10.31.2005

Famine of the Word?

Here's part of a good post by the Internet Monk:

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land- not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it." Amos 8:11-12

"You see, this morning, at my Presbyterian Church, I preached to 12 people. That’s not unusual. We have a Reformed worship service that does everything we believe is important in a God-centered, God-honoring service of public worship. We are a Bible-saturated church. We read it. We sing it. We say it. We pray it. I preach it from lectionary texts and in verse by verse exposition. You’d have to drive a long way around here to find someone more committed to serious reformed worship and preaching than I am.

"We don’t have a band. We don’t anoint with oil. We don’t shout. We don’t fall over in worship. We don’t speak in tongues. We don’t clap and jump. My preaching is intelligible, organized and earnest. I apply the message. I am careful to preach the gospel. There are no strange prophecies or emotion-laden prayer groups. We worship decently and in order. We do the Christian year. We say the creeds. I teach the confession.

"I’m pretty sure that our church will die in a few years. I’m just as sure that most of the churches in our community that don’t embrace the Pentecostal-Charismatic style of worship will decline, and that many of the Pentecostal/Charismatic/Holiness churches will grow and prosper. I am certain that Biblical preaching means less and less to the average Christian every week in our community. It is a famine, and I am watching it happen in my lifetime.

"I often wonder if I should change? Should I embrace the local culture somehow and try to find a “reformed” mountain Christianity. So far, it stifles me. I cannot see where to start. Maybe it is right in front of me, and I am just afraid. Maybe I and other pastors here are carrying the light until another generation can take it up and shine it brighter in this place.
As it is, Reformation Day has come and gone, and the parking lot at the newest Pentecostal church in our county is full, while my church grows emptier.
Am I to blame? I end this Reformation Day wondering if I have furthered the famine or if I have done the best I can do to ease it. I do not know. God will have to be my judge. I dream of a church that is full, but every time we sing a reformed hymn, I am looking at faces that want to be elsewhere where the songs are recognizable and the atmosphere is familiar and informal. A few years ago a new family came with relatives to our church . They tried. I tried. We simply couldn’t keep them. I couldn’t be that mountain preacher. They couldn’t be those reformed Christians. There was a Charismatic church that suited them. It was a sad day when they left, particularly because they left me not with certainties, but with doubts.
“We long to see your churches full” wrote the hymnwriter. That is my desire, and as my time in ministry grows shorter, I want to see the Gospel loved and the Word of God hungered for among God’s people. I pray that I see a Reformation Day when there is evidence that the famine is lifting, and God’s Word is doing its work once more."



All of this seems to me (Steve, now) to flow naturally from our culture's insistence on informality, casual-ness, and not really taking anything too seriously, God included.

2 comments:

  1. Great post, I wish I wrote it because it describes my church and ministry situation to a tee.

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  2. I too found this reflects our congregation's situation as well. Yet, is all lost? Are we going to see everyone going to the user-friendly, charismatic congregations with Christianity lite? I would say yes, except for having seen at least 4 congregations within a 2 hour drive of where I minister that are growing and vibrant yet have worship and preaching such as is found in my congregation. They have many young people, and a desire to make Christ known in all of life. What I have found sets these congregations apart, what makes them different from mine, is that they have a prayer meeting. Not like the one in my congregation, attended only by myself and one elder (my wife came as well before our baby was born, but someone has to tend him so she stays at home now), but one attended by many people in the congregation--young and old. There they pray for the church, that Christ will being growth and revival. There prayer meeting is not a Bible study, but a time of corporate prayer. May God move all our congregations to that sort of prayer, for only he can do so. May we pray, so that when we grow, all glory goes to God, not to us and our strategies.

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