My mortgage is large
Debt looms over me like fog
Sunday, March 06, 2005
A response to Derek
I received a thoughtful response to two posts, here and here, from Derek, who is obviously a kind, handsome, thrifty, brave, and courteous Christian fellow. Oh, and one who takes well to compliments.
Derek had a couple of thoughts that I wanted to respond to here, as they are important ideas that beg further discussion. Derek was concerned about setting a "low bar" to membership in a church. Lowering the bar seemed to be troublesome to Derek, in that some compromising (watering down) of the Gospel may be taking place if a church is too easy on letting in new members. This is a good point. Derek noted that some of the "wild questions" from potential new members about the responsibilities of membership in a church would avoided if we were more strict in our delineation of what membership is all about.
In my mind, the height or depth of the bar to church membership, wild questions, and the general spiritual depth of congregants are all related to three primary things - the Word proclaimed, the Word received, and Christian Community. If we assume together that the Word is being faithfully proclaimed, then we have the issue of whether people hear it with open hearts and minds, and then whether they are acting on the direction of Scripture to lead lives that reflect genuine Christian Community.
My thinking is that one of the big reasons that the Word (once faithfully proclaimed) is not received well, or is received not in the proper context is that we church folk are pretty lousy at practicing Christian Community. Ok, let me rephrase that, we stink (often times) at understanding what Christian community really means. For further very good reading on this subject, please see this book. We can live transformed lives, we can model communities, families, friendships, and fellowships that reflect the grace of Jesus. It is very hard work, but my experience has been this is the single most important thing that leads people into relationship with Christ, not setting the bar high to membership in a religious institution. My life in Christ was brought about by seeing Christian community practiced in a college dorm at UCLA - if you can imagine that.
Derek also made a very good point, and points to something that the modern church is very poor at conveying, the concept of Christ as LORD, as opposed to Christ as Savior. Again, does this not go to the issues of Christian community? Are our lives really transformed, and do we this out in a way that is attractive to others - magnetic, appealing, life-giving and affirming?
I am concerned about the use language such as "ungodly neighbors", or the "remnant" (pertaining to the small band of faithful believers). My neighbors may indeed be ungodly, but I will choose, to my last breath, to persistently express to them, in ways that they might be able to hear, the great and immeasurable love of Christ. I will not dismiss them as ungodly, for the Hound of Heaven pursues us all, to the end. We are all, to the last person, loved greatly. And a remnant we may be, but I think we might want to be a remnant possessed of the need to share our faith to a world dying around us. Not just a defiant and self-satisfied remnant.
Derek, I hope that I have responded with a kind heart, heard your concerns, and in some small way brought understanding and hope. Hope for the church.
P.S. Derek, do you have a blog??
Posted by Steve at 3:03 PM