Monday, March 31, 2008

Tensions of being salt and light

Part of what I want to do on this blog is to share an important teachings of Jesus. Today one jumps out at me from Matthew 5. It is where Jesus talks about being salt and light. I think he is emphasizing how we need to live out our faith incarnationally in this world. But therein lies a tension. I remember in youth group hearing: “You need to be in the world but not of it.” Or something like that. I think we often shelter ourselves so much that we remove ourselves from the world and thus not know personally many people who are not believers.

One huge shift that I see happening in the western world is that people are not knocking down the doors to get into church. In Europe you often pay an entrance fee to see / tour the church. In quite a few cities in the United Kingdom many of the churches are being sold and converted to Mosques.

While it may not quite be that bad in the states we continue to see decline in church attendance. My point is not whether people attend church or not. I don’t think that was what Jesus was teaching about. He gave us the Great Commission and he told us to be the salt and light in our daily lives. At home, school, work, clubs that we are a part of, etc..

So I was reading a book the other day called UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity … And Why It Matters. The book was written by authors David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. In a chapter about how we often as Christians live such sheltered lives from the fallen world they quote Mike Metzger: From Fine Tuning Tensions within Culture: The Art of Being Salt and Light
(Suwannee, GA: Relevate, 2007), 4.

Being salt and light means two things: we practice purity in the midst of a fallen world and yet we live in proximity to this fallen world. If you don’t hold up both truths in tension, you invariable become useless and separated from the world God loves. For example, if you only practice purity apart from proximity to the culture, you inevitable become pietistic, separatist, and conceited. If you live in close proximity to the culture without also living in a holy manner, you become indistinguishable from fallen culture and useless in God’s kingdom

So it is not an easy deal but it is a tension that we have to live out. When I was a church planter / pastor in the states I worked hard at creating some cool publicity pieces that would attract people to our church. I am sure some people came to the church because they received such a marketing piece but I now struggle with that fact. Instead of trying cool ways to get people to come to church we (the church) need to be about living our lives daily in front of people as followers that will attract them to Jesus because of the way we live. This is the incarnational approach to life and ministry that Jesus gave us.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The GrossMunster Church in Zurich

We went to downtown Zurich the other day. What a cool city.
We came upon a church that was important during the reformation days.
As I was inside I was struck by the simplicity of the church. I then noticed a pamphlet that talked about the church and it’s history.

Here is a paragraph from the pamphlet that helped me to understand what I experienced.

As you enter our church today, you may be struck by the simplicity and sobriety of the sanctuary. This is the result of one of the Zwingli’s reforms at Grossmunster in 1519. Whatever gave a worldly appearance to the church was removed: pictures, altars, sculptures and even the organ. The intensive study of the Holy Scriptures and the preaching of the Gospel were to be the focal point of the religious community. Zwingli argued that reforms were necessary if one was to live according to the Gospel.

As I sat there in the sanctuary I thought about church today and how we make it so complex but not just with our windows, altars and organs (or the latest and coolest media equipment) but our methodology.

I think that our programs in the church today can so much distract from the simplicity that the church was intended to be.

The Fellowship of the Believers - Acts 42 - 47

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.