Sunday, January 11, 2015

What Does It Mean to Be "Churchy"?

Yesterday, I posted a link to an article called The Church is Called to Be Church, So Deal with It and then added some of my own thoughts that were triggered by it.

But, what I meant by saying the Church should be "churchy" and what I think the article meant by that term may not be what people--church people and non-church people--may think when they hear that term.

What does it mean to be churchy?

Being "churchy" has nothing to do with worship style. Through the years as a pastor, I have happily presided over worship services that were traditional and contemporary. One isn't "churchy" while the other isn't.

I've known a number of mainline churches, for example, churches from the the traditional powerhouse denominations--Methodist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and Lutheran, among others--that were slavish in observing liturgical traditions. Not a Kyrie nor a Hallelujah, not a bow nor a litany out of place. The creeds were recited flawlessly.

But the preachers haven't necessarily accepted the authority of Scripture over the life, faith, and practice of the Church.

In these liturgically-correct churches, no one is exhorted to a sense of holy guilt that people might really repent and receive the grace God gives in Christ.

No one is told to take seriously that Jesus is the way, truth, and the life and that life with God is only given to those who believe in Christ as God and Savior.

These churches are tradition rich, but God is hardly allowed in the building.

Christ isn't King in these churches. Tolerance--the sort of tolerance that is open to everything but suggestions that the Lordship of Jesus be taken seriously--is king.

These groups of people are churches in name only.

And virtually every church and many church bodies in the world are focal points of spiritual warfare testing whether they will be churches or social clubs, churches or political action committees, Christian fellowships in which people are invited to follow Jesus through the narrow way or "hail-fellow-well-met" "big tents" in which the only sin is being so impolite as to speak God's truth in love. (See Acts 4:12 and Ephesians 4:15.)

The Augsburg Confession, one of the basic statements of faith of Lutheran Christians, contains a great definition of the Church:
...The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered...

[for] the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike. As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Ephesians 4:5-6
So, to be "churchy" then, to be the Church is not about being traditional or contemporary. Differing worship styles are nothing more than different languages of love for God that the faithful and their guests may use when they gather to praise God, hear His Word, witness and participate in the Baptist of new children of God, and receive Christ's body and blood.

And, in truth, people who object to the church being too churchy, whether they're visitors on Sunday mornings or churches and pastors striving to be "relevant" to an often unbelieving world, accuse both traditional and contemporary churches that really seek to be faithful to Christ of being "churchy."

The article that triggered this flood of posting over the past two days contained these final words of encouragement to churches trying to hide the light of Christ under a basket of "relevant" concessions and compromises that risk leaving people as lost and damned after they come to "worship" as they are before they darken the doors of such "churches":
Church, do not hide your scriptures, your sacraments, your worship, your preaching, your service, your call to repentance, you’re lament, your urgency, or your joy in Jesus.

“But what if non-Christians don’t like us?” I hear.  If someone doesn’t like us, then that’s no reason to change who you are.  Now, if you’re a jerk, then, by all means, stop being a jerk.  But, don’t stop being the church.  Those who don’t like us must not dictate who we are.  That’s like allowing a blind man to lead a seeing man through the gauntlet.

If the church really can see, then she must lead the way.  She is to dictate the culture, not the reverse.  She is to tell media what’s cool, not the opposite.  The church is to set the trends, refusing to be a flea on the back of a dog, who merely sucks life from another organism.

Have you endured the cruelty of this world?  Have you seen evil face to face?  Are you aware of how dark life can get?  Have you held a man in his brokenness?  Wiped the flood of tears from a tormented woman?  Looked into the hopeless eyes of a child?  Stop messing around and get to Jesus as fast as possible.  Jesus is our only hope.  Jesus is the cure, the feast, the joy, the solution, the meaning, the purpose, the hope, the life, and the way.

To display Jesus is to be the church.    

So stand firm.  Be churchy.  Be Jesusy.  Be the light of the world.
Jesus says: “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven" (Matthew 10:32-33).

When we acknowledge Jesus, Christians are being "churchy," faithful, God's guide lights in a world darkened by sin, darkness, selfishness, and need.

Some will definitely not like our churchy faith in Christ...after all, the world killed our Savior because they didn't like Him.

So what? Jesus rose from the dead and gives life to all who will endure with Him.

Christ's approval, given to all who trust in Him, needs to trump the world's disapproval.

Many in eternity, there with God because they hear and believe the message of new and everlasting life for all who repent of sin and believe in Jesus Christ from us, will thank us for remaining faithful to Christ; they'll be filled with exuberant, eternal joy because we were churchy. And so will we. 

God help me. God help all of us in Christ's Church. God help all Christ calls the Church to reach others in His Name to be faithful in our churchiness.


No comments: