May 3, 2009
Tell Me the Old Old Story
Every culture is defined by its stories. For any culture to survive it is imperative that these stories be passed on to the next generation. Take our national culture as an example. Our calendar is organized around special days which commemorate, memorialize, and help tell the story of who we are as a nation. It's these 'stories' that define us as a nation. Telling and retelling the stories of who we are and where we have come from helps create a sense of common history and common purpose which bind us all together as 'Americans'. This sense of common history and purpose creates in a cultures' citizens the single greatest attribute necessary for its perpetuation -- loyalty.
One question in my mind is; 'How have we come to the place in the modern Church where there seems to be so much confusion over who we are '? The answer to this question, I am convinced, has much to do with the story of the Church, which ultimately defines us. One thing we must be aware of is who is telling our story and thus, who is defining the Church? We have allowed modern society (the world) to define the Church for us , and so we think that the Church is supposed to be a private, religious club that we tack on to all our other weekly activities. And as long as the Church doesn't interfere with the lives of those who don't belong to 'our club' we are allowed to live peaceably with the world around us. We have allowed the government to define the Church for us, and so we believe its normal for the Church to exist at the margins of American culture. We have been convinced that the government exists to take care of "public/corporate" concerns and the Church exists to take care of "private/individual" concerns. As long as we behave and stay where they want us, the government will let us keep our 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. If we're not a 501(c)(3) then we're not really a church, right? We have too often confused the story of the Church with the story of the USA. So much so that some of us actually think that the spread of "democracy" and the spread of the gospel are the same thing.
Make no mistake about it, the Church of Jesus Christ is meant to be a culture. And like other cultures we have a story. The problem is, as Christians, we don't know our own story anymore. We have forgotten that our story starts in Genesis and not in Matthew, therefore most of our local congregations are only taught one third of their identity. We have forgotten that it is our triune God Himself who defines us. We are what and who He says we are. He has given us His written word which tells us exactly who we are and what we have been created to do. His written Word is not a systematic theology textbook. It is a book which tells a story. Properly understood it is The Book which tells The Story. If you are one of His, if you are a part of the people of God, a member of the Body and Bride of Christ, then this is YOUR STORY.
Most importantly, we have forgotten how crucial it is that we know the whole story of who we are so that we can pass on our story faithfully to the next generation. The story of the Church must be told and retold to our children and our children's children. We must know our common history, embrace our common purpose and pledge our loyalty to our common King, King Jesus!