gratitude & hoopla: What's of First Importance?

gratitude & hoopla

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

28.8.06

What's of First Importance?

It’s not easy being mildly unhappy in one’s church. You wonder if it’s just you, and not the church. You wonder if you’re not making mountains out of doctrinal mole hills. After all, the people are wonderful, all your friends are there, etc. But the preaching and the worship leave you feeling singularly unsatisfied. What do you do? Oh, people say you should talk to somebody about it, anybody, except that it’s been clear whenever you’ve tried that negative opinions of this kind are looked upon as bad form, and possibly downright snarky. The subject is always quickly changed.

Okay, so maybe I am being snarky. The thing is, I’d just kind of like a Gospel message now and then. Remember what Paul wrote to the Corinthians, something about something being, umm, of first importance. Oh yeah, the Gospel. Christ crucified for our sins. That whole deal. But I go to a church where people routinely say that other things, such as marriage, or community, or the young people, are the foundation of our church. Never the Gospel. Never the cross.

Oh well, maybe they’re just being, you know, sloppy with words. On the other hand, what ever happened to the wooden cross that had stood in the corner of the sanctuary for years. Oh sure, it wasn’t exactly given a place of honor, which should have been a warning to me, but then it disappeared altogether. And no one seems to miss it. When asked about it, the pastor said, that’s just not the kind of church we are. Uh oh. Red flag city!

Then again, what ever happened to the preaching of the Gospel? Can somebody tell me? Is it just one of those items in a creedal statement that nobody reads . . . too "doctrinal," don’t you know?

I’ve been going through a period of personal re-assessment lately, (perhaps it has something to do with my impending fiftieth birthday), but I’m tired of settling for preaching that would be right at home on the Oprah show (well, almost). I’m tired of trading ancient wisdom for the fleeting will-o-the-wisp called "relevance," of shallow hip-ness and glib self-congratulatory church booster-ism and music that is fervent about nothing more than our own fervor (instead of being fervent about the singular value of Christ and his cross).

And I hate taking this tone. I never expected a perfect church, but as I approach my fiftieth birthday I begin to wonder how many more social-club Sundays I must endure. I’m not looking for a perfect church, but one that puts first things first. Is that too much to expect?

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