follow the majority rules when it comes to musical preference OR should we require that we use the best of new and old that faithfully bespeaks the text and is the best of our ability?

Yes, it is true that not everyone likes to dress up or even has dressy clothing but does that mean that our comfort is the primary value of what we put on our bodies for worship OR should we wear modest clothing and that which adorns our bodies externally as is our internal character of our best for His glory?

Yes, it is true that not everyone can give that much (whatever that means) but does that mean we should give leftovers after we take care of all our wants and needs first or what is easy to give because its costs us nothing OR should we give equal sacrifice acknowledging that this will not result in equal gifts to the Lord?

Yes, it is true that not everyone can or should or likes to sing but does that mean we should ignore the universal Biblical call to sing to the Lord, to make music to His name, and to worship Him with instrument and voice OR should we all do our best at voice and instrument in praise to God for His glory?

Yes, it is true that not everyone can stand or sit or kneel comfortably or perhaps at all but does that mean the rest of us should also refrain from exerting ourselves OR should we all do as much as we are able in the various postures of worship?  I once had someone say we should not kneel because he or she could not kneel.  How selfish is that?  If I can't, you should not either?  How about we all actually try to do as much as are genuinely able when it comes to all the postures of worship?

Yes, it is true that not everyone can teach Sunday school, or witness easily or comfortably or enjoys reading. . . but does not mean we cancel Sunday school or fail to tell the story of Jesus or watch TV in lieu of reading the Bible or should we work to learn to do these things for the greater good of God and His kingdom.  Yes, I know that not everyone wants to be Lutheran, knows the catechism, enjoys Lutheran hymns, etc... but does that mean that Lutheran is merely a church preference among equal choices OR do we take our Lutheran confessions and convictions seriously and believe that this is the most faithful expression of God's Word that we can be?  Yes, I know that not everyone likes the taste of wine (or communion hosts) but does that mean we choose our preferences or hold to Jesus choices in the institution of His Supper?  Yes, I know that sin and repentance are old fashioned, yesterday's news, and can easily be misunderstood by folks outside the church (much less by those inside).  But does that mean we substitute messages people want to hear for the one Word that saves, that delivers from sin and bestows eternal life. 

There you have it.  I am an elitist.  I believe in our best for His glory, faithfulness to His Word over human preference, striving for that which endures over that which fits the moment and is trash tomorrow, over all of us struggling to do/be our best for Him who has given His best for us.  I fear that mediocrity is killing the church, that the casual treatment of the truth damns us before God and merits hardly a raised eyebrow from the world, and that making things as easy as possible does not build God's kingdom.  I seem to recall that Jesus' disciples found it all too hard and would have ditched Him in a minute were not He alone the source and giver of eternal life.  So just maybe Jesus is an elitist, too.  After all He insisted that we must exceed the professional good workers of the Pharisees if we wanted eternal life.  In other words, good intentions counted for nothing and only perfect righteousness would do -- the righteousness that is His gift and our clothing in baptism.


Anonymous said...

Yes. Let's do our best for the Lord. Thank God he was not mediocre, but gave His all. Great message, Pastor.

ErnestO said...

Wonderful thread of thought an insight. I would like to think your elitist confession mostly instructive and probably a slight of fiction. Please accept the following as my understanding of "Equality" and how we should posit our faith...........2 Corinthians 8:7-15 New International Version (NIV)
7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you[a]—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
10 And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.
13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15 as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”[b]

Unknown said...

I was struck by the thought of the opposing herd mentality I used to dump on my patient parents: "Mom, everyone has that!" "Mom,, everyone is doing it!" From the looks of Evangelicalism today, they should hear my mom's response: "If everyone were drinking arsenic, would you?" Egalitarianism is the philosophy de jour in America, and anyone not 'mooing' with the cattle gets labeled either 'wolf' or a 'cow pie'.

Chris said...

You're right about everything except for the sining. Those who can't sing, shouldn't sing. THat does NOT mean (and I'm tired of having to repeat this) you cannot pray at the same time. The hymns are prayers; the music is meant (or should be meant) to elucidate the words, not vice versa. Let people pray the hymns in the way that best befits their particular talents. --Chris

James Kellerman said...

I am an elitist who believes in spelling headlines correctly. Could you please change the spelling error at the top of the blog?

Unknown said...

My initial reaction was to assume that it was a typo rather than a spelling error; seeing the word "elitist" spelled correctly in the text body convinced me that I was correct in doing so.

John Joseph Flanagan said...

Very good points. I agree that we should not be elitists or legalists, but I honestly do not think all Christians take the time to use their heads. For example, I attended an LCMS church in the next town last Sunday. The older Pastor was present at the service, and neatly dressed with a ministerial black shirt and dress pants, and polished shoes. The youth pastor gave the message and the Lord's supper. The youth pastor wore the same type of black clerical shirt, but wore dungarees or wrangler jeans with colorful yellow gym sneakers. Well, I would say the youth pastor was very comfortable but inappropriately dressed for church. I guess I am old fashioned, but why do some people dress so casually when a neat attire, heaven forbid not even a suit with a tie, but just with some taste and respect. Our clothing choice makes a statement about us....but I guess I am too elitist for today's values.