“I would begin by saying that a recovery of a liturgical place for the Lord’s Supper in evangelicalism is not to become Catholic, Lutheran or Anglican, but to learn from those traditions where possible and appropriate.” (Imonk, Evangelical Liturgy 17 The Lord’s Supper)
I don’t know why but this sentence hit me and got me started thinking when I should be out deer hunting. Oh well, have a funeral to attend at 11:00 so there was no sense in trying to get out this morning. Hopefully, this evening I will get out. Perhaps I will use this time to write sermons and stuff.
In any case I think it is this fear of becoming something else that strikes me. I suppose everyone is a bit fearful. When I introduced communion every week in my congregation, people were afraid we might become catholic. But I think this fear has to go. We are called to be one: “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call” (Ephes. 4:4 (ESV)
This oneness though shouldn’t be that fake oneness found everywhere among the Trinitarian churches. Roman Catholicism thinks they are one, because despite all their disagreements they all bow to the pope, even though they feel free to ignore him whenever convenient. Others minimize doctrine all together and think they are one because they shake hands with each other on Sunday morning, each free to believe whatever they want. That approach might have some merit when it comes to secular politics meddling with church life, but not where doctrine is concerned!
We are to be of the same mind and same judgment . “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” (1 Cor. 1:10 (ESV) We can’t just throw doctrinal differences under the carpet. This is why we have denominations, and the “Church of Christ” the arrogant undenominational denomination. I got a kick out of that the other day, they advertised themselves as an undenomination, presumably perturbed that everyone else took the Nondenominational label. This thing is a dishonest disease too. I mean how is Calvary Chapel not a denomination? In every town there is one, sharing the same logo, and same theology. Actually I am a little jealous of them, not for their popularity, but for their theological unity. It beats anything that is happening in the LCMS right now. I still think they don’t know what the gospel is. That they have theological unity does not make up for the fact that they are missing the gospel, or hopelessly confuse it with law. But it is impressive that in any town I can walk into a Calvary Chapel and know what I am going to get with greater consistency than McDonalds. Who knows what you will get walking into an LCMS congregation, Traditional, Liturgical, praise, contemporary, chancel prancer, pulpit flyer, liberal, conservative, may or may not have the gospel. That is unfortunate. I can only say that your chances are better finding the Gospel in an LCMS church than they are elsewhere anymore. Same as your chances are better for winning playing blackjack than they are the lottery. We need to pull it together.
But back on track. I think the Christian world could be a bit more honest and less partisan. This isn’t football. If we recognize that there is something wrong with our doctrinal tradition, there might be some point to staying in that particular church and trying to reform it, even without a pension plan. But why are we afraid then to look at the whole picture and investigate other traditions. Doctrine is a cohesive whole, it really is. Everything relates back to the Gospel, everything affects the gospel at some point. That is the truth in a statement like “all theology is Christology.” So when you recognize that you are wrong somewhere you might take a look at the whole thing, and see if you aren’t wrong elsewhere. Sometimes reforming a Church might just be about becoming Lutheran, Catholic, or Anglican. What would be wrong with that? But in this day and age there is hardly a doctrinal position that isn’t held by some denomination. There almost has to be a church you agree with. Why start a new one? Or why in trying to reform your own tradition try to make it something different than all the others?
I think we are starting to treat church as if it were supposed to be appealing to the market place, and its success was not found in preaching the gospel in its purity and administering the sacraments, but finding a unique niche that appeals to a certain segment of society, hopefully an affluent segment. Yet the church might be a lot more “successful” if it concentrated on delivering the gospel consistently. That’s what Jesus wants us to do. Consistently, and to everyone.