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'Ecclesiastical Recursion Syndrome'

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In an interesting conversation with piscis the other day about finding a church, I attempted to express a serious short-circuit I often find (and deeply wish to avoid) in churches' proclamation (mostly pulpit, but other forms as well). I'm calling this 'Ecclesiastical Recursion Syndrome', because it seems to be a circular chain of reasoning which is correlated with a church that isn't getting much beyond itself. The discourse is this:
"The Church is where we gather and hear about the meaning of the Church, which is the place we gather to hear about the nature of the Church, which is where we hear about how the Church is God's hope for the world, because we gather there, in the place where we hear about the nature of the Body of Christ, a caring setting to hear about the meaning of God's presence in the world through the Church, where this week we discuss the meaning of the Church."
Now it's true there are lots of adjectives and adverbs in there, but frankly, there's just one thing really on the speaker's mind: the Church. I'm not against the Church, folks, but let's face it, it only rates a one-liner in any of the Creeds. (And I know some of you Prots out there tinker with that, too, because katholikos makes you antsy. Tough cookies.) As much as the Apostle Paul talked about the Church, and he certainly did, it was not the content of his proclamation, nor did the problem of the church's self-definition ever overshadow, first and foremost, the explication of God's own work, or even secondarily, the personal exhortation in the Spirit which Paul puts in every letter.

Playing "The World Turned Upside-Down", the contemporary Church marches up and inverts the Apostle's priorities: 1.) churchly self-discussion dominates, 2.) personal morality is detailed, and if there's any time left, 3.) a passing reference to God's own work is made (possibly including a passage of Scripture being exegeted). Some might argue that preaching about what God is doing doesn't lead to action in the church, the way that sermons abot the nature of the church do. Frankly, I contend that the results contradict that. Rather, if you preach about God's work, character, and the meaning of Jesus' work, and still nothing seems to be happening, you haven't done it enough. The Apostles never preached about what a jolly club it was that God was going to create, and the nice things going to happen through it, but they talked about Creation, Law, Sin, the people of God and their rise and fall, Death, the Devil, what God warned, what God promised, how God worked, what's happening now, what it means for you, what it means for the future, in short, they talked about God's wrath and love contending in the world, and how Jesus the Anointed was put to death for our trespasses and raised from the dead in hell to justify us.

Try preaching that, and while a jolly little club might not form up, anyone who isn't moved is probably dead and can be safely removed from their pew.

The driving force in the life of the Church is the proclaiming of the Gospel about God's Word in the world, and that proclaiming creates a Church which perpetuates it and lives it out. Churches that spend their time talking about themselves are squeezing out the very fuel that provides them their heat, light, and motive power.

When I come to your church, preachers, talk about what's going on in the text, or topically, talk about God's nature or activity. Tell me about Him, because I want to know Him. That's why I'll come back.

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