March 21, 2002

Crisis, Opportunity, and the Christian Future

Category: Theology - Ecclesiology :: Permalink

All in all, a frustrating day with little accomplished. Yesterday morning, as I was sitting at my desk, I developed pain in the muscles between my spine and right shoulder. A massage yesterday helped a bit, as did a hot shower, but the pain is still there and the muscles in my neck are tensing up as a result.

All of that led to me being very close to a headache yesterday and today, which left me tired and draggy. I managed to slog my way through the introduction and first point of my Luke 23 sermon, but the whole thing feels a bit clunky to me right now. Mind you, when I look at it again tomorrow, it might not be as bad as I think. I’ve had that happen before.

I gave up on the sermon around 7:30 and then headed out for a late supper. Over an 8-ounce sirloin and a pint of stout at Brewsters, I read Jim Jordan‘s Crisis, Opportunity, and the Christian Future. It’s a short book (46 pages), but it covers a lot of turf, tracing the patterns of history in terms of the Father, Son (Brother), and Spirit. I read quickly, trying to grasp the big picture. Someday (perhaps when I’m a little less draggy and muddle-headed) I’ll have to think it through more carefully. A couple of quotations:

God is in the business of changing humanity into a fit Bride, and so God breaks down all attempts to freeze history (p. 20).

Today, the bonds that used to hold our society together are starting to break and a “neo-tribalism” is developing. In that connection, Jordan writes,

… people today do not live in a fear of God, as people did at the time of the Reformation. People today live in isolation, rootlessness, anomie, loneliness, and with suicidal tendencies. They seek psychiatrists and read books trying to find individual “inner peace” by themselves, alone. The Hollywood movie What About Bob? points to this phenomenon. Bob’s psychiatrist deals with Bob as an individual, but what Bob really needs is to become part of a family (p. 35).

Jordan urges the church to respond to these developments by having the community gather around the communion table and by recovering enthusiastic singing and “a sense of place”:

Protestant churches are ideological; we drive past twenty churches to get to the one we agree with. This cannot change overnight, of course, but more and more the churches need to reach out into the communities right around them and become centers for the lonely and lost in their midst.

Jordan also calls for “total Bible saturation,” so that our common sense is shaped by Scripture, so that we live by the imperatives, lyrics, evaluations, facts, and symbolism of Scripture. The church ought to be tribal:

a community of enthusiastic singers gathered by real elders (old men) at a table. Such a local church must have a vision for the local community, not be constantly harping on national ills. Such a church must be planted in a place, and reach out with a vision of the New Community of God to all the lonely, isolated, and despairing people round about, people who are experiencing the many forms of death. Such a church must have something to offer in the way of a new community, and to do this she must know her songs, be feasting at her Lord’s table, and have elders who can provide her with a real government. The modern conservative church too often has nothing to offer but doctrine, cold ideas. The church must offer wholistic life to wholistic people (pp. 45-46).

I thought a bit about the church having a sense of place on Tuesday when I was in Calgary. I stopped for lunch in Mackenzie Towne, a development on the south end of the city. When you enter the development, you come to a traffic circle, and on the circle sits a church. It’s not right in the centre of town at this point, but the town may grow up around it so that it is eventually in the centre. It’s simply called Mackenzie Towne Church. I have no idea if it’s tied to any denomination and given our current state of doctrinal fragmentation in the church I’d probably end up driving past it to go elsewhere if I lived in Mackenzie Towne myself. But the idea is very attractive: this is the church for this area and for these people. The church’s mission isn’t necessarily to reach the whole city but to reach this particular community (first). As it is, many people live a long distance from the church they attend and that is bound to affect the nature of our community/communion.

Posted by John Barach @ 10:58 pm | Discuss (0)

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