Dogs at the Table

...or to put it another way, "Perish, priest!"

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tired of Programs

I'm getting tired of church programs -- Back to Church Sunday, Emergent Church, Messy Church, Godly Play, J to A, innumerable Stewardship initiatives, and every time you turn around, some other congregational development plot or ploy to stimulate church life or reach out to the lapsed, the uncommitted, the lost, the seeker, the unchurched, the untouched, the spiritual-but-not-religious, the youth, the seniors, the immigrants, the men, the get the picture.

It seems that far too much of our identity is bound up in schema to make us better, and yet the more programmed we are, the less evidence I see of genuine Christian identity. There is an appalling lack of biblical literacy, prayer life and spirituality in congregations generally, and in those places where the life of faith seems flourishing, people seem more content with who they are than what they're doing.

This question of identity is at the heart of Baptism for individuals, and confessional statements for denominations. The closest we Anglicans have these days are probably the Five Marks of Mission that emerged in the 1980s and 90s:
  • To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom;
  • To teach, baptize and nurture new believers;
  • To respond to human need by loving service;
  • To seek to transform unjust structures of society;
  • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
But then again, how many Anglicans are actually conversant with these "Five Marks of Mission?" Probably about as many as as know the five questions that follow the Apostles' Creed in the Baptismal Covenant:
  • Will you continue in the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers?
  • Will you persevere in resisting evil, and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
  • Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
  • Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself?
  • Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

As we move into the Season of the Kingdom and Advent, it seems to me that the question of identity would naturally lead into the life of the kingdom, the community, and the life of Christ.

And at the risk of denying all the work being done by the programmers, I'd rather start from the heart than the head.

Today's weigh-in: 228 The body is beginning to get it.


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