Wednesday, 2 September 2009

In praise of the unpraised.

Wise words from Carl Trueman

'I worry that a movement built on megachurches, megaconferences, and megaleaders, does the church a disservice in one very important way that is often missed amid all the pizzazz and excitement: it creates the idea that church life is always going to be big, loud, and exhilarating and thus gives church members and ministerial candidates unrealistic expectations of the normal Christian life. In the real world, many, perhaps most, of us worship and work in churches of 100 people or less; life is not loud and exciting; big things do not happen every Sunday; budgets are incredibly tight and barely provide enough for a pastor's modest salary; each Lord's Day we go through the same routines of worship services, of hearing the gospel proclaimed, of taking the Lord's Supper, of teaching Sunday School; perhaps several times a year we do leaflet drops in the neighbourhood with very few results; at Christmas time we carol sing in the high street and hand out invitations to church and maybe two or three people actually come along as a result; but no matter -- we keep going, giving, and praying as we can; we try to be faithful in the little entrusted to us. It's boring, it's routine, and it's the same, year in, year out. Therefore, in a world where excitement, celebrity, and cultural power are the ideal, it is tempting amidst the circumstances of ordinary church life to forget that this, the routine of the ordinary, the boring, the plodding, is actually the norm for church life and has been so throughout most places for most of the history of the church; that mega-whatevers are the exception, not the rule; and that the church has survived throughout the ages not just - or even primarily - because of the high profile firework displays of the great and the good, but because of the day to day faithfulness of the mundane, anonymous, non-descript people who constitute most of the church, and who do the grunt work and the tedious jobs that need to be done. History does not generally record their names; but the likelihood is that you worship in a church which owes everything, humanly speaking, to such people.'


Donald Ferguson said...

Something we can agree on! Too many people confuse the church building with church building. It is the every day faithfulness of ordinary members that builds a Church. Spiritual growth is a slow and sometimes painful process. No 'big plans' can make it happen overnight and it is easier to build a Cathedral than Christian character. That is where our focus should be. I am convinced that numerical growth is a byproduct of pursuing something else [much like happiness].

Anonymous said...

Reading 1 Cor 1-4 there is both gospel content and a manner of living that is in accordance to the gospel. Including, it seems to me, a way of thinking about and responding to leaders in the church. What is more, when Paul spoke of walking in a manner that is in keeping with our redemption (Eph. 4:1), that surely includes not just what a preacher says, but how he lives.

A sound preacher will not include in the content of the gospel the idea that if you love God, He will load your life up with earthly treasures. At the same time, and maybe more importantly, a preacher will not so live, that his lifestyle conveys that same word; namely, hear me, the gospel is a word about things such as surrender and sacrifice; see me, the gospel is a word about being godly and having God load your life up with stuff, the really good, shining, expensive stuff.

Second, and I know this bites the hand that feeds, but someone sometime somewhere, I think, should address the impact media such as publishing houses (some for-profit, some non-Christian owned), Internet, radio, cable, and transportation technologies such as air travel and highways are having on a preacher's fame, sales, and wealth.

Along with that consideration about media and technology is another one to attend to. Namely, when "having a good report" is able to be built with those who have no or little personal relationship with and knowledge of the preacher, the door to all sorts of abuses and dangers is opened wide.

Finally, in our day, many of the "WK's" (well-knowns) in the church have names that are being used like the Nike swoosh. The name of the WK appears on things that are in fact product of the work of many. Sometimes, in that "many" the WK's isn't actually a factor.

I'm grateful for the team effort, that as a team, many produce what one could not. However, I am concerned that when an individual gets credit for something he did not do, or for something he contributed very little, the church slides further down the hero slide that moves contrary to 1 Cor. 1-4, for instance.

Say Rev. Billy Bob, while preaching through the Minor Prophets, includes in his sermon one sentence, "God created the heavens and earth." Then, a team of professional researchers and writers, launching off of that seed thought supplied by Rev. BB, constructs a profusely footnoted, 390 page book. Titled, "Creation," by Rev. Billy Bob.

The publisher likes that. Names sell. Subjects do too. Names more predictably. Hence names are a better investment.

The church likes that. We get a valuable resource produced by a brand (Rev. Billy Bob) we trust.

The team likes that. They got paid for their time and contribution to the process.

And Rev. Billy Bob likes that. He travels an even wider circle now... answering questions about "his" book, which he is more than willing to answer.

Maurice Roberts (The Thought of God) gave caution that is as pertinent as it is consistent with the gospel, "What lies at the very heart of all sin is self-flattery, that good opinion of ourselves which loves to be praised by our fellow-creatures."