I've been participating in some discussion on Steve Sensenig's blog, Theological Musings. and Steve paid me what I guess is the blogger's ultimate compliment: he took my comment and made it into a guest post in its own right. While I don't know that I should put the whole discussion here, I am putting up the new post here on my own blog. So here goes:
Looking back at this whole discussion, I come back to this basic question–What is Christianity? Is it
(a) a set of activities in a sacred place on Sunday morning, with a list of tenets to be subscribed to as a condition of participation, coupled with rules for behavior, enforced by the official leadership
(b) a way of living, every day, 24/7, in relationship with Jesus Himself, and with others who also are in relationship with Him.
Going through the words of Jesus Himself in the Gospels, I cannot find anything that leads to (a); in fact, he often rebuked the leaders of the (a) system of the day. I grew up in churches, have been in churches all my life, and my conclusion now is that in most situations, the more of (a) you have, the less you have of (b); in fact, (a) tends to replace and eliminate (b)!
How did “Abide in me” come to mean “Be at the church building every time the doors are open”?
If you want to improve your relationship with someone, say your wife, do you go off to an auditorium and sit while someone who claims to know her better than you do lectures for half an hour? Or would the time be better spent going somewhere alone with your wife and conversing with her for half an hour? Which really builds the relationship with her?
I’m afraid most humans are too lazy for their own good. We’d rather have a list of rules to keep than try to walk in the Spirit. We want a doctrinal statement to assent to rather than trying to learn to hear His voice ourselves. The Hebrews started it at Mt. Sinai–they wanted Moses to hear God for them.
And for those who would say “It’s some of each, both (a) and (b)” my question is How can it be both, when (a) eliminates (b)? I think, and I suspect [frequent commenter] ded would agree (based on what he’s written here), that they are two different things, coming from two different sources. If God meant it to be a symbiosis, it would be a stable symbiosis, not constantly drifting in one direction.
To look at it another way: What has been the “fruit” of (a) in this country? Do we have a vibrant church that is transforming its culture? Are non-believers coming to Christ in droves? Are believers “turning the world upside down”?
Or is the picture more like this: “Our bookshelves are full of Christian books and videos. We have churches on every major street, more staff workers than ever before, large Sunday school departments, cell systems, mega- and meta-church seminars. We have Christian bumper stickers, political action groups, huge parachurch ministries–and in the midst of it all, we have lost every major city in North America.” Back in 1999, Wolfgang Simson included that quote from Ted Haggard in his book “Houses that Change the World”.
Maybe we do need to lay aside everything that’s been written since and go back to the New Testament for our original instructions.