The final chapter in Webber’s The Divine Embrace is entitled Life Together, which is, of course, where all this ends, in church. One of my repeated critiques of a contemporary church experience is that it is essentially existential, focusing on the self. Webber agrees, saying that the problem is that spirituality itself is taught as generating from the self: “It is a view that seems to permeate the evangelical culture.”
Webber proposes that when spirituality is situated in God’s embrace, church and worship then reveals that to us. We are no longer cheerleaders (my term) that have to conjur up some sense of worship and spirituality, but are rather participants who have God revealed to us as we respond to his embrace.
Webber criticizes the modern business model of the church, which has created, as you’d expect, a consumerist mentality. This has followed a natural progression, with churches focusing on what the unchurched want, and making the church culturally relevant. As a result, many churches merely reflect not only the look, but the “narrative of culture.” Churches offer programs to meet the needs and desires of the congregation, as opposed to nurturing new converts and discipling them.
This chapter also discusses what Webber calls the crisis of worship. As I have mentioned before, contemporary worship sees God as the object God who needs to be worshipped by us, which originates worship in the self. Webber believes that a Biblical and historical view of worship is that “worship does God’s story.” Worshp proclaims God and what he is doing, and in worship we enact the story. A worship that is nourishing focuses on historical events (not emotions), uses Biblical language, and includes prayer that discloses and echoes God’s story.
Since I’ve started reading this book, I have paid even closer attention to what kind of worship happens in the churches I attend, and I think Webber is correct. The further and further we have “progressed” into evengelicalism, our worship songs have become more and more meaningless, offering little if anything of the truth of the Gospel. Even in my own Vineyard culture, the contemporary worship songs have become less and less doctrinal. No longer is the Trinity mentioned (in fact, often the Persons are confused). In fact, it’s rare to find Biblical language used that hasn’t been edited and lost among less meaningful phrases.
What now? As I’ve probably mentioned in the past, I really don’t have a great deal of hope that the Evangelical church will stop the nonsense and realign itself with a Biblical concept of spirituality. I also don’t have hope for the emerging church, which to me is simply modernism will the lid off. That’s not to say I haven’t lost faith in God’s church, or his ability to pull it together.
As for what I do, I’m not sure. Next Sunday is Easter, and at the moment, I’m looking for a good church that remembers what it’s like to celebrate a resurrection. Then, I’ll go to our church with my family.
…yes, well. Don’t tell him that. 🙂
However, that in and of itself is an interesting conversation within Orthodoxy which goes on. There is, shall we say, lack of consensus about what “evangelism” even means. The Patriarch of Constantinople has a new book out, and the American converts are already raking him over the coals for making the statement in its pages that the Orthodox don’t proselytize. Thing is — being the middle of the book myself — in context, he doesn’t mean we don’t evangelize; what he means by “proselytize” is “coerce” or “make nuisances of ourselves to convince people to convert”. In that sense, the Patriarch is absolutely right. At best, Orthodox evangelism assumes that the individual Christian is not keeping their light under a bushel, and then says, “Come and see.”
Both components are necessary, though — Fr. Peter’s counterpart in the Greek archdiocese, Fr. Jim Kordaris, recently was on a podcast where said, effectively, he’d love to be doing what Fr. Peter is doing to say “Come and see,” but in his archdiocese, there are efforts needed internally first to instill a missionary mindset and revitalize the fire for Christ at the parish level. “We have to be infected before we can be contagious,” were his words.
and they say the Orthodox aren’t evangelical! 😉
Fr. Peter is the director of Missions and Evangelism for the Antiochian Archdiocese, so that’s pretty much what he does — help to kick off missions.
You might check out http://www.orthodoxyinamerica.org to see where the nearest parish celebrating a Paschal liturgy might be.
Leaving Evangelicalism (in the popular sense of the word), which is really what we’re talking about, would mean separation from my family on Sundays. There are many reasons to maintain an expatriate status, and for me friends & family are good reasons. As long as the church doesn’t dismiss the creeds or stumble into major heresy (such as Calvinism or dispensationalism …), I think I can maintain fellowship. That’s one benefit of being in a church movement that’s not based on a restrictive theology.
“Next Sunday is Easter, and at the moment, I’m looking for a good church that remembers what it’s like to celebrate a resurrection. Then, I’ll go to our church with my family.
Time for an exodus or more bricks and straws?
I have heard about the Orthodox Easter celebrations… I doubt they can be matched. I found that we do have a Greek Orthodox mission where I live, but it doesn’t look like they’re having an Easter service. It seems they meet every couple of months. I did see, however, that Peter Gillquist had been in town last year, to help kick off the mission…
For a lark, you might check out an Orthodox Easter celebration — next month (27 April). I’d be very curious to hear how that might, or might not, meet your criteria of “remembering what it’s like to celebrate a resurrection.”