Monday, August 23, 2010
Pecan Pie with No Pecans
What if the battles over worship forms are only a distracting sideshow? What if a more serious problem is being masked by whether we have choirs or praise bands?
In Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality, Michael Spencer (the original Internet Monk) predicts the coming collapse of the American evangelical church. And a primary reason, he says, is that the church has become like pecan pie without the pecans – and Jesus is the pecans. Many of today’s churches have everything – lattes while you worship, sermons on prosperity now, scenes from R-rated movies within the sermons, instructions on sexual intimacy – but no Jesus.
I’ve seen a lot of things pass for worship, including a pastor doing a three-costume change during a sermon; a clip from the Russell Crowe movie “Gladiator;” and dancers in flowing gowns looking like they were trying to find the set for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. What any that had to do with the gospel message is unknown. And that’s Spencer’s point. We’ve got everything except Jesus in our churches.
Christians are voting – with their feet, Spencer says. I don’t have any demographic studies or surveys to prove that, but I suspect he’s right.
In the September/October issue of Modern Reformation Magazine, Dr. Donald P. Richmond of the Reformed Episcopal Church writes in “Worship Wars: Toward a Biblical Resolution” that worship has four inherent aspects: gathering; word-focused; communion-centered; and dismissal. (I’d provide the link but it’s not posted online yet.) The style of worship is less important than the substance -- each of the four has Jesus at its center. (Richmond does, however, raise the question of how we dress for worship -- that our clothing may be -- may be -- an important indicator of the expectations of our hearts.)
Talk about countercultural.
The Coming Evangelical Collapse, Michael Spencer’s blog post
Spencer’s article in the Christian Science Monitor.
Chapter Two by Nancy Rosback at Bend the Page.
Jesus-colored glasses by Fatha Frank at Public Christianity.