Thursday, July 14, 2005

"Have it your way."

Over the past year, I've been through a bit of a roller coaster ride regarding my affections for many modern churches. I grew up a very conservative and traditional Lutheran church (Missouri Synod), where the norm was baking having bake sales, wearing ties, and reading a liturgy based on the Authorized Version (that's the King James Version, for all you newbies). Amid many shortcomings, lots of things were/are good about it: daily memorization of Scripture (RSV) and Luther's small catechism; the place actually looks like it's sacred and not just my living room; hymns chock-full of solid, heart-warming doctrine. (Ah, for the days of singing Ein Feste Burg ist Unser Gott, #262 in the Lutheran Hymnal!)

When I went to college and Jesus drew me into a much deeper, truer relationship with himself, I wanted everything new and exciting. Consequently, I chose a church that was hip: everyone was young, the praise music was loud and electrified, and the sermons were entertaining. And I must say, they contributed to my growth as a follower of Jesus.

Yet something was missing: Christ Jesus himself. I found the preaching began to lack substance because it stayed too surfactory in order to be seeker-friendly. I got annoyed at the pastors' attempts to entertain rather than teach. I began to miss hymns and people older than thirty. And I got ticked that I couldn't express my newfound joy in monergism with others who viewed it as cold and unloving.

It was at this time I was introduced to a far smaller but, in my opinion, more passionate church last summer. I quickly became involved and became a member of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, MI, whose desire is to be a "Christ-centered, Bible-based, mission-minded, burden-bearing, pilgrim people who are passionately committed to making much of God in all of life." Worship is lively and absolutely centered on glorious truths like Christ's propitiation and his making truly dead and blind men live and see. Pastor Kevin DeYoung is a solid expositional preacher who's not afraid to call a spade a spade. I've been able to build relationships with men of all ages. Twenty percent of the budget supports global missions and evangelistic efforts. I'll be the tenth member in recent years to serve the Lord in Turkey. It's sweet.

But I do know that people are coming to know the God and grow in his Spirit at all kinds of churches, even the "cool" ones. Part of my skin crawls when, like this past weekend, the first twenty minutes of the "message" were about the youth pastor's fishing escapades, enhanced by the ridiculous fisherman's outfit and tackle that he wasted the church's money on. I really do desire pastors to stop entertaining and selling the gospel as if it were a plan for improving your life, giving you purpose, and bringing out the best in you. It is, but it's not. Churches need to stop singing stupid stuff like "You alone are worthy of my praise" (as if I my praise were something extra special needed by God and that I'd be justified to withhold it from him, should I deem him not worthy of it). Honestly, church should bring out the worst in us instead, but heal us with the "best" of God if they are to be faithful in building disciples.

Anyway, after my brief autobiography and perplexed rant, please read two articles that express my feelings and concerns well. Actually, my previous writing was more of a lead-in to these, which have the real meat I wish to communicate.
1. Eugene Peterson on today's evangelical "spirituality"
2. Killing the Buddha's post on the church growth movement, or some perils of it.

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