Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What fixes the Church? - Or what fixes Lutheranism?


So it's aware to anyone and everyone that the Church is in a bit of a mess at the moment. You have denominations all over the theological map. And even in Lutheranism, all over the place.

This is not how it should be. How do we restore the Church - how do we fix it (or if you prefer, and this is more accurate, with what will God fix it)? How does Lutheranism get back on course?

Some say it will be fixed if we have more relevant, exciting worship - along with the freedom to do different things in every place.

Some think if we just had good rubrics things would get better.

Some think if we had dynamic pastors with good leadership things would be better.

Some think that if we had pastors who actually taught the Catechism things would be better.

I suppose I could keep going and find other hot topic issues to show the political divide - congregational polity or something else? Big districts or little districts? SMPP versus full course Seminarians? On and on we could go.

Here's the thing. Now, it should be some what obvious that on most of these questions I lean a certain way. Yes - we should have a common liturgy that is easily recognizable by any visitor - and yes, we should know the Catechism -- so on and so forth. However, if we suddenly, magically had everyone, just for the sake of unity, agree to do the same liturgy, use the same hymnal. . . that wouldn't fix anything.

What?!? How can you say that? Because the problem isn't any of these questions. These are all just symptoms of the true disease. We've lost our respect for and trust in the Word.

On the one hand, there isn't much respect for the Word -- we can't go by the Word, we must accomodate the needs of the day -- or to put it in Scriptural terms - everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

On the other hand, there isn't much trust in the Word. If we just did the same liturgy. . . what? Will we make people better Christians by enforcing a rule upon them? Or if the right person gets elected, he will make everything better.

Reformation approaches - and we need remember the lessons of the Reformation. The Word is what does things. The Word they still shall yet remain, nor any thanks have for it. The Church will never be fixed, it will always be a bloody mess in need of reform - and that reform comes not about by increased personal piety or devotional piety or liturgical or sacramental piety. Increasing law and piety doesn't fix things. . . rather, a focus on the Word will bring forth growth and an increase in piety.

We can put the cart before the horse - we end up trying to make the Church look like it ought while forgetting to focus upon the foundation. Thus - I exhort you all - be in the Word! Know nothing but Christ and Him Crucified. Learn the Word yourself, teach the Word, and let God tend to things.

Lord, save Your Church from those within it!


Pastor D said...

A vetran of the cross put it this way - remain faithful; faithful to the Savior, faithful to the Word, love the people - and then get out of the way! And don't think so highly of yourself. Eric you're on to something...I can smell what you're cookin...

God's Guitar Girl said...

Thanks for your response to my questions over at FH's site!

I never picked up on the volunteering issue you brought up; interesting perception. I think that, what I am experiencing at least in my congregation, is that no one is taken very seriously in volunteer positions. More specifically, there is a general perception of one being "just" a volunteer, and "we don't have to take you seriously unless you are seminary trained and ordained." I'm not really sure where this attitude evolved from, but even as much as I'm involved in various areas and no matter what kind of training I've had, it's always the "just a volunteer" attitude I encounter.

During the course of some tragic events in my life three years ago, I understood clearly that I was to be used instrumentally by God. Does this always have to mean in a church? Not for everyone. I guess I used the term "feel" for lack of a more accurate word. I have been trying to be deliberate and discerning about how the Lord is shaping my future and not charge into something based on a whim or a temporary interest. I could go on more, but I, too, don't want to hijack your site. ;)

Thanks for your open and honest discussion. And I love the quote at the bottom of your post today!

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

If I can put forth a theory as to when the attitude of "you're not seminary trained and ordained" kicked in. . . it came when we started using the word "ministry" to describe anything done in the Church.

50, 60 years ago when you talked about "Ministry" - you were talking about one thing. Ordained Pastors preaching, teaching, and administering the Sacraments. Period.

Then a book came out entitled "Everyone a Minister" - that was trying to emphasis that it isn't just the Pastors who serve God, but everyone does. . . and should volunteer in Church. "Minister" just means "servant" - and we are all servants of God.

However, there was an unintended consequence of this. Everything that used to simply be called a "service" or something that people volunteered for had to have that title of "minister" or "ministry" attached to it. You didn't have musicians any more - you had music ministries. You didn't have the women's group - you had the women's __________ ministry.

What came along with this (and with increased money flow in churches, especially larger ones) is that we got into a game of "titles" - who can have the more impressive titles. And if you are going to have an impressive title, shouldn't you have more education, more this, more that, how about you get paid (because in American culture respect and worth is almost always tied to what you get paid). . . and it spiraled to the point where no one wanted to be a volunteer anymore.

Now -- here is what is ironic. As Christians - we aren't "volunteers" -- volunteer deals with your own will - what you want - your "volus" in latin. We aren't volunteers - we are disciples. Students don't choose whether nor not they want to do their homework - they do what their teacher assigns. We are servants -- servants don't choose their own task - they do what the Master commands them to do.

So - what does all this mean? Here is what I would recommend. Reread Luther's Small Catechism - just sit down, reread it. Pay attention to the table of duties - consider your place in life right now -- what has God already put on your plate - and live in there, live in that, do that well. . . and if other people don't appreciate it - eh, don't worry about what they say. You are a servant of God, given by Him things to do right now, this very instant, just as who you are right now - and there's nothing wrong or "low" about that. Phillipians 2 talks all about Humility, and 1 Cor 1:18-25 - great places for that.

Take care and be well!

God's Guitar Girl said...

Will do!