September 2, 2014

An iMonk Classic in Anticipation of 2013

 Just Beyond the 100th Time
by Michael Spencer, Dec. 2008

Dedicated to all of you on the same journey. Keep faith and keep going. You’re not alone.

It’s time for one of your favorite programs here at Internet Monk.com: “Secret, Terrible, Unspoken Thoughts…REVEALED!”

Today’s secret thought was uttered by a commenter in a recent discussion thread, but it’s the kind of terrible thought that lurks in the minds of many of you reading this post. What terrible, shameful, embarrassing secret thought am I referring to?

Frankly, I’m to the point where there isn’t that much a pastor/teacher is going to be able to say that I haven’t heard 100 times already.

I know, I know. Shameful. Can you believe there are people like that out there? Someone call the watchbloggers!

Well…..I’ve thought about his kind of statement a lot. I preach about 10-12 times a month, and have preached as often as 20 times a month at my current ministry. I’ve listened to thousands of hours of sermons on tape, mp3, cd. I’ve read sermons- thousands of them. I’m on both sides of the comment, both criminal and consumer.

Some of those preachers have been my very best teachers. I absolutely believe in the value of the right kind of repetition. Gospel proclamation calls for it. Biblical preaching calls for it. It’s commanded. I do it in the classroom.

But let’s have an honest go at, shall we? What is this commenter actually talking about? (Now the REAL shocking truth will be REVEALED!)

The commenter is correct, and he isn’t saying “tickle my ears with something new.” He’s saying that the model of Christian spiritual formation now extent in worship is one that sees the 40 minute information dump as the primary means of spiritual growth. The sermon, the sermon and the sermon from the preacher, the theologian and the teacher. Plus a daily quiet time. That’s evangelical spiritual formation in a nutshell.

It’s hit me like a ton of bricks this past year: the blogosphere is full of voices that think we are all a bunch of big brains, and nothing more. We need more information. More data. More sermons. More books. More facts. More lectures. We are what we think. We are what we hear, read and think. So open up those brains and pour it in…after an appropriate prayer.

Behind this is a view of humanness that needs to be called out. (More SHOCKING REVELATIONS!!)

What thousands of evangelicals are experiencing is not a call from the Holy Spirit to become an overstuffed theological brain with a vocabulary that can only be decoded by a committee of seminary professors and a reading list that looks like the “atonement” shelf at a seminary bookstore.

No, they- we- are longing for authentic humanness in the Gospel. A full and genuine human experience. Normal human life as God created and recreated it. Not more information in a competition to quote the most scripture and do the best imitation of a walking apologetics class. Not more religion of the (fill in the blank) _______ sort. No….humanness made alive in the incarnation. Created, incarnated, redeemed, resurrected humanity.

We long to be human beings, fully alive to who we are, to God, to one another and to all that being made in the image of the incarnated God means.

We long for beauty, for multiple expressions and experiences of beauty.

We long for relational and emotional connection; to know we are not alone; to love and be love; to be heard and to hear our human family.

We long for worship to engage the senses, the body, the whole personality. We long for mystery, not explanation. We long for symbolism, not just exposition. We long for a recognition of what it means for God to be God and for each of us to be human, not for more aspirations to know as much as God and instructions on how to be more than human.

We long for Jesus to come to us in every way that life comes to us, and not just in a set of propositions.

We long for honesty about the brutal pain and disappointments of life, and we long to hear the voices of others experiencing that brokenness.

We are tired of the culture of lies that Christians perpetuate in their fear that someone will know about the beer in the fridge, the porn on the computer, the affair, the repeated abuse, the unbelieving child, the nagging doubts, the frightening diagnosis and the desperate fears.

We long for a spirituality of stillness, contentment and acceptance in the place of spiritual competition and wretched urgency. We have grown weary and sick of being “challenged” to do more, be more committed, more surrendered, more holy by our own energy.

We long for prayer that is not a means to accomplish things, bring miracles, generate power, impress the listener. We long for the depths of spirituality, not the show of being spiritual.

We long to be loved, to be quietly accepted, to be told to lie down in green pastures, to stop the race, to pray in silence. To be given a spirituality of dignity, not a spirituality that is a feature of this week’s sermon series on how to have more sex, make more money, have better kids, smile more, achieve great things and otherwise turn the salvation of Jesus into a means to an American end.

We long to understand the spirituality of those whose religion does not drive them crazy. We long to know the Bible’s message and then be free to live it. We want to be lifted up, not beaten down. We hope for a simple spirituality, not an exciting, never-before-experienced high from the show.

Yes, the commenter speaks the truth, we have heard the same answers a hundred times. Not the same Gospel necessarily, or even the Gospel applied in 100 different ways. But the same 100 moral exhortations. The same 100 life lessons. The same 100 theological necessities. The same 100 spiritual demands. The same 100 pastors sounding like the same 10 pastors. The 100 same catch phrases. The same 100 commercials. The same 100 half-truths, convenient half-truths and agreed upon untruths.

We have heard evangelicalism’s products, its promises, its prosperity promises, its prevarications and protests at least 100 times. Those of us with longer track records have been through all of this, under different names, with different spins, different bumper stickers, t-shirts and gurus. But it is all the same.

It is far less than the glories of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. It is far less than it thinks it is. And we feel the emptiness in our souls, even as our minds and senses are overwhelmed by the “wow!”

Where in the New Testament does anyone say how great their church is? Where in the New Testament does anyone brag on their favorite preacher? (Other than in Corinth.) Where in the New Testament are we told to spend money on church advertising and making our pastor’s name the brand of the entire church? Where are we told we know so much that we are experts on everything and can fix anything? Where are we told in the New Testament that we are producing experiences? Where does it say we are competing for the world’s attention the world’s way?

Yes, we’ve heard it all 100 times before, and our children will hear it a 1000 times more if they stay in evangelicalism. They will hear it because the entire gassed up, energized machine is launching itself into the future with all the arrogance it can muster, replete with every answer and all wisdom, learning nothing and seeing nothing wrong.

In [2013], we will hear it all 100 times again and again.

But not all of us. Perhaps less of us than you think.

Some of us will finally say good-bye to this insanity. Some of us will stay, but we will not be listening anymore. Some of us will discover others ways, other paths, other pilgrims and friends.

In fact, many of those standing to say the same things and do the same things and insist on the same things will feel the Great Emptiness in it all.

Somewhere, just beyond the 100th time we hear it all again and the 100th time we hear the new version of it in the latest church, latest book, latest sermon series, latest CD, latest web site and so on….somewhere, we’ll hear it the last time and we’ll walk away.

We will be hearing something else….someone else. Other voices and other music.

Another way of being Christian.

Comments

  1. Oh, my. Makes me glad I’ve never been an evangelical/fundamentalist/charismatic; much better off am I as an old(sort of)-fashioned confused Episcopalian never quite sure if he’s catholic or protestant who gets to listen to the latest pet academic ideas from pulpits whose occupants love the watered down political correctness/theology of Marcus Borg and Elaine Pagels and think the apocryphal gospels need to be considered a good inclusive tonic to those crusty old tyrant church fathers who conspired to keep a wide plurality of voices out of the biblical canon even as they forged the oppressive chains of Nicene orthodoxy which no one believes anyway because everyone knows that Christian orthodoxy is responsible for global warming and the oppression of women world-wide and the trouble in the middle-east (and everywhere else) and the absence of world peace and etc. and etc. and etc. and of course, let’s not forget, most importantly, the obesity of the American populace.
    Welcome to post-evangelicalism, my friends. Glad you could make it.

    • petrushka1611 says:

      I am also glad I am not as other men are.

    • That was hilarious. While it’s true there’s always a grass-is-greener component to it, hyper-pietistic fundagelicalism and mainline liberalism aren’t the only two options. Confessional Protestantism of Reformation heritage, Roman Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy are all better options, imo. Not that there isn’t a lot of good in the mainlines, though. Say what you like about their quirky extremes, the Episcopal church is putting out a ton of good music these days. It’s a great denomination to visit in New York around the holidays, let me tell you. It’s a shame there’s not direct correlation between beauty in worship and soundness in doctrine.

      • Tom Huguenot says:

        Well, I guess it’s also too bad that you can never have all the good sides without the downfalls.
        It would be great to have a church twith the doctrinal robustness of confessional protestantism; the sense of continuity of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, the zeal for missions of Evangelicals and the desire for social and environmental justice (gasp!) of the Mainline…

        but all that is not possible, and you have to make choices.

        • Miguel,
          I left the RC Church decades ago exactly because I could not make a spiritual home there, and besides I consider RCism to be a part of denominationalism at this point, which means that it is protestant in the way that it exists in the supermarket of choices that people who are Christian must shop in when selecting ecclesial affiliation; the aforementioned does not mean that I don’t appreciate the rich spiritual resources that exist within the RC Church, resources which it’s hard to find anywhere else. I would not become EO for the same reason that I left the RC church: I believe the core Reformation insight about grace and faith, and because I believe that insight, I think that all the religion in the RC and EO churches serve as legalistic barriers between the Christian and the essentially simple graceful truth of the gospel. Regarding the confessional Reformation churches: the ones I’m familiar with have a confessional loyalty that I’m not in agreement with (for instance, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is loyal to the Book of Concord as an essential prism through which the Bible must be read, and requires fidelity to that loyalty both of clergy and laity; having read the Book of Concord, I cannot give such loyalty) and assert a view of Scripture that includes infallibility and inerrancy which I disagree with. Although I’m in disagreement with much of the preaching and teaching that occurs in the Episcopal Church USA, the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, which is where our doctrine exist, is an orthodox document which affirms the Trinitarian and Christological ecumenical creeds and the essential Reformation insights; also, I believe that the worldwide Anglican Communion, of which the ECUSA is still a member, is a faithful expression of catholic Christianity that adheres to the gospel in its life and mission. If a prayer book revision is undertaken in the future that adulterates the essential doctrines of Christianity, then I may have to part ways with the ECUSA at that time; until then, it’s still possible to find parishes, and even dioceses, where the gospel is preached and practiced. So I remain Episcopal.

          • I share your enthusiasm for the ’79 prayer book, it was the gateway drug that got me headed deeper into Christian tradition. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that new one, though.

            It seems that many orthodox Protestants have to opt for a home in the mainlines based on the soundness of local options. I agree that many Episcopal churches are more orthodox than congregations of my own group, the LCMS. I went to a choral evensong in New York City and was blown away by the orthodoxy and Christo-centricity of the homily, which oddly employed quite well the distinction of Law and Gospel. As a musician who is becoming an organist, I try to keep an open eye for good things going on in the mainlines because I’m well aware of the possibility that I may one day have to work there. When it comes to finding a home congregation, theology really is local.

            About the Missouri Synod, though… I could be wrong since I am relatively new, but I do not believe we require full confessional subscription from all laity. We would hold that our right doctrines should be believed by the laity, because they’re the truth and that’s why we believe them, but the vast majority of our laity have not read them entirely and have no clue what they say about a good many things. I believe that you would only be required to accept the Small Catechism, because Lutherans don’t have much doctrine that isn’t at least touched on there. Our deacons are only required to subscribe at the level of the large catechism and the Augsburg Confession (though I believe, like the SC, they cover mostly everything). Plenty of LCMS folks reject inerrancy as well, they just don’t get to preach. Keep in mind that Lutherans mean something drastically different from fundamentalist Baptists when they talk about inerrancy.

            I’d be interested to know what your exceptions form the BoC are. I haven’t quite finished it yet, but the more time I spend with it, the more amazed I am at how articulate, precise, and consistent it is. Given the nature of heresies pervading the Episcopal church, I find it a bit surprising that you find your differences with the BoC harder to reconcile.

        • Maybe I’m just cynical, but sometimes it just seems that one has to choose a church body based not so much on its strengths, but on whose weaknesses you can live with. But as far as continuity goes, Anglicans and Lutherans, as confessional protestants, can have a good dose of it.

          • Miguel,
            I find the Christology of the Book of Concord questionable, specifically the assertion that the humanity of Christ could contain his divinity; more generally, that the finite can contain the infinite in his Incarnation and in the Holy Eucharist. I think that is both deficient in dealing with the relationship of his divine and human natures, and contradicts Nicene orthodoxy. I’m sorry I cannot quote BoC chapter and verse, but it has been some time since I read the source materials and formed these opinions. Also, I’m generally very uncomfortable with the way Lutheran theology refracts all of the history of the church before the time of Luther through his interpretations, as if the theology and practice from that long period requires the legitimacy of his imprimatur.

          • Miguel,
            Member churches of the Anglican Communion do not consider themselves confessional, since they require adherence to no confessional statement but rather hold to Nicene Christianity as formulated in the ecumenical creeds and expressed in the universal undivided church of the first five centuries, C.E. That is the claim, anyway.

          • “Members of the Anglican Communion” rarely enjoy consensus about anything these days, it seems. There are those who do not hold to Nicene Christianity at all, but there is a group among them that do consider the 39 Articles to be their confession of faith. Those would be the confessional Anglicans.

            I’ve never encountered your objection to Lutheran theology before. I’ll keep an eye out for it as I finish the BoC, but on the surface I’d say it sounds fairly ridiculous to assert that the Lutheran Confessions contradict the Nicene Creed. If the finite could not contain the infinite, then in what sense is the incarnation (nevermind the real presence) even possible? Would you say the two natures of Christ were present in his person but compartmentalized, separate, or non-overlapping? I’m pretty sure that was the err of Nestorius.

            Lutherans do tend to view all church history through a 16th century lens, but I don’t know that this is required. Confessional subscription is more on theological doctrine than the temporal details. I don’t see any denominations insisting on pelting deficient catechizers with dung, as Luther suggests in the Large Catechism. Also, Luther is neither considered infallible (we reject many things he said, especially about the Jews) nor the sole source of theology, as Melanchthon, Chemnitz, and others left their own distinctive mark on the BoC. Really, I find the fact that they were at all able to come to so much agreement despite the tumultuous historical circumstances to be rather remarkable and telling of the significance of their doctrinal unity. But I understand how many of the claims of Lutheran dogma can be quite offensive to human reason.

            Oh, and since you’re a creed affirming Anglican, do you Filioque, or no? I enjoy your thoughts.

          • Miguel,
            The finite and infinite have no spatial relationship to each other, or rather, language involving spatial relationship between the finite and infinite leads to a form of imaging the Incarnation and the Real Presence that either reduces the prerogatives of the infinite or dilates and expands the meaning of the finite. The confusion leads to false kenotic theologies that mislead in the way they image the self-emptying of Christ, in effect emphasizing his humanity at the expense of impoverishing his deity. The distant result of this trend of thought has been seen in liberal theologies that use kenosis as the key for unlocking the meaning of Jesus person, and end up humanizing his deity, as if the only way Jesus could be truly human is if his deity was practically nullified in his Incarnation. The problem is that Luther was not willing to let the mystery of Incarnation and Real Presence stand as a mystery; instead, he went where angels fear to tread. What I should have said, instead of saying that this idea contradicts Nicene orthodoxy, is that it goes beyond Nicene orthodoxy in an unsound and misleading way.
            Later I’ll reply to your filioque query.

          • Miguel,
            I believe the filioque is an unnecessary addition to the original wording of the Nicene Creed. I believe that when the filioque is unpacked theologically it doesn’t actually add anything to or alter the meaning of the original wording of the Creed; but it gives the appearance of offering a different meaning, and more importantly it has served as an impediment to ecumenical efforts to narrow the separation between the EO churches and the churches of the Western Christianity. For these reasons I would like to see the filioque dropped from the Creed, something which the Anglican Communion was on track to doing a few years ago but has subsequently gotten lost in all the turmoil over the last few years that has erupted in the Communion over the inclusion of GLBT people in the life of the church. This is where I stand at present: I say the filioque with my brethren when we say the Creed together, believing it does not alter the meaning of the Creed as originally worded; however, I would like to see it dropped as an historically misleading addition and as an irenic gesture toward reconciliation with the churches of the East.
            Regarding Lutheranism: my experience in Lutheran churches (and my wife has worked in several as a church musician, including presently, which means that I spend quite a bit of time at worship with Lutherans and among them as they go about their church business) is that Luther has entirely too much influence in shaping and controlling Lutheran theological language, to the detriment of the earlier and sometimes deeper insights of both the patristic and medieval church.
            What you say about the current state of theological cacophony in the Anglican Communion is true; but if you compare it against the various and contradictory positions of the family of international Lutheran churches, I don’t think its any worse.

  2. My Buddhist friends would say that we have much to learn from the Great Emptiness, wherever we find it; it’s here, too, in the wilderness that you call post-evangelical. For me, this wilderness is the only spiritual home I’ve ever known. If you look carefully and intentionally, you might see what I’ve come to see in this wilderness: that the emptiness you will find here has the shape of Jesus, and that it’s possible to know his presence in the the experience of his absence.

    • Robert,

      Perhaps you are aware of this, but in Christian tradition that is refered to as Apophatic theology/spirituality.

      • Tom (aka Volkmar),
        Yes the apophatics: pseudo-Dionysius first and San Juan de Yepe above all; but my readings in Buddhism have helped me in a different way from the apophatics to recognize Jesus in the Great Emptiness to which Spencer refers, perhaps because of the sparseness and this-worldly practicality that can be found in Zen practice and terminology, which is the form of Buddhism with which I’m most familiar. God sometimes uses the most unlikely ways to awaken the sleeper.

  3. this post- this is why i always love michael’s perspectives

  4. 4 years later, this post rings just as true, and it’s just as timely… Michael really knocked this one out of the park.

  5. Spencer might have heard some new perspectives if he had been able to listen to people from outside of his narrow theological window. But that wouldn’t necessarily have brought him the community or relationships he was looking for–that has to grow naturally.

    • Gerald,

      How much of Spencer’s writing and speaking have you been exposed to? Michael’s “windows” were not “narrow”. From Capon to Merton –and beyond– were frames to his windows.

      T

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Spencer’s take is one shared by millions of people who have become increasingly dissatisfied with evangelicalism (including myself), an institution that has devolved into something vulnerable to every social trend and hot-button topic, rather than affirming its place as the human example of how God can affect redemption in the world.

      And, like Tom stated, Spencer’s claim is not unique among contemporary Christian scholars and theologians. Granted, some of the authors Tom mentioned are not going to be very popular at Family Christian Bookstores, but there is a host of folks who are just as dissatisfied with the current state of events and just as invested in the search for something deeper.

      • It’s hard to feel sorry for people dissatisfied with evangelicalism, if they refuse to look beyond it.

        • Walk with people a little ways: evangelicalism has such strong boundaries, that it’s a little hard to leave the movement/understand there are other options/actually venture out.

          But many of us are, or have.

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        That, however, is the reason why I’m frequenting this site, because we’re trying to answer the question “Evangelicalism is not enough; where do we go from here?”

  6. I can totally identify with Michael’s perspective expressed in this essay. I’ve even observed/experienced a similar emptiness in my excursions into RC and EO traditions. Traditions/structures have their usefulness, but in the end, when it’s said and done, those things do not satisfy–because they are THINGS and not a replacement for a Person.

    Tom

  7. We have grown weary and sick of being “challenged” to do more, be more committed, more surrendered, more holy by our own energy.

    Its. Not. Going. To. Change.
    I’m more convinced every day that this is the defining drum beat of Evangelicalism. It just becomes unbearable. As Eagle has put it, at some point one needs to walk away for their own integrity. Psychological integrity, I would add. And it drives me nuts how my Evangelical friends can’t see this. Really, what we need more of is 30 principles for Christian living from some guy named Something Stanley? Really? (As my Lutheran pastor put it, I thought there were only 10.) This disease is not going to cure itself. It’s the product of bad theology, period.

    • Miguel: You are not saying that the Christian life is not one of continuous striving toward greater holiness, are you? The early Church Fathers, who were certainly not evangelicals, would vehemently disagree if that’s what you’re saying (see Gregory of Nyssa). As a never-have-been-evangelical, please excuse my question if it arises out of ignorance.

      • I would just put it this way: We strive towards greater faithfulness and fuller obedience. But we do not make ourselves more holy. That is where Evangelicalism seems to cross the line with all its hoops through which one is expected to jump. Pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps spirituality is the antithesis of sacramental spirituality, and few Evangelicals can accept traditional teaching on sacraments. I’m all for an extremely moral religion, but morality must have its place behind doctrine. It is Christ that saves us, and not our works. When morality gets the prime emphasis, this gets too often forgotten.

        • I think we have a difference in terminology. Holiness primarily refers to the quality of being set apart by God, just as saint primarily refers to a person set apart by God; secondarily, saint refers to one who in his or her life has exhibited an extraordinary obedience and growth in Christian maturity that makes him or her a holy example of what any obedient believer/saint may become when intentional in their discipleship ( i.e., their faithfulness and obedience)and serves as an encouragement to other believers in their life of faith. I hope that our differences are not the same as the one that sadly divided Wesley and Zinzendorf in their argument about holiness and sanctification.

  8. It’s not going to change (you are right, Miguel).

    We’d have a much better chance with non-Christians, getting them to trust in the sole sufficiency of Christ, that is.

  9. Chaplain Jeff Hill says:

    LOVE IT Chaplain Mike!!

  10. “The model of Christian spiritual formation now extent in worship is one that sees the 40 minute information dump as the primary means of spiritual growth.”

    This would be it. To add on: 4 years later it seems that every week can be filled with yet another conference from big-named megachurch leaders who have a book in the back that can help us with our Spiritual Walk.

    If there’s one criticism about Protestants from the EO/RC world that might sting a bit, it’s that our beliefs and religion largely exist inside our head. Getting the right ducks in the row creates a spiritually strong person, so sitting through 40-minute info dumps a week is how we see spiritual formation take root. Of course, that’s not the whole story (Everyone from JPUSA to World Vision, Joni and Friends to Love, Inc are examples of how we don’t totally fit the accusation), but it still seems to be our worship: Sing (or let the band up front sing for us), pray a little, watch a video, offering, sermon, done. No kneeling, no creeds, no lectionary, no confession, and of course no Communion.

    In our desire to make works not a condition of our justification we’ve made Christianity a mental exercise. After focusing on one part so often, we get surprised that the rest of us is still weak.

    • I am just a simple person, unable to really follow a lot of the technical theological discussion going on in the comments here, but somehow I feel a strong urge to put in my $0.02 from a layperson’s perspective.

      I don’t remember this post from the first time, even though I was a regular visitor to imonk at the time it was written. However, what MS wrote here just nicely summarizes what originally drew me to this site and the thinking that has dramatically changed my life. My journey started in the strict fundamentalist sect of my childhood. I moved away from home and had to look outside the narrow confines of the cult-like fellowship I grew up in to find a place to worship. The extremely “relevant” feel of the me-oriented evangelical circus was appealing and I got stuck there for decades. Like everyone else around me, I spent years trying to maximize my potential as a person and live the “victorious christian life” promised me in sermon after sermon and which seemed to be happening for everyone (but me.)

      At some point, I began to become very frustrated because I felt like I was doing everything I was supposed to, yet I was still living in the poor side of town in a small, poorly-furnished house that was constantly a mess. I was still driving a junky car. My relationship with my wife was so broken we were barely able to be civil to one another and only our mutual fear of being seen by others in the church as failures kept us from divorcing. I had no friends, because I was scared to death of letting anyone close enough to me to find out who I really was. I was retreating into my work, because it was the only part of my life I had control over and this alienated my kids and further damaged my marriage.

      I was ready to give up on Christianity entirely and write myself off as apparently not one of the “elect”, because the plan didn’t seem to be working for me. At about this time, I stumbled onto the internet monk and began to understand, through posts like this one, that I was not alone. I became vaguely aware that maybe God had given me this crappy life just to make me give up on getting along with my wife, losing weight and driving a newer Subaru and to drive me to find something else to give my life meaning.

      This year, I finally left the fundagelical circus for good and started attending a Lutheran church. I don’t want to get into any arguments about the pros/cons of being a Lutheran vs. RC or EO or whatever. I’m not smart enough to even have such an argument. And I’m certainly not advertising that everyone else should become a Lutheran. But I am saying this: when I attended fundagelical church services, I was pretty much thinking about me the whole time. Now, I am pretty much thinking about Jesus the whole time.

      In my simple way of processing things, I think I get why this is. In my old church, everyone was busy taking notes during the sermon, frantically trying to learn the 5 biblical principals for a better . . . whatever. Now, no one is taking notes, because the pastor isn’t teaching us anything that you’d ever make an outline of. He’s just talking about Jesus. He’s not talking to our heads, he’s talking to our hearts. This is reinforced by the rituals of liturgy and communion. There’s no kickin’ worship band to distract me. No rows and rows of smartly-dressed and perfectly-coiffed hip, successful people to convince me that I am in the church of winners and if I just follow the principles in today’s sermon I can be like them.

      MS is right on here. There isn’t anything new that you are going to hear from the pulpit next year. What I like about my liturgical church is that they get that. They don’t do innovative programming. They just remind me week after week that God is holy, that he loves me, that Jesus died on the cross to extend saving grace to me not to make my life more successful, but to make it mean something.

  11. My wife works for our fundamentalist evangelical church, while I have concerns about the church this is the right church for her. Which is one of the values of the different churches; one may draw some in but also keep others away, we are each individuals that respond differently. Anyhow, from her position she hears a lot of the negative sentiment within our church.
    The youth group which is growing by leaps and bounds has a segment that is tired of the games and would like some depth. The men’s group which is showing a slow steady decline is recieving a lot of comments that the men would like more depth. Both groups would like a 40 minute lecture with some ‘meat’ and not the same ‘principles’ and ‘do more’ talks.
    Despite what I said, I think the pastoral team does try. What I think has happened at our church and many others is that the leadership has bought into a ‘model’ of church which becomes their starting point for sermons and programs.