Read Mercer Schuchardt:
Of course, churches’ motivations are sincere: They want to provide preaching for the shut-in, the elderly, the infirm, and those incapable of traveling. They also want to spare you the solitary hell of a daily commute that amounts to hours stuck in traffic each week. (For the few who sincerely can’t make it on Sunday, pastors should also be visiting them in person, bringing the Eucharist, and perhaps dropping off a text of the sermon or a USB drive of the sermon.)
In some cases, churches could stream a message live for the appointed time of the sermon itself, but the effect on the user should be, like the kids say these days about their favorite concerts: ”You had to be there.”
When we think of submission, we often think in terms of ruling and overruling, of conflict and wielded authority. I want to encourage you to think of obedience and submission differently in this context. Certainly, it does mean that when sin is evident, when you are in need of confession and repentance, you ought to obey your leaders’ rebuke and submit to their biblical discipline. But assuming such a circumstance is not the case, think of obedience and submission this way: encouraging your leaders with faithful graciousness.
In a Western cultural context, we may not greet everyone we see with words, but we can at least acknowledge them with brief eye contact or a smile. I must discipline myself to do this, but I am improving. Of course, I am often lost in thought (which means I have lost my car, my keys, my phone, my briefcase, my textbooks, and more), and may not notice my fellow immortals. If so, shame on me. Being a philosopher is no excuse for being aloof or rude.
So what’s the big deal, many would say, especially in an age of cascading commitment and denominational decline? After all, being included on a church role pales in comparison to having one’s name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Has it not been estimated that half the people on local church roles are lost?
Although church membership may not be moving the needle like it did in the second half of the 20th Century, I believe it is more important than ever. Carefully note these reasons why.
Just a few days ago, for instance, I stumbled across this line from a Christian in a national newspaper: Faith and politics “occupy different realms, and my faith has a far more important and cherished place in my life than politics.” I’m sympathetic to what the author is trying to communicate, but I think he gives away more than he intends. There is no area of his politics uninformed by his faith. That’s true of everyone—from the Christian and Muslim to the agnostic and atheist.
This whole development is not a theological sidebar, irrelevant to church life and worship. The doctrine of divine wrath is an integral piece of the gospel message, and therefore, moving away from it will inevitably have far-reaching consequences for the church’s faith and life.
A favorite from the archives:
As we put the girls to bed on Sunday night, Emily said to them, “Remember, we’re getting back to our regular routine tomorrow.” I don’t know about what it’s like in your family, or what it was like for you as a kid, but I remember how I would dread the end of the weekend, the conclusion of summer holidays and the impending return to school following Christmas. I didn’t want to go back. I’d groan and moan and whine and complain (even though I was a good student).
Not these girls. As Emily finished her reminder, and we closed the door, we heard one of them shout, “Yay!”