Monday, April 19, 2010

Ephesians 3:14-21: A Prayer

Lord, help me. Lord, thank you for your love, the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. Help me to know your unknowable love and turn to it always. Fill me, God, with your fullness that I may have no need to seek fulfillment any other place. Be close to me, Oh Christ, for I cannot understand the pain I cause in disobedience, acting outside of your love.

Forgive me and make me new, Lord.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Robo Resurrection?

Sitting in a Palm Sunday service this year, I watched a video clip that left me very unsettled. It was about 45 seconds long and was filled with the kinds of sounds in commercials for high definition stereo systems. In a jagged font, words like “crucified, beaten, forgiveness, savior” spurted on and off the screen. The point was to encourage viewers to invite non-believers to the Easter Sunday service, where their lives—swish—could be changed—shwoo—forever—CLANK.

The other goal, as far as I could tell, was to make me feel like I had just watched a chase scene from one of the Matrix movies. Lacking only the signature action-movie-preview-guy voice, this clip was altogether inappropriate because of its underlying message. The following paragraphs explain.

Ministry events, contrary to what this video subtly communicated, are not the focus of a believer’s life in Christ. While participating in the local body of believers is important, God’s movement in a person’s life is not limited to church-related activities. This seems obvious, and no one would say differently. But our readiness to pour energy and resources into Sunday services, youth group meetings, retreats, facilities, and so forth, often contradicts our words.

Church leaders, who are examples to the flock and therefore teach always through their words and deeds, must make sure that rituals occupy an appropriate role in the lives of believers. Because the world ultimately desires to see Christ present in his people, the things that take place outside of events are the most important. The point of gathering as the church is to nurture people for those times. Christ, the Head, who dwells in each member of the body, strengthens his people when they fellowship so that they may walk in his love without wavering when they are on their own. As this occurs they bear witness to the world in word and deed. Few pastors would disagree that this is a vital role, if not the very purpose, of the church’s corporate gatherings.

Yet when leaders by example encourage others to invest huge amounts of resources and energy into events that are allegedly not the focus of the Christian’s life in Christ, they send an inconsistent message. The pastors, elders, deacons, and teachers want people to be equipped for godly living day-to-day through the ministry of the local church. But when they set before me a Sunday morning video clip that uses visual stimulants and sound effects to get my heart pumping fast about next week’s life-changing service, I suspect that what they are mostly thinking about is next week’s life-changing service, not the way I live between now and then as a fellow member of Christ’s body.

If we are not careful, leadership and lay people together are transformed under the glow of the video screen. Instead of spiritual family in Christ, commanded to love one another in the Father’s example, bear with one another in patience, and speak truth to one another through Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, we turn into mere audience members who reconvene weekly, hopefully meeting the minimum expectation of bringing a non-believing friend to a service. This may be enough to satisfy a Palm Sunday video gimmick, but Christ himself demands much more of his followers.