Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Good Words on Worship & Church from R.C. Sproul, Jr.

Skinny Jeans, Narrow Minds
by R.C. Sproul, Jr.
“I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (I Corinthians 9: 22).  From the beginning this great nugget of gospel wisdom has been the bedrock of every form of contextualization. From Hudson Taylor adopting the local garb to Willow Creek’s strumming guitars we rightly see Christians with a passion for the lost aspiring to remove every unnecessary obstacle out of the way.  We are, after all, hoping to see the lost brought into the kingdom, not laboring to see the different adopt our cultural habits. Some of our fathers forgot this from time to time, such that we are told of intrepid missionaries bushwhacking their way into the African interior, carrying an organ so worship could be done properly.
Other times, however, I’m afraid we lose sight of what is necessary and what is not. We sometimes think we are removing offense, when what we are actually doing is pandering.  When we treat the unbeliever as our market, and the gospel as our product I’m afraid we remove the offense of the cross. For central to the meaning of the cross is this- You are not in charge; you are in trouble. God has no need to satisfy your demands, but you must satisfy His.
Too often our worship wars- the disagreements, arguments and even church splits we endure over just how much we ought to contextualize- miss the point. Sometimes the more conservative object to calling the hip pastor with the skinny jeans, the day old stubble and the common vocabulary because they think the staid pastor with the business suit, the helmet hair and the elevated vocabulary is part of a culture closer to God. Sometimes the less conservative object to the square pastor because they think either that one has to be cool to win the lost, or worse, that only the cool are worth saving. So we end up arguing about whose cultural expression is more biblical, more effective, more kingdom building. Whichever side we come down on however, we have already compromised the gospel, already denied the Lordship of Christ.
When we make our decisions about how we “do” church on the basis of demographics we implicitly deny the Lordship of Christ, and keep ourselves on the throne. The message of the cross isn’t “Come as you are.” The message of the cross is “Consider the cost. And it will cost you everything. You will have to give up your favorite sins, your closest friends, your most comfortable culture. You have to die with Christ.”
When we pitch Jesus we in turn miss the real promises. We fail, when we refuse to call the lost to consider the cost, to invite them to consider all that they will gain. They will inherit the world. They will cultivate the greatest virtues. They will gain brothers and sisters. They will enter into a culture as old as the garden, as deep as the ocean, as broad as the planet. We fail to tell the stuffy that they are going to come to love the tattooed because Jesus died for them and indwells them. We fail to tell the trendy that they are going to come to love singing the music of the ancients, that the guy with the comb-over is the bomb because he’s spent his life meditating on the Bible. And the blue haired lady that sings The Old Rugged Cross off key- she has done more the kingdom than all the hip preachers on your ipod combined.
We don’t get to bring our cultural markers with us into the kingdom. No, we are citizens of a different nation. We do not count noses to decide what to sing and how to dress, but we practice the democracy of the dead, following the ancient paths of our fathers. We don’t write this liturgy for this group, that liturgy for that group. We instead renew covenant as it has always been from the days of Abel.  We do not come as we are. We come as He is. All of us, together.

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