Matt's blog

The story of me, an American in Edinburgh, Scotland finding my place as a musician, a husband, a father and a Christian.

A Few Thoughts on "The Church"

Ok, I very rarely make commentary on something as amorphous and non-specific as "The Church" because I feel it is impossible to make generalizations that cover the whole of American Christianity and I've found that usually when such statements are made they are critical in nature without offering any redeeming value. I hope that in this post I can stick to relating my own personal experience and restrain myself from implying that those experiences represent universal truth. I also hope that I can be generally positive in the thoughts I set forth.

Why the time is not right for another Reformation

Ok, it's confession time. With all the talk running around about the Emergent Church, I've gotten somewhat interested. I need to apologize to Andrew for poking fun at him about Emergent stuff over the last few days I've been in L.A.. The truth of the matter is that Jeni and I have actually been starting to get involved with a church which labels itself 'Emergent' in Spokane. The Emergent ideas of a theology that encompasses more than intellectual ideals and holds artistic creativity in high regard interests me, as I am both a Christian and an artist. However, the inspiration to get involved with this particular congregation was not emergent theology, but was the desire to be a part of a church built intentionally around small groups. As everything in life from SUVs to summer blockbusters is getting bigger with many church congregations struggling to keep up in order to seem relevant, small personal house based groups might be just the kind of counter cultural idea that the church could embrace to make a difference. Couple these trends in the church with the recent technological advances that are similar in scope to the discovery of the New World which preceded the first Reformation, and one might think that we're on our way to another.

But I don't. Some of you may disagree with me, but I think the church is lacking one thing essential for a reformation: institutional corruption. I believe that for the most part, the American church today is not corrupt on the institutional level. I believe we may be making poor decisions, may be sheltering ourselves from culture, and may be nearly impotent as a transforming force in society, but I don't think we're corrupt. The American church, backed by a better educated population than the world has ever seen, for the most part has great, scriptural theology. The diverse types of American Christian faith from Fundamentalists to Presbyterians to Catholics to Charismatics show that we are in a place where people are free to, and have the ability to, interpret the scriptures in light of their own experience with God. Sure, there are points which I would argue about with a Fundamentalist or a Catholic, but when we strip away the political ideologies and even the superfluous miniscule points of theology, we will all agree on a loving God and salvation through His sacrifice on the cross. Who cares what happens when you consume the bread and the wine as long as through that sacrament the Church Universal is joined together in unity.

I know what you're thinking now, "But Matt, look how jacked up the church is, surely there must be something that needs to be fixed." I agree, but I don't think the thing that needs to be fixed should happen on the institutional level with a reformation. The institutional church could use work, could be streamlined, but I think the real change now has to happen on the individual level.

As most of you probably know, Ryan just got back from a year in Kenya. His work was primarily for social justice, with very little or even no evangelical aspect to it. He was asked yesterday if the organization he worked with had any plans to add a spiritual dimension to their work. Ryan said something very interesting. He said that Africa doesn't need missionaries. First of all, he said that even being in Kenya for a year he had not spent enough time to be an effective missionary, to learn the customs and the needs of the people there. In addition to that, Africa has already been evangelized to. Kenya has churches representing Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Anglican faiths, among others. There is a strong Christian presence in Africa, we don't need more westerners with western ideas going in to muddle up their journey to faith. Africa is still plagued by superstition and witchcraft, but the change in Africa needs to happen on the individual level supported by the local churches.

I'd say that the same thing has to happen in America. We don't need a new thing. In this country that we're so convinced is going down the drain we've still got more churches than strip clubs. Let's not spend our effort reforming the church, but let us as the people who make up the living church, the hands and feet of Christ, help our brothers and sisters along one by one to get to know Christ.

A second related but much shorter thought

Ryan said that one of the big things he learned in Africa was how to see God in all people regardless of shape, race, or even religion. (Don't bother trying to correct it Jeni, it's an Oxford comma, it's totally legit, and I like it.) Ryan was quick to point out that he had not become theologically liberal, but that he simply sees things now in a different way than before he left. I just want to say to Ryan, I stand behind you completely on this point. Of course we should see God in all people, how else would we be able to make an honest effort to bring them back to their true, loving maker?

By the way, Word spell check wants to change “Charismatics” to “Charisma tics.” I was wondering why no one seemed to like me since I stopped twitching.

5 Responses to “A Few Thoughts on "The Church"”

  1. # Blogger Jenevieve

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.  

  2. # Blogger Jenevieve

    Good thoughts! I think I agree with you on most points, and Ryan's thoughts are, as usual, thoughtful and eloquent.

    And wasn't going to edit it. I thought the Oxford comma worked well there.  

  3. # Blogger Anastasia

    This is a really great post. I completely agree with you on every point.  

  4. # Anonymous Anonymous

    I agree too. It bothers me that so many churches are so concerned with starting new churches instead of fixing the ones we have. Have you read Blue Like Jazz? The author has an excellent point about hippies and druggies being more welcoming than the church. Food for thought.

    I am also all about the Oxford comma.


  5. # Blogger Will

    I was going to make some sort of snide joke about how this Emergent movement is really just like the Emergentist theory of mind, but you know what, it isn't ironic at all. It's actually a useful metaphore. For those of you not in the know, the Emergent theory says that consciousness/soul/whatever is a non-physical property that emerges out of the collection of individual physical parts (i.e. brain cells, neurons, etc.). In much the same way, a church is a collection of physical entities (mixed with some non-physical, of course) that gives rise to a non-physical thing, namely faith and community. So yeah. And, not that I actually disagree or anything, but I'm contrarian at heart, so I disagree!  

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