Sunday, January 25, 2009

Practical Ecclesiology 8 - All Religion is Local

I lifted this from Michael Spencer over at InternetMonk. It is classic Spencer and just worth quoting at length. I recommend his writing. From his recent post Theology, Depression, and the Unsolvable Problem of the Right Church.

Now, I want to get down to this matter of the One True Church. If you judge that you are a person who believes there is only one true denomination, then I believe you should check out the candidates from the RCC to the EC to the LCMS to the local Church of Christ (if you are in west Kentucky) and reduce your choices to the actual candidates. You simply don’t need to mess around with denominations that don’t believe there’s only one true franchise or that believe we are all part of the broken, fragmented body of Christ. If you are in a typical Baptist church and you really believe that Jesus made the successor of Peter the living authority, then go to the RCC…please. Whatever the issues are that are keeping you from doing that aren’t very important.

Now, if you say “I just don’t know….” you should keep reading.

10. I am a critical and analytical person. Send me to ten churches, and I will find ten things to like and ten things not to like at each one. I do not believe that any congregation is an expression of the one true church so much that there aren’t problems. But this is my nature. It’s EASY for me to see the brokenness and hard for me to see anyone’s claim to being the one, divine “it.”

Now, if I am convinced that one Denomination is right, my problem is going to be this: I still have to belong to a congregation, and a congregation is the place where the “essentials” are worked out in real life, not just in my head. So if I believe that the RCC has it right, I won’t be hanging out with B16 or Scott Hahn. I’ll be at Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility, a fine congregation that doesn’t have a piano, that has congregational meetings that make me want to be Shinto and a priest who thinks a homily is practice for his missed career in stand-up. Oh yes, the Catechism is in the church library, but THIS is where I am a member, out here where no one knows what I’m even talking about.

If I believe the Southern Baptist Convention is the church Jesus started, then I’m clearly insane, but for the sake of the illustration…’s this wonderful statement of faith, and a great missions network, and Al Mohler and those fine Calvinistic Ascol boys. But at my church….doctrine has been replaced with “How to be a great parent” sermons, the deacons have fired the last three pastors in less than 4 years, the music is a cross between an 80’s metal band made up of fat 45 year old men and the senior adult choir singing from the 1956 hymnal. We haven’t baptized a convert since 1993. Our current pastor looks like Ryan Seacrest and the youth minister looks like the Mindfreak guy.

That’s your church. Oh sure, you can drive elsewhere and you can improve. (I drive two hours each way.) You can work for improvement. You can do all that stuff. But here’s my point: You chose the one true denomination, you still have to deal with your local church. It is the place you do or don’t hear the Bible. It’s the place you do or don’t start churches and do evangelism. It’s the place you are or are not taught the faith you read about on that great web site.

The search for the one true denomination will drive some of you into depression, especially if you can’t admit that no such church exists and that you may never be happy if you find it. That every church is a compromise. That they all require you to live with some tension. You are convinced the LCMS has it right doctrinally? Great. Been to a local LCMS church lately? It’s a dice roll. That’s not an indictment. That’s the grown up world and it’s true across the board.

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