Friday, March 29, 2013

Churches without worship?

This morning from the fiction book Such Thy Mercies I was aghast to read the following quotes. Aghast because it is true.  

I do not see it in my present local church, but I've seen glimpses of all this through the years in another closely-related denomination. I'm sure it's present in many, if not all, large denominations. But I don't think it's true with all the individuals members. That's never the case because they are in the dark, either by will or ignorance. 

Take time to think through these quotes. 

"Do you mean . . . that you can imagine . . . something like . . . well . . . churches without worship, Dr. Chapel? Churches without sacraments? Churches that are just . . . well . . . I guess . . . service organizations . . . sort of like YMCAs or YWCAs . . . or . . . maybe . . . influencers of public policy? Lining up with or against political parties and political candidates and accumulating money to give or withhold for particular political purposes . . . . And. . . churches without worship?"

"Think . . of what would follow from a generation -- or two or three -- of seminarians trained to regard their churches as financial entities, institutions to be managed and transformed into power-base economic platforms in support of activities in the public interest, or in support of particular causes, broadly speaking. Think of what shape these churches would begin inevitably to take. Not right away, but eventually. And just think of the financial opportunities that would accrue:  real estate speculation, life and health insurance brokering, full-service funeral and burial services, food, clothing, books, movies . . . .

"How would it be otherwise, Richard? Once the accumulation of wealth and power has been officially institutionalized, how could the outcome possibly be different? Church leader will be judged on their ability to manage their organizations, to be responsive to the marketplace, to be as nimble as small businesses . . . and for the same reasons:  to anticipate society's material wishes and perceived needs, and to address those, whatever they may be."

"[H]ow could it be otherwise? Young church leaders, having been educated to think in this fashion, would in the normal course of events take a hard look at the sorts of things that scare some people away from Christianity.  . . . [T]hings that have to do with commitment to Jesus Christ and the miracle-universe that attaches to Him:  redemption, resurrection, eternity. . . . These frighten certain people away -- these things require devotion to the final and supreme level of Truth, and to all that goes with it -- these things force people to change their priorities profoundly."

 "And so, if you are a shrewd and management-savvy young church leader thoroughly educated in the ways of the marketplace, and if you've placed those things highest in your priority lists, you'll begin to reduce your emphasis on things supernatural because those things may frighten your people away, you see? You'll develop sermons that focus on anything .  .  . anything . . . other than sin and redemption, miracle and eternity. You'll place less and less emphasis on baptism and holy communion, and you'll place more and more stress on entertainment and self0help and personal financial planning and international political issues and . . . . "

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