Know who we are in order to be who we are supposed to be…

Here’s a question I have been asking myself recently of church:

“What are we doing here? Does anyone really know?”

Have you ever wondered if the various practices in your church fail to match up to the theological foundations your church stands for? Do we, or others in our congregations even know what the theological foundations are that drive what it is we do on Sunday mornings and the various midweek programs that make up so much of what we define church to be?

If your answer is yes, or even maybe, to these questions, or ones similar that you have yourself, I want to let you know you are not alone! It seems to me that there is growing neglect to really engage with the theological identity of being a church. This is so much more than what song we sing, the color of Sunday’s bulletin, or which care group has the best ‘fellowship’ (aka. ‘goodies’). What I am getting at isn’t so much the practices, although these will inevitably be a part of the discussion, but the identity of the church. Do we really know who we are? And do we realize what the implications are for our practices as a church in relation to our identity? For example, if a church professes a love for God and love for you neighbor (most do, don’t they???), do its programs reflect that part of its identity? I am not suggesting churches are completely guilty of not properly reflecting their identity, but rather the fact that many people in churches, leaders included, fail to continually reflect on their identity as a regular part of planning and practice.

As many "contemporary" church congregations continually wrestle with how exactly they are to maintain their "contemporary" status, a question that is sadly left aside is this very question of theological identity. Call it ecclesiology. Call it a mission's statement. Call it a confession of faith. Whatever...

The point is we need to know who we are in order to be who we are supposed to be...

2 comments:

Peter Thurley said...

I was talking with my mother the other day and she had something similar to say, only she was despairing that theological controversies seem to have displaced our identity as followers of Christ. She was speaking of a specific church and a specific denomination - my mother is one who has always held fast to the view that MB's "have it right". Yet my father and her are considering going elsewhere because they feel there is too little emphasis on doing what Jesus did and too much emphasis on the sideshow theological debates that go nowhere. This is unprecedented with my mother, and it has me thinking that there is something going on that the church should be worried about.

One of my office mate has always said that there has been too much emphasis on orthodoxy and not enough on orthopraxis within Evangelical circles. A couple of years ago, I would have been inclined to think he was severely mistaken. But as I have been learning more about who God is, I have been realizing that the time I spent bickering with a fellow Christian about the place of women in the church is time NOT spent taking care of the widows and orphans.

I'm not saying theology isn't important - what I am saying is that what we DO is just as important as what we BELIEVE.

Thoughts?

dwark said...

Peter, regarding your comments on that "anonymous" church your mother attends I would agree that something is going on that perhaps warrants a degree of anxiety. However, for me that anxiety is related to the unknown future of this church as it finally begins to ask questions of identity. I guess you could say I have a anxious optimism that we are moving in the right direction, however early in that process we may be. One way I have put is: "the fan is running, and we are just waiting for something to hit it..." Hopefully what hits the fan is constructive and faithful to being followers of Jesus and not the same complacent crap of the past.

While you are right that obscure or secondary theological conundrums should not distract the church from authentically following Jesus, for the first time I feel like this specific church is ready to start asking the question: what does it mean for us to be faithful participants in the kingdom of God, modeled after Jesus' entire ministry? Does this mean people are asking this questions already? Not necessarily, but I think we are at least at the point to begin asking it. Which is something I am not sure I have seen before since I have been around...

In terms of being more orthopraxy oriented, I actually think that this church has had a decent balance. The problem however, is that what could be called orthopraxy is anything but that. Practices don't reflect identity. So what I am calling for is a renewal that transcends orthodoxy and orthopraxy to encompass our whole identity as followers of Jesus individually and as a church.

Until we recognize this fundamental aspect of what it means to be the church, any practices we do, whether it be inward or outward focused, seems to be just a spinning of our self-motivated wheels, not faithfulness to what God is calling us to do.

Anyway, your prayer would be appreciated as these things continue to be wrestled with...

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