Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Agape and Church Services

Pardon the absence.   Breaks from blogging allow me to collect thoughts, recenter, and make sure I'm not just engaging in logorrhea.  

Sharing some stuff at the Wednesday night gathering at my church tonight.  My topic is going to be, a la Michael Spencer, Jesus-shaped discipleship vs. Church-shaped discipleship.  I came up with a few contrasts as far as what how I see the two differing. The thing that I find myself being drawn to is the prevalence of agape as the driving theme behind what the church "does" as an entity on the planet. As a Jesus-community, it seems impossible to think of ecclesiology, church services, and the "what do we DO?" question without having a central regard for the concept of agape love. If you're not familiar with that term, It will probably show up more in my posting to come. Here's a few of my contrasts. For any avid blog-reader, they probably aren't new ideas:


Church-shaped: Being busy in church, attending events, being committed to programs

Jesus-shaped: Loving Jesus and people per John 14:15, Matt 22:37-40


Church-shaped: Commitment = tying up resources in programs and institutions.

Jesus-shaped: Commitment is agape-driven, therefore relationship-contextual and person-oriented instead of organization/program contextual.

Service Content: 

Church-shaped: The necessity of keeping people around and happy, in order to validate the local church as an entity, dictates that services are entertainment oriented. The Spirit and following Jesus are equated with louder music, a flashier show, prettier faces, and more media-worthy events. Attention-getting is equated with evangelism. Emotional manipulation is called spiritual experience. Worshippers' attention is generally drawn to a couple of talented people up front. 

Jesus-shaped: Services are Jesus-saturated, gospel-driven, inspire agape. Worship focuses on the God-initiated unbreakable love-bond between God and his people, and does not necessarily look the same all the time, nor does it consist of only/primarily one activitiy, i.e. singing songs. People coordinating worship actively work to deflect attention from themselves. 

Value of the service

Church-shaped: Qualitative reflection is dictated by results, numbers, the entertainment value of the show, the eloquence of the speaker, the wattage of the sound system. 

Jesus-shaped: Value of Sunday morning is seen in relational interconnectedness, agape-incarnation, knowing and loving one another in a Jesus-like way

Disciple's progress: 

Church-shaped: Moral/spiritual success of individuals measured by proper engagement with prescribed events/programs/ministries

Jesus-shaped: Spiritual success measured by Jesus' work.  Moral progress is understood as only one aspect of discipleship, and is pursued/measured as a function of knowing and loving the God who sent Jesus to do the original work. John 17:3

We'll see what they say about it tonight.