from Kazimierz Bem, at On Faith:
In one way or another, the refrain I constantly hear is: "The Church of the future is the Church of service." It takes all shapes and forms, but it always boils down to the same thing: Don't focus on worship-- "do stuff" instead! So, a denominational leader blogs that the vocation of churches is to be local community centers, food banks, day cares, or places for diaper drives. New church plants are tailored for terribly busy people, giving them a brief moment of worship (with the stress on brief) "on the run." Regular meals together are held where the leader says "Holy things for holy people" before the participants share their thoughts, and this is praised as new worship. My own denomination is experimenting with an online community called "Extravagance," where people participate in worship online and then post their thoughts on Facebook. "The post was a part of her worship," we are told.
As I read these emails, stories, and articles, I cannot help but think to myself that we should stop ordaining people to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament and instead create an office of "Community Organizer (with Brief Prayers)."
But is all this really what we, the church, are called to do?
Service is important. I'm not saying it isn't. But experience-- and history-- tells me church must be more than that.
I deeply believe that when we say, "The future of the Church is service," we are allowing our culture, once again, to get the best of us. We so desperately want to be popular that we are sacrificing our distinctiveness as church. So we create worship where our prayers are innocuous, so as not to scare busy people away. Or we devise a little prayer before or after a meal and pretend it is worship. Let's be the ACLU, Sierra Club, United Way or YouTube at prayer. You know: let's be spiritual and a little-- but only a little-- religious.
If that is the Church's future some see for us, then we are committing suicide.
When people sometimes tell me they don't get anything from worship, I am happy to answer, "That's great! Because its not about you." Our culture needs a place-- we need a place in our lives-- to tell us that not everything is always about us, about our personal happiness, our convenience, our frantic timetables, or shrinking commitments.
Some things are bigger than us. There needs to be a place where we are told uncomfortable truths about ourselves, our world and even about God-- where we ask the questions our pop culture ignores or caricatures, and where we can look for answers. Where we pause-- and reflect theologically.
Worship is a central act of proclamation of God's grace to us-- in preaching and in faithful administration of sacraments. It needs to be robust, faithful, engaging-- but its focus must be the God revealed to us in Jesus Christ, God's free, abundant, deep grace and love shown for us on the cross.
The entire post can be read here.