Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Most Immature and Mindless Church the World Has Ever Seen

Weaverville, California

Eugene Peterson writes, "North American religion is basically a consumer religion. Americans see God as a product that will help them to live well, or to live better." (Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness, Kindle 19%)

So what do pastors do? They acquiesce to the American way. They work hard (and largely fail) to develop a "product" that people will be attracted to and buy. Hence, they engage in public relations, image building, salesmanship, marketing techniques, and competition for buyers.

The result is a "mindless cultural conformism [which]..., far from being radical and dynamic..., is a lethargic rubber stamp on worldly wisdom." (Ib.) This has led, as Chesterton saw way ahead of his time, to "the degrading slavery of being a child of this age." (Quoted in Ib.)

Peterson, writing in 1992, saw that "we are immersed in probably the most immature and mindless religion, ranging from infantile to adolescent, that any culture has ever witnessed." (Ib.)

At Redeemer, one way we are combating the prevailing religious mindlessness is to preach, on Sunday mornings, through the biblical texts. (Sounds novel, right?) Several years ago I and others preached through the four Gospels, verse by verse. This took us seven years. Since then we have preached through many of Paul's letters, the book of Revelation (took us a year to get through this), Hebrews (one year), and now the book of James. After James we'll preach through 1 Peter. This is exhilarating, empowering, equipping, and encouraging.

Why do this?

Because I see the biblical illiteracy that fuels religious mindlessness.

Because the Bible is our distinctive, and our text. In the Bible a follower of Jesus gets situated in the Grand Narrative.

Because I'm going to show our people how to speak to our culture through the biblical Narrative, rather than allow the culture to interpret and thereby trivialize the Narrative.

Peterson says that, when Christians come from Third world countries to the American church, "what they notice mostly is the greed, the silliness, the narcissism..., the conspicuous absence of the cross, the phobic avoidance of suffering, the puzzling indifference to community and relationships of intimacy" (Ib.)

Pastors - revolt against our culture's systematic trivializing of what we are called to do.

People - do not allow our culture to shape you into its mold.

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And go back to a praying life - my book can help you with this. Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.