what’s the point? – what are we doing?

If the church is God’s representation in the world – the people of God – it seems natural that what we do should reflect who we are.

Easier said than done…

You may have noticed, but church practices are by no means universal. To say there’s variety in churches is an extreme understatement. Historically, how we “do” church has seen its fair share of variation, ranging from the early church’s debate surrounding Jewish-Gentile integration, to the countless monastic movements, to the papal of feuds of medieval Catholicism, to the Reformation, to the proliferation of denominations, to the “style” of worship, and on and on and on...

This lack of consistency in representing biblical Christianity only contributes to the church’s apparent irrelevance I discussed earlier. How can people who claim to follow the same God accept so much variety and outright disunity?

Often churches think if they can just “get it right” they will overcome this critique. And so they approach what they do in a certain way. For some churches this means adopting a consumer-oriented approach to church. Essentially, variety in church practices is something that should be capitalized on. If we simply get the formula right and garner just enough of the “cool” factor (e.g. rock music), people will see that what we offer is worth something amidst the smorgasbord of religious options. (Ryan’s got some good thoughts on consumer approaches to church here). For other churches, they deem an opposite approach more appropriate, a complete withdrawal from attempting to be relevant in the world. Scared that society will negatively infiltrate what we do (e.g. rock music), we’ll just withdraw into our holy huddle, adopting practices and programs that sustain a status quo we’ve all become accustomed to. Both responses, unfortunately, allow the church’s relationship to society – how they are perceived by others – to determine what they do.

And while most churches likely fall somewhere in-between these two caricatures, I want to suggest that even some sort of middle ground isn’t helpful. Finding just the right mix of cool and conservative doesn’t lead to faithfully being the church in the world. We need a different motivation. Jesus’ straightforward summation of faithfully being God’s people sums it up:

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Mt. 22:36-40 NIV).

I want to suggest an appropriate paraphrase is “all that we do in church hang on these two commandments.” So as I post on how church programs in the areas of worship, encouragement, and loving others, I’ll propose that it’s these few words, not cultural relevance, that should determine what we do as the people of God.


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