September 13, 2010

Looking to be Led by the Blind?

I'm presently reading Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck.  I'm only in the third chapter, so I'll avoid any sort of full review for the time being.  The book, to this point, is largely a response to the myriad of voices who are frustrated because the church appears unattractive to outsiders.  There are plenty of quotes like this one from Leonard Sweet, "The world is not impressed that people attend church on Sunday morning. If anything, such a habit is viewed as a quaint waste of time."

My initial response to that quote, and the many like it, was to ask: What do you expect?  Why would you ever think that the world would be impressed with the church?  Have we forgotten that "The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing" (1 Cor 1:18)?  Do we fail to recall that "the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers" (2 Cor 4:4)?  What would ever lead us to believe that outsiders might find it a good use of their time to habitually gather to worship a God in whom they do not believe and hear a gospel they find to be utter foolishness?  A major point of the power of God for salvation through the gospel is the paradoxical nature of it.  God saves people through the hearing of news that offends their natural sensibilities.  As a rule of thumb, when the world begins to grant approval and accolade to the church, we ought to pause and consider whether we're doing something wrong.  Have we left out the gospel?  Have we excluded an essential element of worship?  Why would we ever allow the worship, structure, or mission of the church to be dictated by those who think we are fools.  Is it not folly to seek to be led by the blind?

3 comments:

ἐκκλησία said...

Wow Matt, does this post ever convey conviction. (BTW its unbelievable how prolific a reader you are).

Agreed. The AIM of the message isn't to bring people to the Church, rather it's to bring them to God. Once someone comes to the Lord, attending church is a natural CONSEQUENCE of wishing to commune with other believers and obedience to God.

Even so, the rejection 'outsiders' express towards the ekklēsia isn't nearly so offensive as the syncretism some 'so-called' churches exhibit in trying to conform to worldly values or in striving to obtain its acceptance.

Equally interesting, how would you say the 'church' (the assembly) views itself?

Would you say Christian theology is well geared towards cultivating redemption but not so much sanctification; that it does an excellent job communicating to (immature) unbelievers why Christ is necessary but doesn't stray from this message when it addresses those who already bear the fruit of the spirit (mature). Is it fair to note that that immature and the mature both hear fundamentally the same message though that message is really geared only for the unbelievers?

Those genuinely undergoing sanctification already know why Christ is necessary; they are ready for the meat rather than the milk. Once redeemed then sanctified but for what end? (This example shows the chief aim of sanctification is not an individual one, rather it is corporate one, which is why Jesus couched it in terms of a 'kingdom')

Accordingly, it seems if a believer's roots do manage to grow deep it is only in response to the Holy Ghost and often in-spite of the efforts of the organized ekklēsia. (To be fair, new covenant scripture was not geared towards the mature, but was geared towards the immature. New covenant scripture itself makes this plain. Hebrews and a number of other books purposefully restrict what they say for the sake of those still babes unto Christ)

Perhaps this is beyond the scope of your post Matt, but if there is a relationship between how the world views the Church, and how the Church views itself, sorting out the second may sort out the first.

Your post seems postured to do that by making the line in the sand clear.

Matt O'Reilly said...

I tend to think the average American Christian (& pastor?) has not thought deeply or biblically about how to view itself. I think this is why we're seeing so many books which respond to bad ecclesiology with bad ecclesiology. There are, of course, some good ones out there. I think the DeYoung and Kluck book is a good place to start. I also recommend the material published by IX Marks. But back to your questions. It sounds like you're basically saying that we've focused on conversions to the neglect of extended discipleship with the goal of cultivating mature believers. If so, then I basically agree. The answer, of course, is not to focus on discipleship to the neglect of evangelism. It is a both/and not an either/or. We need converts in order to make disciples. Redemption, in the fullest sense and most biblical sense, encompasses this entire process. When I'm writing a sermon, I often ask myself how the week's text addresses itself to unbelievers and how it addresses itself to believers. I usually try to address both. I'm preaching through Mark right now, and so much of the gospel is devoted to asking the question as to what it looks like to be a discple/follower of Christ. For an unbeliever, this means responding for the first time in faith to the gospel of the kingdom and the cross. For the believer, this means considering what areas of our individual lives and of the corporate church still need to be brought under the lordship of Christ.

Also, sermons, while hugely important, cannot be the only place that instruction and discipleship take place. There must be some sort of small group give and take where we wrestle with the biblical text and the wisdom/folly of those who have gone before us.

ἐκκλησία said...

Well spoke.