Monday, August 25, 2008

Form, Schmorm

I'm not really a gray area kind of gal. In my opinion, you either like the right kind of ice cream (Heath Bar Crunch) or the wrong kind (Coffee). You like the right ancient philosopher (Aristotle) or the wrong one (Plato). You like the right kind of diet cola (Diet Pepsi) or the wrong kind (Diet Coke). You like the right kind of music (Stravinsky) or the wrong kind (Mozart). You like the right 19th century American writer (Melville) or the wrong one (Emerson). You like the right big family television show (The Brady Bunch) or the wrong one (The Partridge Family).

I always assumed that as I aged, my opinions would become even stronger and more annoying. So a few weeks from my 28th birthday, I'm shocked to discover that perhaps both sides can sometimes be right.

I've been thinking a lot about form. It seems we place a strong emphasis on right and wrong ways of "doing church." (Incidentally, I love how the word "doing" adds gravitas to anything. I'm going to start throwing around phrases like "doing shopping for shoes" or "doing eating my cheeseburger.") For instance: Purchasing a permanent building vs. meeting in a public space. Megachurches vs. home churches. Age specific classes vs. integrated worship. 30 minute sermons vs. 90 minute sermons. Pews vs. chairs. This all seems to suggest that if you can just embrace the right form, you'll do church the right way.

I disagree. While the New Testament has many commands concerning the mission and behavior of the church, it has far less to say about the specific form of the church. We need to cover the essentials, but there appears to be a lot of freedom in how local churches choose to implement these essentials. A program that effectively disciples children at one church may be a complete flop at another. Meeting in a coffee shop or bar might draw lots of new people in one city and might alienate people in another.

I think that the way each individual church applies God's commands needs to be informed by its specific community and culture. And perhaps less informed by what others are doing. Maybe there is more than one right way to run a church.

Let me know what you think. Perhaps I'm wrong and you're right. Or maybe you're wrong and I'm right. Or maybe we're both right.


Jason said...

This is the one part of the Emerging Conversation that appeals to me. I think that there is a place for pews, organs, and bell choirs. I also think there is a place for chairs, loud music, and piercings. The key thing is the gospel. Is it being proclaimed faithfully? I don't care about the style as long as church is a place where the Bible gets opened up and people are pointed to the cross.

Ever notice that everyone else "does church" wrong if they don't do it like we do?

Anonymous said...

I think the important thing is to realize what is driving how a church is "doing" church. Does the church have the view that it has to be relevant to "get people saved" or does it believe that a faithful proclamation of the Gospel and God's sovereignty accomplishes this?

I believe that there is a lot of room under the orthodox umbrella (but some of those under the umbrella are still getting wet. If they would move a little closer to the center - assuming Christ is at the center - they would find more protection from the elements). The question is whether or not a church is willing to examine its reasons for why it does things the way it does. Are its reasons grounded in sound doctrine (arrived at by a diligent searching of/for Scriptural truth) or cultural relevance? Does the church desire to seek that which pleases God of Man?

Jeffrey Bruce said...

Have you ever had Coffee Heath Bar Crunch? It might be the best ice cream flavor in existence...and it might change your epistemology considerably.