The look of love has been forever changed by social media and by a transformation of society which eliminated some of the things that once made the old dance possible. Now it is a new dance and a new beat underlies it all. Nowadays you need different things to succeed. Some of them include:
- A decent photo that minimizes your less than good features and maximizes your best features
- A catchy nickname that is more about attracting your intended than reflecting your identity
- A brief and vague summary of your main interests to increase interest without turning someone off
- A wit and sense of humor to ease the fears and make a difficult situation bearable...
Why, come to think of it, this is not only true of dating, courtship, and marriage, it is also true of finding a church! Where this was once a long process that led to a long term commitment, today it is likely as quick as a glance and results in an association that may end as quickly as you can unfriend someone on Facebook! Whereas once it may have been about family or friends to introduce you and help seal the deal, today it is more about your feelings, about the moment, and about, well, a good picture, a catchy name, a vague summary, and some humor. You notice what is missing? Doctrine and truth, among other things, as well as history and connection to other Christians (denominational identity and accountability).
As quickly and easily as a prospective mate can be dismissed and you move on to other choices, that is how quickly and easily folks dismiss a church and move on to the other choices they have. It can be all about a look or the wrong one. That is both an explanation of and a reason for the rapid movement of people in and out of denominations and in and out of congregations. It happens in my parish and, I expect, in all of them. People grow tired of the marriage and start looking around -- either for another one or none -- the marriage here is not to a spouse but to a church. It is subjective and individual and the old pillars of truth, dogma, and liturgy have given way to the new pillars of relevance, preference, and sentiment. I was talking to a pastor about longtime members and leaders who seem to wake up one Sunday morning and decide they either don't want to be married to the church anymore or they don't want to be marriage to the same church any longer. And then they are gone. Yes, I still see them from time to time and they remain friendly toward me and toward the congregation but they have other interests or other needs or other wants and we just didn't do it for them anymore.
It turns out the look of love is more of a fast glance. . . said the pastor with a sigh -- thinking both of dating, courtship, and marriage AND church membership. . .
And then there is the other side of the coin. I recently left my LCMS congregation of 24 years for reasons of doctrine and practice. I am currently looking for a solidly confessional Lutheran church to attend and to become a member. At my age, I want to start planning for my death and how my funeral/memorial service can glorify God and point to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. A Christian’s last will and testament is not just about tangible assets but also a parting confession to the world. In the meantime, I want to be bathed in the comfort of the Gospel of forgiveness and fed by the means of grace. I have become weary of church growth measures in LCMS congregations and disillusioned with them taking on the look and feel of American evangelicalism, depriving members of “the old pillars of truth, dogma, and liturgy, as well as history and connection to other Christians from every time and place, denominational identity and accountability.”
As a matter of fact, Pastor Peters, I am looking for a church like your Grace Lutheran and would gladly join you there but for the three plus hours commute one way. Yes, I left my congregation after confidential discussions with the pastor and giving him fair warning. I told him we are in desperate need of catechesis for young and old alike but teaching from the Book of Concord was not something he wanted to do so I left quietly and tried not to sin against him or cause a scandal. I’m not sure I accomplished either but my conscience couldn’t take the defection from faith as expressed in open communion, women elders, leaders, and readers, and contemporary worship – all under the pretense of outreach to the unchurched and dechurched, to our Youth, skeptics, etc. It became all about attracting and retaining these others but in the end there was no appreciable gain in attendance or membership, only a congregation suffering from a split personality and disunity more than ever all because of a break in faithfulness to the whole counsel of God and the Lutheran confessions that faithfully exposit Holy Scripture. It is too bad it has to be this way but apparently not enough people in the LCMS value our Lutheran heritage and confessions which makes all the ecclesiastical disarray possible. You can’t get discouraged though. You just have to keep looking.
lutheranliturgy.org is a start that lists true LCMS congregations with helpful map locator. Also IssuesEtc.org also has a list of solid Lutheran congregations.
‘The Look of Love’, I was listening to Dusty Springfield on Pandora when I read this. Just kidding.
Leaving a congregation could have nothing to do with theology. If a person joins a church because of the friendliness and likeability of some of the people, then that same person will leave a church because someone "rubbed them the wrong way."
To the anonymous poster upstream who wrote: "I have become weary of church growth measures in LCMS congregations and disillusioned with them taking on the look and feel of American evangelicalism...."
If the worship and study materials found in a "church growth" LCMS congregation mirror that which could be found in any non-denominational congregation, then what is the incentive for joining a "Lutheran" church. At least the non-denominational congregation will have a better praise band and superior coffee.....
Post a Comment