Thursday, June 9, 2005

We need to get drunk at church

Here we are, supposedly a nation full of "evangelicals" -- whatever that means nowadays. Our forefathers over in Europe, the first evangelicals, "went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered...a whole cellarful of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two hundred proof grace--of bottle after bottle of pure distillate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyonethat God saves us single-handedly. The word of the Gospel...suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home before they started" (Robert Farrar Capon, Between Noon and Three, quoted in Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel; emphasis mine). The evangel, Greek for "good message," was found not in a higher-up's teachings, nor in some day's poet or songwriter, but in the written Word of God.

Last summer I left the church I attended for my first two years as a disciple of Christ down at MSU. Why? There was something off about the preaching, er, sermons. What once appealed to me had become bland, like pop (not soda) gone flat. Messages about the Christian life were okay, but they weren't about Christ. I learned a lot about how men are like microwaves and women are like ovens when it comes to sex, and I heard lots of entertaining jokes and movie quotes, but where was the Object of our faith? In this church's earnest desire to draw people to God, I believe they were short-circuiting their own goals.

Baptist pastor
John Piper, commenting on Albert Einstein's indictment of the 20th-century church, wrote that "in our worships services God simply doesn't come through for who he is. He is unwittingly belittled. For those who are stunned by the indescribably magnitude of what God has made [referring to astronomers and physicists such as Einstein], not to mention the infinite greatness of the One who made it, the steady diet on Sunday morning of practical how-to's and psychological soothing and relational therapy and tactical planning seem dramatically out of touch with Reality--the God of overwhelming greatness" (Let the Nations be Glad).What we need today in preaching is not self-improvement or some pastor's vague insights from the latest box office smash (with a few over-paraphrased scraps of Scripture thrown in for good measure). What we need is the raw Word of God, opened up and laid bare. It was only in his detailed study of the Greek New Testament that Martin Luther said he found the true gospel. I'm sure you're thinking, "C'mon, Drew, you nerd, get real. Do we really need to know Greek? Syntax? Grammar?" No, you may not need to know it per se, but pastors must--and use it.

And here is why: Without faithful preaching of Scripture, no one can come to faith. It is clear that God's Word is the regenerating instrument of the Spirit. "So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Rom 10.17). "In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures" (James 1.18). "You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God" (1 Pet 1.23). Apart from the Word, no one is saved. And if it the preached Word is the means of salvation and strengthening (2 Pet 3.18) of the church, why not preach it most fully? Who cares about movies and rock music and the like; the Spirit makes no promise to utilize them. We must return to the faithful preaching of men like Luther, Calvin, Edwards, and Spurgeon if we desire to be true to God's mission on Earth.

1 comment:

Dan said...

I don't know who you are, Allie Miller linked to your blog, but I think you're on to something. So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, it doesn't get much more straightforward than that. Church shouldn't be about improving your life, but ending your life. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness Romans 6:18.

I don't really have anything to add, just wanted to encourage you as you have encouraged me.