Sunday, July 6, 2014

What I Want in a Church

1. Preach Christ and him crucified. If Christ's death for me is unimportant to the sermon, it is a bad sermon. Premiss: the whole of Scripture forms a unity at the center of which is Christ's death and resurrection. Conclusion: If you are preaching Scripture, you are preaching something organized around Christ's death and resurrection. It should sound like it. You can give a great talk using cool screens/music/gimmicks/etc., (Jews demand signs) and using Scripture like a book of wisdom (Greeks demand wisdom), but that's not what I come to hear (we preach Christ and him crucified).
 Christ's death means that it is not about what we do, but about what Christ has already done on our behalf.
 Christ's death frees us to live righteously. You know those commands? They are fulfilled in Christ, and in Christ we are freed to walk in them. Yes, it's hard, but if we understand them right, and trust God, we will want to struggle for it. (This is the essential one for me)

2. Preach what the text says, not what you think about what the text says. Yes, you might not know exactly what the text is trying to communicate, but at least make it possible for me to see how you got what you are saying from the words on the page.

3. Don't ignore the context. And by context I don't just mean the verses in the general vicinity. I will probably notice if there is stuff being ignored which is in the chapters around the text at hand. Pay attention to the general flow of the book too. Basically: preach the part like it is a part of a greater whole.

4. Keep your tone aligned with the text. I actually think this is a repeat of 2., but it bears saying separately. If we are trying to give people what someone said, we try not to change the tone of the message (right?) so, same when the person is God. Especially since I am betting he knew what he was doing when he used that tone.

5. Be able and willing to suffer. Weep with those who weep. Don't be mono-emotive, that is, allow for the display of the whole spectrum of human emotion. This is the one thing on this list that can look like a taste issue. It is not (the churches I avoid for this reason are usually described by members as being full of members who are joyful or excited about Jesus or something). Mourning is a declaration of the value of the human person, echoing Christ's redemption of humanity and motivated by a hope in the resurrection of the dead. I tend to take the unwillingness to mourn or suffer as a sign that the fear of death remains and has not been displaced by hope in the promise that Christ is making all things new, that death and suffering will not get the last word. I will admit that my sensitivity to this issue may be a matter of temperament, but the issue itself is important.

6. I'm a credobaptist, so I'm looking for a credobaptist church (credobaptist: doesn't baptize babies, usually dunks).

And... that is it for points a church must at least get close on before I consider attending regularly. I doubt a church that gets the first three will miss the fifth one, but it is there. Inessentials (which I pessimistically don't expect to need to look at):

7. Have deep, dense theology in your music. I want the gospel getting stuck in my head.

8. Don't let the music be too loud, or the lights too bright. This is mostly just a quirk of my biology, but those stress me out. The fastest way to make me mad is to make me listen to a bad, loud preacher.

9. Screens are not a plus. they stir up brain activity in a way that can cause trouble for light-sensitive epileptics (my fiancee) and those with sensory processing disorders (autism, etc.,).

10. 5-point Calvinism is a plus, since otherwise people say things that I don't hear the way they mean them (sovereignty, for one).

Conclusion: I fully expect to end up in a small baptist church where the average age is in the fifties or so. I am also quite alright with that.

1 comment:

  1. I like your list. Lately I've been frustrated by the lack of what you call "deep, dense theology" in the music. I would love that. I've lowered my expectation to "meaningful and reasonably accurate theology" in worship music. "Meaningful," as in, means something and isn't simply churchy words strung together without regard to meaning and cohesiveness. And that expectation is still too often unmet. Bleah.