Bags of Bran

September 27, 2012, 9:53 pm
Filed under: Biography

Here’s some inside information that should be obvious to most people of my theological stripe: genuine Christian believers are bound to the Local Church by a lot of significant theological tethers. It’s not my goal to review those: it should be your pastor’s goal, at least every now and then, but I’ll not do it now, being neither pastor, nor your pastor.

For what it’s worth, at our church, we review those tethers when we partake of the Lord’s Table. After hearing the word “merely” emphasized beyond Zwingli’s wildest fancies, we recite the Church Covenant. This covenant, a modification of the New Hampshire confession, is actually quite a noble document. This is often a highlight of the service as it challenges the affirming member to press towards a very lofty mark.

Perhaps your church does something similar: your church’s covenant ought to be a very high aspiration indeed. However, in the age of the marketed church, such covenants begin to stand out a bit. Perhaps “cumbersome” might be a good word to describe them, especially when customers visitors haunt the pews. Creeds can be a bit rich as well: how do you publicly affirm the catholicity (note the smallness of that first “c” ) of your faith when you’ve spent 30% of your budget over the last quarter trying to convince benighted pagans and bored christians (note the smallness of that “c” as well) that your church stands out from the other market-obsessed cans on the shelf?

I’ve become convinced that the only people who respond to church marketing are benighted pagans and bored, uninvested christians. Who worries primarily about the quality of the children’s programs? What demographic rhapsodizes about the awesomeness or contemporaneity of the singing? What type of church attender scrutinizes banners, bulletins, flower arrangements, and preferred parking spots? What kind of person judges the fitness of a body by whether the inmates lavish them with sufficient empty attention when they arrive?

Contrarily, among whom is it a going concern whether the pastor has correctly exegeted the text for his sermon? Do any hearts burn that  pop idioms and cliches are presented in parallel with serious hymnody from the Christian tradition, as expressed during the singing time? Are there folks who feel unease when the pastor’s systematic theology and that expressed in the worship ditties contradict one another? Is there a silent contingency within the church that winces a little when people are brought up for membership or positions of responsibility on the most threadbare evidences of genuine belief and transformation?

And who is actively seeking the welfare of folks who worry about such things: the captive audience as it were?


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