THE LUCID CHURCH
Yesterday our pastor preached on worship out of 1 Corinthians 14. This chapter is part of a longer trilogy on worship that the apostle Paul is teaching on. Chapters 12-14 are a unit addressing faulty worship practices in the Corinthian church.
One point is the need to use our gifts in a way that benefits others:
Think, friends: If I come to you and all I do is pray privately to God in a way only he can understand, what are you going to get out of that?
If I don’t address you plainly with some insight or truth or proclamation or teaching, what help am I to you?
If musical instruments—flutes, say, or harps—aren’t played so that each note is distinct and in tune, how will anyone be able to catch the melody and enjoy the music?
If the trumpet call can’t be distinguished, will anyone show up for the battle?
Here, Paul is stressing the need for lucidity and clarity when we communicate. We need to be harnessing and stewarding our gifts in such a way that they are useful to others. I am a communicator by profession - part of my job is standing in front of a group of people and speaking to them. It is paramount that I choose my words carefully. And hopefully the corporate church chooses her words carefully as well.
The truth is the church is failing in communicating the message of Jesus clearly. Here's an interesting example:
On Friday, my eldest son went to write his S.A.T. - a preliminary test used when applying to American colleges. I got there early and struck up a conversation with another parent who was waiting for their child.
He was a professor of music at Cornell. We had a wide ranging chat. Somehow we ventured on to some dicey topics like racism, nationalism and American evangelicals. Part of this is the fact that I told him I was the pastor of a church. We found agreement in many areas. One thing really stood out to me. He told me he was raised in a non religious home - never attended church, no religious talk at home, etc. Yet, despite being raised and formed in a largely secular environment he made an interesting comment:
"I don't understand the evangelicals. Wasn't Jesus all about helping to poor and loving others? Why are these guys so hungry for power and control?"
And at that moment, I realized he knew more about Jesus than many people who faithfully darken our churches every Sunday. What happened? How had the message been lost? Why did my new friend find a disconnect between the American church and the gospel of Jesus Christ?
One reason might be our failure to both understand and then communicate the essential truths of the gospel. American evangelicals spend a large amount of resources and time in manipulating political, educational and media levers in order to enforce their worldview on the general populis.
I often ask - why didn't Jesus think of that? He could have come as a Caesar born into a palace. But, instead he came as a peasant born in a barn. He chose a life of service and sacrifice - but we in America have done the opposite.
We have sought the oval office instead of the social services office.
Power over service.
Fame over obscurity.
Strength over weakness.
Speaking over listening.
As long as we continue to work from a posture of dominance, we will fail. Because the gospel does not advance through channels of power, but through avenues of weakness and service. And that is why the inner city worker feeding the poor is ultimately more effective in the Kingdom that the D.C. lobbyist trying to push through some "pro-family" legislation.
Let us continue to pursue lucidity when it comes to our message.