After reading this, I’m feeling some of the rolling exuberance of the title of this post. (And Belushi and I share the same workout trainer.)
It is not that I’m against bigness (reference JB’s trainer), but can we be honest. Big Finance brings you Lehman Brothers and Bank America extorting every average taxpaying bank account holding person in America. Pay me just for being me or I’ll nuke the economy and take your kid’s sucker away. Big Government brings you such things as the Iraq War, your health insurance doubling in price and the pink police state that won’t or can’t manage to put John Corzine behind bars but will harass you for buying a big-gulp or having your middle school chorus sing Away in A Manger at the
Christmas sparkle season concert. Big Agriculture brings you ethanol in the gas pump and corn syrup in everything else such that you can’t buy a box of Corn Flakes for less than $10. Things used to get big when they did stuff right and made a better product. Ford paid well and his guys bought his cars. GM made cars in colors other than black and got bigger. IBM filled rooms with computers that put us on the moon. We have that power now in our calculators. Think we are going to the moon anytime soon?
So can anyone tell me what makes us think that Big Religion is a good thing? Yes it is really cool being in a room with 10,000 people singing the same thing, but does it have to be My Jesus, My Boyfriend x 80 verses? Your Best Life Now is an interesting pep-rally (not really, but go with it), but Jesus tends to say things like “pick up your cross and follow me” (Matthew 10:38, 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, 14:27). Think if you have to keep a place full with at least 3000 people you would ever hear a sermon on suffering with Jesus? You know what the secret to big is? Telling you what you want to hear and already believe. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a mustard seed or yeast (Luke 13:18-21). It works small and surprising – not loud and predictable.
I know, sour grapes. But not really. We are in budget mode around here. Part of budget mode is looking and evaluating the past year and reminding ourselves why we do what we do. You can look at the vision statement here, but I consistently go back to the three points in it.
– Teaches the apostolic faith
We are a church grounded in the bible, creeds and confessions. Not apologetically, but robustly, because these proclaim the apostolic faith. Likewise the hymnbook of the church from all ages contains the best spiritual reflection and living waters available to the faith. Our goal is not a mountain top experience but getting to the mountaintop. If your base camp is already thin-air, think you’ll get there? We also practice both Word & Sacrament – breathing with both lungs so to speak. We teach the apostolic faith because Jesus promised to be present in these things. And we want to see Jesus (John 12:21).
– Encourages growth and depth in that faith
The great commission says to make disciples. We form people who learn, know and live their faith. We don’t reduce the gospel to a slogan or the Christian life to simple moralism. We seek the truth.
– Actively engage in the great commission
I’ve already referred to the great commission, to make disciples (Matt 28:18-20). Part of making disciples is entrusting the gospel to them (2 Tim 2:2). The Christian life and mission is a shared endeavor that we are active in.
How good are we at this vision? We are human, so we are not that good. So we repent, we receive the gospel through word and sacrament, and we try again – 7 times daily (Luke 17:4). I don’t know if that qualifies us as a “boutique” as the article would have it, but it is our attempt at faithfulness to Jesus. You are welcome to come and see (John 1:39, 46).