Congregations Gone Wild

Last week I was regarding some scathing criticism over the contemporary face of American Christianity as exemplified in several sources, including one op-ed piece from the New York Times. Written by a United Church of Christ minister G. Jeffrey McDonald, one such piece was published on August 7th under the title “Congregations Gone Wild.”

The main theme of all the articles was how the role of both clergy and worshipper seem to be changing these days. The role of clergy seems to be a fusion of the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of the organization, fused with that of Entertainer—the trend of the evolving role for the worshipper is more passive than participatory. (This is reflected in the architectural trend of making newer churches more like auditoriums and movie theatres, rather than the traditional sort associated with houses of worship.)

I addressed a response to these articles in the context of last Sunday’s sermon. We are called to worship the Lord on the Lord’s Day. Sunday is the new Sabbath because it is the day of the Lord Jesus’ resurrection, and we gather on Sunday because we are a people of the resurrection. We do not gather to be entertained—although we all appreciate when worship and the liturgy goes well; we don’t gather to meet our social needs, although I (and we all) appreciate such an occasion for fellowship and friendship such as Coffee Hour.

We gather to be fed Eucharistically. We gather to receive the bread and wine of the altar—the Body and the Blood of our Lord Jesus.

We do not gather strictly to know comfort, although there is much that is comforting about receiving the Eucharist.

We gather that we might be strengthened to serve the world in Jesus’ Name, because Jesus taught that the greatest is the one who offers service. “I came,” He taught, “not to be served BUT TO SERVE.”

We don’t gather to worship our beautiful building. We have been blessed with a beautiful building in which we gather to strive to build the kingdom of God.

All this ought to be fairly basic stuff; how sad it is that so great a segment of contemporary Christianity has lost sight of why we do what we are called to do, and how we are called to be in Jesus. No wonder witness and evangelism are in such a mess these days!

I remember a saying– a proverb I think, of the Lakota– describing the sad estate of a person: “he is as far from himself as a hog from the moon.” That’s exactly what happens when we lose sight of why we do what we do, in the name and in the love of Jesus.


Canon Greg+



About canongreg

I have been Rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Wellsboro, PA since 1994.
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